Trip Start Sep 13, 2008
Trip End Feb 26, 2009

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Where I stayed
Koala Den

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, February 5, 2009

The last few days have almost entirely been spent at the hospital, getting my injuries seen to and being kept very busy in my new role as ambassador for all injured tourists. My charges are Mark and Eveline from Belgium, who are mobile but speak no Spanish, and David and Kaitlin from Canada, who speak Spanish but can't move (David has a dislocated hip and Kaitlin has broken ribs and a bad cut on her head). Sunday was the worst day as there were very few doctors and nurses working and we spent the whole day spent limping around the hospital trying to find staff to talk to. There are barely any nurses at the best of times as there is an expectation that families will pick up the slack - everyone has hundreds of relatives to look after them. Mark and I only got to see a doctor to authorise an x-ray for his hand and my knee by cornering him in the car park, where he was quite brazenly washing his car - and yes, he was the DUTY doctor at the time! When we then went to get our x-rays, the radiographer told us we'd have to come back the next day; the hospital had been so overwhelmed by all the bus casualties that they'd run out of the black sheets to put in the x-ray machine. It turned out my knee wasn't broken (so I still have a chance of skiing next month - yay!), but Mark's hand is. They put an old-school white plaster cast on it for him and we all wished we had marker pens to write on it!

There is an awkward system for drugs here - the doctor writes out prescriptions on his ward round but then you have to go out and get them all from the pharmacy - even basic things like saline solution. This is a bureaucratic nightmare as the bus company are covering all passengers' medical costs so filling a prescription involves going to an office to get a stamp then going to the pharmacy. If, like David and Kaitlin, you can't get out to the pharmacy and don't have someone to go on your behalf, you don't get your medicine.  

Have been worrying about post-traumatic stress reactions but haven't even had any bad dreams so far and I think if you tell yourself that stuff will haunt you then it will and if not then it may not - I feel OK now, especially since writing it all down on here. I also feel I have regained control of the situation through my ministrations at the hospital - have found all the translation and weight-throwing enormously therapeutic and empowering. We managed to get Mark and Eveline discharged on Tuesday and flown home (courtesy of their insurance) on Wednesday. It was all a bit of a struggle, culminating me having in a stand-up row with an evil female Bolivian otorrhinolaryngologist who wouldn't write a letter certifying Mark fit to fly home before getting his broken nose fixed EVEN THOUGH she had previously said it was fine. The whole thing took place en espaņol in front of 10 quivering medical students and I did eventually prevail, but it was exhausting - especially as I had just had a grim session with an inappropriately cheerful doctor who cut a stray piece of glass out of my foot with a razor blade and no anaesthetic and then spotted my bad knee and said "that looks bad, does this hurt?" while poking the tenderest place so hard that I cried. Still, at least Dr Happy identified that my leg is infected - it was hot enough to fry an egg on! Am now on antibiotics for it. The worst is over for David and Caitlin too - their insurance company is flying his dad down here to look after them until they are well enough to fly home, then will fly them all back to Canada. Such a relief for them - and also for me, as I was worried about leaving town if they had nobody else to help them. I will see them once more today before I go and David's dad should arrive tomorrow.

I have to take a bus this afternoon to Sucre (only 3 hours but I am very nervous) and then that's it: have booked a flight from Sucre to Buenos Aires, arriving in BA on Saturday. It cost $500 US but I don't care any more! I just want to get back to civilisation and avoid buses. Am going to fly everywhere for the rest of the trip and possibly for the rest of my life.
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