Saturday, January 7, 2017

How (not) to have a heart attack in the DR

I haven’t been to hospital or even to see the doctor since I was shot 10 years ago. I find Dr. Google to work very well, plus being able to buy most meds over the counter, and this method has got me through Zika, Shingles and coughs and colds. I haven’t had smears, mammograms, tests nada. And I am always aware here, following previous experience, that if something goes wrong there is no professional 911 or ER to fix it – well not where I live.

So, on December 30, I was watching the TV at around 8 pm when I had a sharp pain on the left side of my chest. Sort of in the heart area. It went and then returned, and returned again and again and by now was taking my breath away. I took my blood pressure which was very very low, most unlike me as I take pills for high blood pressure and it is normally the upper side of normal. My pulse was also much slower than normal.

Every time I breathed, and even if I didn't breathe, the pain returned and by now I was getting a tad concerned as Google just said if you have chest pains go to the ER lol.

I told Danilo, and he decided to take me to the hospital as if I died and he had done nothing, he said he would be in trouble. Good enough reason to go I thought. There were however, two minor problems with his decision. Firstly he had lent the car to Saya (dwendy Number one) so we had no car and also we have no health insurance. No problem, he calls Saya who rushes back to the house and off we go to the public hospital in Moncion, up the mountain which is free, as all public hospitals are. The kids insisted on coming, Chivirico and Albert as nothing Dominicans support you more in, than medical issues. And as Chivirico said, if I died, he wanted to be there at the end. That made me feel better.

We arrived, and were seen within seconds – no other patients. The nurse apologized but said there was no doctor at the hospital – he had gone in an ambulance with a pregnant patient. She took my blood pressure which was still low and said there was no ECG machine, but she said you might be having a heart attack and she did have a stethoscope if that would help? We thought not and left for the private clinic in Moncion which is the Clinica Morel (isn't that a mushroom?), keeping our fingers crossed it would be cheap and I warned Danilo not to let them make me stay in.

We arrived and it looked like a proper hospital, with curtains, bays, an xray light box – and a man watching baseball on the TV. He ran off and within seconds I was ushered onto a stretcher in one of the curtained off bays and a nurse and doctor arrived. Dominican medics never ask permission they just do – so within seconds a drip was stuck in my arm (very professionally zero pain), I was hooked up to a blood pressure and pulse machine which bleeped I so assumed that was a good sign. The nurse was sticking injections in the drip and when I asked what they were, I was told “medicine”. Hmm I hoped it wasn’t expensive medicine.  I asked again what they were and she said  as I had said I wasn’t allergic to anything so it didn’t matter what they were! This is typical behaviour. The patient is not supposed to ask questions as the Doctor knows best.

The doctor then did an ECG which involved taking my bra off as it had underwire. The doctor is not allowed to do it so asked a family member to come in. Danilo entered the bay and began the struggle with the bra. He had no clue lol. Obviously never practiced as a youth taking bras off the back of chairs with a blindfold on!  He said he had forgotten. Eventually bra was off and ECG was normal. Yay time to leave, but no, we had to call the cardiologist. He was watching baseball upstairs so doctor took him the print out, and he said fine but keep her in for observation. Again normal practice but no way was I spending an expensive night in the clinic, even though the idea of peace and quiet was bliss as I had loads of work to do and in reality I was fine, still in chest pain but I knew it was not heart related and was not about to pop my clogs so I discharged myself, paid US$40 and off we went home in time to see the end of Top Chef.

It turned out I have a cracked rib, which is fine unless I move. This was caused by Danilo and the boys enlisting my assistance to carry out bench presses when they were in our garden gym – and decided to use me as the weight which involved lifting me up in the air, holding me by my chest. Someone – methinks Danilo – obviously grabbed the weight (me) too tightly.

Moral of the story. Don’t allow yourself to be used as weights and the local clinic appears to be very professional which makes feel better for the next trauma in no less than hopefully 10 years.


  1. As usual a well written story.Hope you are feeling better.

  2. I, too, had a cracked rib recently and was convinced I was dying. Unfortuately, I didn't get in half such an interesting way. Keep 'em coming, Linds. Great stuff.

    1. Now I know what they feel like it will help for the next time but will start taking calcium.

  3. OK. Note to self: next time I am in DR, do not on any account get sick, unless in a major city - or can speak proper Spanish! Well done, Lindsay!

  4. Better a cracked rib than an heart attack.
    That of just having to accept what the Drs or nurses tell you, wouldn't be good for me either...I like to know what's going on and be able to do my own investigations too.
    Get well soon.

  5. Morel is indeed a mushroom. We used to go hunting for them in Missouri. Their caps look like sponges, ans there are no poisonous fungi that look like that, at least in MO.

    Morel seems to be a common surname in el Cibao. Tomas Morel ran a Folklore Museum in Santiago years ago.He was a great guy, and I was saddened to learn that he died. I hope the museum is still operating.

    1. Thanks - that was interesting. Sorry no idea about the museum.