Best laid plans go awry

Let me begin this post with this: First, I am fine so nobody needs to worry about me (details are below). Second, I debated whether or not to write this post.  So far, our journey has been a pleasant, adventurous tale that I think our friends and family are enjoying. On Sunday, things didn’t go quite as we planned and it hasn’t been very fun since then.  But this too is part of our journey.  So here’s what happened.

We went to Latacunga last Thursday with plans to hike Cotopaxi and possibly the Quilotoa Loop.  We had booked a guided tour for Cotopaxi immediately upon arrival for Friday, but had to push it out to Sunday because I became sick with what I thought was altitude sickness.  By Saturday, I was feeling much better and even went to the festival. But by Saturday night I was sick again, really sick.  I had diarrhea and was passing a fair bit of blood in my stool.  I was up several times during the night.  I felt lousy. Finally, I popped a couple of tylenol, and took a Cipro as I have been taking Immodium for the past couple of days without improvement.  I had already had an occurrence with blood in my stool three weeks ago, but after a round of Cipro, it looked like everything was OK. You can imagine my concern to see blood in my stool again.  Something was definitely wrong.

When I got up on Sunday, I was still passing blood in my stool and everything passed through me like water.  I felt nauseous, weak, and had no appetite.  I couldn’t imagine hiking a mountain.  With these symptoms I knew I had to see a doctor.  I was pretty upset with this realization as I dreaded the idea of dealing with a foreign medical system in a foreign language.  Chris and I weighed our options and decided we would cancel our hike and go to Quito immediately as it was only two hours away.  Chris arranged for a private taxi to take us there as I couldn’t even think about carrying my pack and dealing with buses.  He also contacted Paola and Eduardo, our diving friends we met in Puerto Lopez who live in Quito.  They recommended the best private hospital in Quito (Hospital Metropolitano) and assured us we would find English-speaking doctors there. Unfortunately, they were out of town so that was the extent of help they could offer at that moment. They later emailed us when they were back in the city asking for updates and offering to help in any way necessary. It was very comforting knowing that there was someone close by if we needed help.

Next, we were in communication with our Health Plan to advise them of the situation. We had to provide a lot of detailed information in order for them to ascertain whether or not this was deemed an emergency.  Either way, we were going to Quito to see a doctor. Their prompt response to proceed to the hospital left me with mixed feelings:  relief that my Plan would cover this coupled with alarm that this was indeed deemed an emergency, even by stringent insurance standards.

Back to Quito we went, back to the same hostel we stayed in when we first arrived.  Talk about coming full circle.  It felt strange to be back in Quito, yet very familiar in a comforting sort of way.  We dropped our bags off at the hostel and then took another taxi directly to the hospital which was only a few minutes away.

The hospital is large and modern, like any hospital in Canada.  We went to Emergency, filled out a form as soon as we arrived, and within minutes I was in a bed talking to an English speaking physician. I was hooked up to an I.V. of saline solution as I was dehydrated, and a nurse took my blood for tests. An hour and half later, the results came back – everything looked fine.  Next step was to be examined by the gastrointestinal specialist who arrived about 45 minutes later.  During this time a urine sample was taken and also sent for tests.  The specialist checked me over and ordered another bag of saline solution, and then said a stool sample was necessary to check for bacterial infection, parasites, etc. These tests would take 1-3 days.  He prescribed three medications that I was to start immediately (total cost: $54.55).  He gave us his business card so we could contact him directly to enquire about my test results. He said blood in my stool was serious and we needed to find out the cause, but since I looked healthy (I had already perked up after the first bag of saline) and the amount of blood I was passing was small, he was comfortable for me to go back to the hostel rather than stay in the hospital overnight.  However, he made it very clear, if the amount of blood increased, I was to go back to the hospital immediately.

We were in the emergency room for a total of six hours during which time I spoke to two doctors, had 2 bags of saline injected into my veins along with a shot of medicine that had something to do with protecting my stomach from an ulcer (I didn’t really understand what it was for to tell you the truth). Blood was taken and tested and urine was collected for testing.  Total cost:  $308.81 payable before leaving the hospital.  So at the end of the day Sunday, I still didn’t know what was wrong with me, but many serious problems had been ruled out based on the blood tests.  And I was now hydrated and already feeling better.  The overall experience was very positive – aside from the language barrier, this could have been any Canadian hospital, except of course we were treated immediately with no wait times whatsoever, and we had to pay the bill when we left.

This morning we submitted my stool sample to the lab at the hospital (another $55.38 charge).  And now we wait for the results.  We are very comfortable in the Traveller’s Inn hostel, especially now that we know we have access to their very clean and very well equipped kitchen.  We are just taking it easy, laying low in the hostel.

The picture below was taken this morning after we dropped of the sample at the lab.  We walked the 3.5 km back to our hostel (all downhill) in order to get some fresh air and a little exercise.  As you can see, it’s not like I’m dying or anything. In fact, I’m already feeling a lot better so I’m certain this is nothing serious, after all, nothing serious ever happens to me.  We just need to get to the root of this issue and resolve it…..and then our journey can continue.

Category: Ecuador, South America
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11 Responses
  1. Jurgen says:

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better. Reminded me of my time in India and coming down with giardia. Not pleasant but it’s all part of the adventure of traveling. At least they had good hospitals.

    • christina says:

      Can hardly wait to get to India 🙂 But seriously, staying healthy while travelling is a challenge. Even when you take all the precautions in the world, there is no guarantee you won’t get sick. I’m sure this won’t be our last incident either – we’re just getting started on this world trip after all. I’m hoping my body builds up some immunity to the local bacteria and toughens up my stomach a bit. But of course, we’ll be faced with different bacteria in other countries. Guess it’s just par for the course when travelling. Chris is calling this our “South American Diet” – not the worse thing after all our plumping up before we left Canada.

  2. Kathy says:

    Hi Christina,
    I have just been catching up on your blog. Your trip to the Galapagos Islands sounded amazing! You do look OK in your picture in this blog entry – so I am sure they won’t find anything seriously wrong. Especially as I know that there are many people sending very positive thoughts your way – including me! Take care of yourself.

    • christina says:

      Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for the positive thoughts 🙂 We’re still waiting for test results – hopefully we’ll hear something tomorrow. In the meantime, just laying low, reading a lot (thank goodness for my Kindle), and rather enjoying this little break from our travelling in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

  3. Rob says:

    Glad to hear your feeling better, blood in your stool is scary for sure, glad to hear you were able to get good health care, the picture of the hospital looked very modern. It will be interesting to find out what the aliment was as it sounded like both of you were feeling a bit sick after the breakfast at the hostel, maybe something you ate had a really bad impact on you and not so much on Chris.

    • christina says:

      Hi Rob,
      Nice to hear from you! I was relieved when we got to the hospital to find it to be as modern as anything you’d find at home. I don’t have any concerns about the quality of care I’m getting. Language continues to be a challenge though, since not everyone speaks English. For instance, when handing in the stool sample at the lab, the lady did not speak English at all, and needed to know: what time was the sample taken, what medications am I on, what allergies do I have. I can usually figure out what the person is saying (sometimes takes a few repetitions on their part), my biggest challenge is communicating back with my very limited language skills. But somehow, I make myself understood. It sure is hard to learn a new language. I have a much greater appreciation and respect for your accomplishment in learning French!

      I’m feeling much better – think the antibiotics have helped a lot. Still tired though and no appetite so something is still amiss. The blood in stool problem still persists so need to get that figured out. We just have to take one step at a time. Will keep you posted.

  4. Angus says:

    Hi Christina,

    Glad you’re feeling better and hope everything works out ok. You’re getting better attention there than you would at home. Here it would take 5 hours just to see the doctor in the first place. The hospital looks very clean and modern and very empty. Are you their only patient 🙂


    • christina says:

      Hi Angus,
      I was really impressed with how quickly we got medical attention last Sunday. There is something to be said for private health care from that perspective. But we’re now experiencing the other side of the coin where our insurance says no further treatment is covered as they no longer deem this an emergency which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me since my symptoms still remain the same and the doctors haven’t found the root cause. I guess I haven’t dropped dead this past week, so I must be ok. Everything going forward will now be out of pocket…….and so now we need to know how much things will cost when making decisions – not that I won’t get the medical attention I need, but it may at some point be more cost effective to return home and get checked out there. Too soon to tell right now though.

  5. Jessie says:

    hi Auntie Christina,
    I hope you are feeling ok 🙂 I wish that I came with you guys because it sounds fun!!!!!!!! Except the part when your at the hospital. I was a little bit scared when I saw you were in the hospital, but you look good in your pisture so I feel better about that. I went to see a special doctor the other day with mom, her name is Dr. Robinson, she said I have to have surgery on my tonsils, so I will have to have them out in January on the 24. I am scared about this 🙁 But mom and Jordan had theirs out and they are ok so I guess I will be fine. I have new friends at my new school, my new friend Alex fainted in the gym today and I was really scared cause she is allergic to alot of things like peanuts, but I think she is ok, she went home, I hope she will be at school tomorrow. Mom has a new job at the University and she doesn`t really like it as much as her other job but I guess she will keep working there for now. Papaa and Bobbie Jane said to say hi to you guys. I have to go to bed now…so I will talk to you another day.

    oxoxolove Jessie

    • christina says:

      Hi Jessie,
      How nice to hear from you! I’m sure you would have a lot of fun if you were here with us, especially when we were in the Galapagos Islands. You would have loved swimming with the penguins and the sea lions. And the baby sea lions were so adorable, you would have wanted to pack one in your suitcase and bring it home.

      Don’t worry about me – I am seeing a doctor here in Quito and everything is turning out ok. I am feeling a lot better this week. It is scary when you have to get a procedure done at the hospital. I’m feeling a little nervous about the colonoscopy that I will have done on Thursday. So I understand how you feel a little scared about getting your tonsils out. I had mine out when I was around your age, and I remember the best part was being allowed to eat ice cream and jello all day long afterwards. And I remember all the nurses were so nice and played lots of games with me. In fact, I don’t remember anything scary or bad about the experience at all. So I’m sure you will be ok too. I’m glad you’re making friends at your new school. I hope your friend Alex is feeling better.

      Uncle Chris and I are staying in an apartment for one week while I am seeing some doctors. Then we are going to start travelling again and I will start writing about our trip on the blog again. There are a couple of more places we want to visit in Ecuador, and then we will be going to Peru. That is the country that Uncle Chris and I visited a couple of years ago, when we went to the Amazon Jungle, and hiked the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. This time we want to visit a place called the Colca Canyon which is twice as big as the Grand Canyon in the United States. And we will also visit a lake called Lake Titicaca which is the biggest lake at the highest elevation in the world. There are floating islands of houses on that lake where indigenous people live. It’s going to be really interesting to see all these places. Uncle Chris will take lots of pictures for everybody back home to enjoy. I’m glad you’re following us on our blog. Maybe one day when you’re older, you’ll visit some of these places too! Take care Jessie, lots of love Auntie Christina

  6. Julie says:

    Hi guys just wanted you to know that we do have Skype now so we can see and talk to you from wherever in the world you are…yay! So I am not sure how to do it…I guess we have to know when we will call each other I guess we will figure it out when the time comes…right. I do hope that you are feeling better and all the best until next time.
    Julie kisses and hugs too!