S American healthcare system

Trip Start Mar 17, 2008
Trip End Jun 08, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, April 11, 2008

... well well well; intended as a 3 day sojourn into the delights of Argentine wine in the heart of Argentine wine producing country; this turned into a very very steep learning curve about how the argentine healthcare system operates. The lurg that I referred to previously that GB was suffering with deteriorated significantly shortly after arrival in San Rafael. Perhaps it was her penance for bus rage at the expense of a 6 year old child, or perhaps just bloody bad luck; but GB was quickly confined to bed (in our second room after a "u-bend" disagreement in the first room. I think it was a shoddy (but eminently effective) way to get an upgrade. She has pleaded that I elaborate no further...

Anyway, the first full day in San Rafael we spent exploring the Jean Rivier and La Abeja bodegas. The first was very impressive with some export quality vino tinto and vino blanco - we toured the entire place and the wine making process was explained (in Spanish with GB doing a fabulous job at translation for me) - from taking delivery of the grapes, through to barreling, back to large concrete casks and finally to bottling. We learned the difference between the quality of the wines (mostly down to the length of time in the barrels). We were amazed to find that every bottle of Rivier wine is hand-labelled by a team of 3 very smiley local ladies who were only too keen to pose for a photo! We sampled 3 wines and bought a bottle of their second best Malbec (a snip at three fifty!)

The Abeja tour was rubbish (mainly because the guy spoke at 100 miles an hour and left no time for GB to translate); so we scoffed the free samples and cleared off back to the hotel to chill. A good start to our stay, went rapidly downhill when GB's disco nap that afternoon resulted in her waking feeling dreadful; so I was left to fend for myself and dispatched to find some food for us both. After an hour I had managed to secure a take out pizza, a large bottle of beer for me, and a ropey old sandwich and yoghurt drink for GB. We had an early night hoping for improved health next morning....

Next morning did not bring good health but a very rude awakening. I heard something go "bump" and switched on the bedside light to discover it was GB who had walked into the bathroom door. "Are you ok" I said, to which there was no reply. Next thing GB says "can you switch on the light because I can't see anything". At this point I really freaked out because the light was already on. I dashed out of bed and tried to steer her back to the bed to sit down. It was at this point that the now famous "GB shuffle" was invented. Unable to turn round and walk forward I told her to walk backwards; instead she shuffled to the side and promptly walked into a stool alongside the bed. This was totally weird and very scary. Eventually I managed to get her to the bed and to sit down and poor lass was burning up something rotten. It was now 6.40am. We managed to ask the receptionist to get us a cab (he offered an ambulance for 30 quid), and we made our way to the main hospital, where after some waiting in line we were successful in securing an appt - for 5 hours later. No good plan b required.

Another cab back to the hotel, a mouthful of breakfast for me and another cab to the private medical clinic that was recommended to us by the hotel. What a bloody farce that was. 90 minutes we were in there, half a dozen calls to the UK to try and get them to fax over confirmation that we were insured (the clinic receptionist refused to even book us in until she had the fax and unhelpfully gave us a fax number of 433333; no area code, no country code; this woman was straight from the Gestapo book of doctors receptionists [mum you would have gone mad]). Anyway, the fax wouldn't work, email seemed a foreign concept and eventually in desperation we decided to see if we could buy some antibiotics over the counter at the pharmacy opposite. A stupid and naive idea we thought - but would you flippin' believe it they sell 'em - as many as you want - just describe your symptoms and hey presto, you're 15 quid worse off but clutching the holy grail of medecines. 5 minutes later we were heading back to the hotel and GB was popping pills like it was going out of fashion (I omitted to say that all the coughing at the start of her illness had made her back seize up again, so she had some super strength ibuprofen for that in addition to the antibiotics).

GB spent the rest of that day in bed sleeping and I used the time effectively and went on another bodega tour (!). By the evening, GB was seemingly on the mend and we had a picnic in our room; wild smoked cured boar, salami, cheese, bread and a glass or two of an awful local Cabernet Sauvignon I picked up en route back (and agua sin gas for the wife).

Next morning brought further distress in that the tablets didn't seem to be working (although working their way through her intestines at lightning speed) but GB had to drag herself out of bed and to the bus station for our return to Mendoza. That went off ok, and back at Hostel Lao we collected our thoughts before heading to the nearest pharmacy for yet more (and different) antibiotics. I casually dropped into the conversation that it was only 24 hours since the first one was taken and GB decided to give it another 24 hours. Poor thing lost another day in bed, I enjoyed a delicious lunch back where we'd eaten on our first day in Mendoza. By the evening, the fever and temperature had subsided considerably, and we enjoyed (or perhaps endured) another "īn-room" picnic - plain bread for GB and a banana for me! Wine country was not proving to be the highlight we had anticipated.

Following day, GB was making further strides to recovery - I must point out at this point that throughout the entire process she did not complain once; instead was concerned that she was wrecking our holiday. So selfless, she is incredible. Anyway, we boarded an early bus to Santiago; and watched two great films, "Fracture" and "I am Legend". No annoying 6 year olds using the seat as a punch bag on this journey - just an elderly lady with a mega dose of flatulence and a supersonic snoring issue.

And so it was we arrived back in Santiago, GB on the mend, RJP miraculously germ free; both ready to resume our trip of Chilean discovery. Santiago promises much; expectations are again high; watch out for the next instalment of our South American adventure..... I hope you're enjoying the updates.

ps - I can report that GB has made a full recovery!! Photos will be forthcoming of the last couple of weeks asap.
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rozberry on

Sick Bay and beyond.
Hola. The Jean Rivier/ Malbec experience sounds fantastic, especially the £3:50. The abscence of blog for a few days made me think that something was amiss. Gayles visual disturbances etc. sound horrendous. The Hospital and Clinic obviously belong to the Mafia!. Lets hear a great big cheer for the NHS. A lot of countries permit pharmacies to sell antibiotics via a well trained Pharmacist- in this case, a good thing. However, mulled wine might be a good preventive potion against the mountain travellers bugs. Look out for cloves and BROWN sugar, (no white grains/ powder in backpacks pleeeeese!) It will at least make you feel better about the elderly travellers exuding noisesfrom more than two orifices. Great to hear you are both back on the trail. XXXX MUM.

cadey on

I've only been away for 5 days and Mums addicted to blogging, Gayles gone blind and taken on serial abuse of 6 yr olds and Ricardo's become some sort of literary genius! whilst showering in flipflops?

Sounds like you've both triumphed over adversity. I am enjoying the blog updates and I'm sure you will love rereading them, and the comments against them, when you get back. They'll make good additions to the travel diary.

Nigel and I are back from a lovely break in Madrid where I managed to VERY nearly faint at the 'bodies' exhibition (despite the fact I've done human body dissection for my degree!). I can safely say, my body let me down at the most inopportune? moment and I've no idea why as I wasn't sqeamnish -ho hum. It resulted in a very nice cocktail at the hard rock cafe though so all's well that ends well!
We went to the oldest restaurant in the world on the last night and had their speciality of roast suckling pig. All very well until I had a crisis of conscience in the middle of the night about the fact I'd eaten a piglet - I hope Charley and George never find out :-)

Charley has got the most awful case of slap cheek (Ive never heard of it before either) which results in a red rash on cheeks which spreads over the body and gradually becomes increasingly itchy. He was like a boy possessed for the past 2 nights and you can't help but feeel sorry for him as there is nothing you can do to help him other than antihistamines & keep throwing him in a cool shower (which isn't a great prospect at 3am I can tell you!).

I Hope you're fully better for your birthday Gayle and well done for not complaining about your illness -even when you walked into the door/stool/bed a la GB shuffle :-) (personally, I'd have milked it a bit more, made a bit of fuss and complained about the soggy sandwich!)
Must dash as some of us have work to do............xx

rozberry on

Hola. 16-4-08. As your blogs seem to take acouple of days to register on the screen I thought that I would get ahead. Hope that you both treat yourselves with the gift, by golly you need a bit of cordon bleu after the last week. We are having a mix of sun/ hail/ freezing fog/ rain here. So enjoy South America you lucky people. Must sign off and go to School to administer some Piriton to C. XXX MUM

rozberry on

The Incas, the Andes and the Potato
Hola!. from Mama. Here are some fascinating facts from a book I am reading. 'The potato origins are firmly rooted in the Andes. Ther is evidence that they were cultivated there more than 8,000 years ago. 400 varieties are grown today.Each household will plant 40-50 varietis according to climate and taste. The head research centre is in Lima. ten million people ( 36% of Perus population) live in the Andes. Human muscle power created the the thousands of neat ridged rectangles for cultivating potatoes. The Incas intoduced 'mita'- a mandatory public work service, which required every man and woman to contribute a portion of their annual labour output to the state. They cut roads through mountains, mined gold and silver, wove cloth , fought battles, laid over 40,000 km of paved road and built the terraces.' Very impressive anthropology. Hope you are both enjoying the adventure. XXX MUM

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