So – I promised you the good, the bad and the ugly, right? This week is all about the ugly (but there’s a happy ending – don’t worry!). As I write, my mind feels like it’s beginning to clear. And since I promised to share it all with you, my thoughts turned to writing.
It started with a cough. It always did.
Many of you will not be familiar with my cough. It’s been many years since it was a consistent part of my life. But it’s always the same – deep, body racking coughs over which I have almost no control. The other accouterments of sickness (runny nose, sneezing, foggy brain) are negligible compared to the coughing. Usually diagnosed as bronchitis, I got it so often in my 20s that I started telling people I had chronic bronchitis. It was the easiest way I could explain the cough that lasted for weeks on end – no matter what I did. But, antibiotics have always helped shorten the healing process (remember this for later).
This time, I failed to recognize the early symptoms. I thought it was just a cold, as the cough was high in my chest and my throat, not deep in my lungs as usually presaged bronchitis. So I drank lots of hot water with lemon (keeping myself hydrated), ensured I was eating lots of healthy food, and tried to get as much rest as possible. On Friday, I took myself out to a restaurant that was noted on Trip Advisor for its soup. The lady who waited on me was so nice! I told her that my throat was sore, and I wanted some tea and soup. I also ordered a quinoa risotto dish (heaven! It’s the first quinoa dish I’ve found in Viña). When she brought my tea, she brought some cut-up pieces of ginger along with it. She thought this might help my sore throat. (if you look really hard, you can see them in a small dish in the picture below) She was so kind, and the afternoon out did me good.
But it didn’t get better. The cough got worse, and I started to lose my voice. (currently, I’m kind of squeaking like a mouse) As I sunk deeper, I had to accept that I might have bronchitis. Sunday was the worst day. I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t cook, because I didn’t trust that I wouldn’t cut myself with a knife while chopping vegetables. I tried desperately to find some hot chicken broth or other soup for my poor throat.
As I wandered the streets early Sunday evening, seeing most of the shops and restaurants closed, I was reminded of my time in Germany. When I lived there (many years ago now), I thought how lovely it was that most places were closed all day on Sundays. I remember thinking how nice it was that families and friends spent time together at least one day a week; that they spent at least one day a week away from spending money. I remember wishing we had a similar culture in the U.S.
So I chided myself Sunday evening as I walked the streets of Viña, wishing that something were open but also thinking how nice it was that nothing was. It was the first time I’ve missed the U.S. – and my ability to get whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it.
I did finally find a small Mom & Pop mini-market selling hot, fresh empanadas – how is this ALWAYS my go-to food?? 😉 It wasn’t soup, but it was delicious and filling. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.
It was also on Sunday that I decided I needed to see a doctor. I knew I needed antibiotics. There was a clinic nearby, and I decided to go there. It’s not quite a walk-in clinic, as you do need an appointment to see a doctor. But, I was loathe to try the “Urgencia” (ER). One of my FB friends told me the type of doctor to ask for (a broncopulminar). Armed with this knowledge, a notebook full of helpful Spanish sentences about my symptoms, and depending upon Chilean friendliness, I awoke early Monday and took myself to CentroMed.
At 9 AM, it was already busy, and looked like any walk-in clinic I might find in the U.S. I decide to start with the Information Desk. Squeaking like a mouse, I apologize to the gentleman and tell him that I need to make an appointment with a “broncopulimnar”. He offers a reassuring smile, tells me not to worry, gives me the name of two doctors and sends me to the fourth floor.
There, I speak with a lady who attempts to ask me a few questions. I don’t understand her. My mind is so foggy. I finally understand “por acá” (here). But it’s obvious I don’t completely understand. She remains kind and patient throughout. We finally get enough English and Spanish between the two of us for me to pay and to make an appointment – for 10 AM. How wonderful!
Eternally grateful that I am going to see a doctor in just 45 minutes, I slip into a chair in the waiting room and send a silent “thank you” out to the universe. About 5 minutes after 10:00, my name is called. Doctor Miranda admits that he does not know much English, but I have come prepared. I know how to say enough to convey what’s happening, how long it’s been happening and that I’ve had this before. He is so very kind, and helpful. He tells me it’s nothing serious, and offers me a prescription for antibiotics and cough medicine.
I walk downstairs to fill my prescription. In less than 90 minutes, I have completed my mission. I already feel a bit better.
Home again, Patricio calls me. We were supposed to go to the Feria on Saturday and have lunch, but I had cancelled because I was sick. He is calling to check on me, and to chastise me for not calling him and asking for help. I tell him that I do not know if I am contagious and I would feel horrible if he got sick because of me. But I can tell he’s still not happy with me. This so warms my heart – to know I’ve got such a good friend here in Chile. He asks me what I need, and I admit I would love some soup and some oranges.
Thirty minutes later, he arrives with chicken broth, chicken, oranges, lemons and a juicer. I go right for the broth – is there anything more heavenly?
Feeling fortified with food and antibiotics, I finally sleep for a whole three hours.
I am, once again, overwhelmed with the friendliness and helpfulness I seem to encounter wherever I go in Chile. Seeking medical help in a foreign country should be more nerve-wracking. But I knew I would be treated kindly and compassionately. I was more concerned about being able to talk my symptoms in Spanish than anything else.
So I am recovering. I am still squeaking like a mouse, and trying not to talk unless absolutely necessary. Sleep is a challenge because I am mostly coughing. The picture you see below is actually from Friday – just at the onset of sickness. I was out and about, enjoying my city by the sea. Oh, and ice cream is always good for the soul – even better when you’re not feeling well! This is why I live here. Until next time!