Costa Rica: A Visit to Clinica La Fortuna

    Part ONE

Jon and I burst through the doors of the tiny local clinic at 7:08 AM. I clutched my bleeding ear with a tissue and howled in pain. Jon wished he could do something, anything, about it. The clinic was already full, five minutes after opening. Perhaps someone had a medical emergency in the middle of the night and found that the only clinic in town didn´t open until seven o clock!!! Okay, rewind… I´ll take you back to the beginning of the story. Picture Eli and Jon driving down the dark, dirt road from Arenal to La Fortuna at 2:35 AM. Now picture us returning from our night hike at Mistico Hanging Bridges around four hours earlier. My ear hurt then, but I was so tired from my physical exertions and almost stepping on a venomous snake, that I just passed out. Around 1:30 AM I awoke to the sharpest, longest lasting pain I had ever felt. I couldn´t breathe due to all the congestion in my sinuses and the pain in my ear was intense. It hurt so badly that eventually I stuck my finger in my ear in order to plug the hole and hopefully stop it from throbbing. I felt a painful pop and then the pressure released. I could feel this cold liquid dripping down my face.

“Oh good, the pain is going to stop soon,” I thought.

After a few good minutes of this liquid dripping down my face, I hobbled over to the bathroom and flipped on the light. The liquid that I felt was thick blood.

“Oh shit! I´m bleeding from my ear! It hurts so badly! We´re so far away from town!” were the thoughts I uttered from the bathroom.

With all my noise, Jon turned on the light to the bedroom. He took one look at the blood leaking from my ear, down my chin, and onto the pillowcase, and immediately began packing a bag for the hospital. Neither of us wanted to drive to an unknown hospital, down an unknown road, in the middle of the night, but it didn´t seem like we had a choice. There was no one around to ask for directions to the clinic so we just plugged it into GPS and off we went. Forty minutes later, the pain intensifying, we found the town´s clinic. Now, La Fortuna is a small town, but it´s also a tourist hub, so I didn´t find it ridiculous that there would be a 24 hour emergency clinic open.

Guess what though??? There wasn´t! Good thing I wasn´t actually bitten by the snake, or my leg would have rotted off and I might have died from asphyxiation. The Clinic, as much as a small concrete building can be called a health care facility, was totally dark with not a person in sight. I stared at the barred up windows, clutched my ear some more and let my tears mingle with the blood from my ear. We drove around a bit, found two men at a garage station and told them about our predicament.

“Oh, the Clinic doesn´t open until 7 AM, “ they offered in Spanish.

“Follow me,” said one of the men, who took pity on us. Apparently this man knew of some 24-hour doctor and took us to his house.   Well, the sign above his door also stated that he was “Open All Night”. However, our new friend called the doctor several times, and the light stayed off. Clearly he was not home or chose not to answer our pleas. I was still holding a tissue in my ear to catch the drips and Jon and I looked at each other and the two men who had tried to help us. One of the men shrugged and said he couldn´t help us anymore. The nearest hospital was “That Way” for about an hour in the dark…

To be Continued

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