One of the things I have been most impressed with in Colombia is the level of care I have received with regards to general health and dentistry.
But let me start you off from the very “daunting” beginning!!
When I first suspected I was pregnant I was told “well lets go to a clinic and get a blood test to confirm for sure” I thought nothing of it (although I was hoping it was a nice clinic with nice nurses because I have always been a wimp when it comes to injections and blood tests!)
So imagine my horror when my first experience of having a blood test (the first of what I suspected would be many) was in a house in -Fontibon (our local town) Walking down the high street full of little shops I couldn’t see anything that resembled a clinic or hospital and my hopes began to fall – then I was ushered into a small door way and sat on a chair. I looked around and saw a framed certificate on the wall saying that the lady was trained in being able to take bloods (or something along those lines), and other than the small desk I was sat at there was nothing but another doorway leading through to the families living room. I could clearly see the man of the house sat on the sofa eating his dinner and watching a soap opera, and as the wife came out, put on her rubber gloves and pulled out the needle I couldn’t contain my fear any more and burst into tears! after a 10 minute wait while she went back to her soap opera, and then printed something from the home computer – she presented me with the paper that said I was “pregnant”! – As we left the clinic I felt silly but had to ask Juan “I will be having the baby in a real hospital wont I and not somewhere like that?” and although he said yes – I was unsure as to what I should expect from the next 9 months!!! so the journey began………….
From there on I have been really surprised – after registering me as a beneficiary on Juan`s medical insurance, I was given regular appointments at the local DRs surgery, almost every two weeks, and I was given prescriptions for supplements and vitamins that I needed that we haven’t had to pay for. I have been referred to the dentist, nutritionist and for ultrasounds to the point that they have been so thorough with me I was annoyed at what a fuss they are making over me.
Every appointment consisted of a blood pressure check, weighing, being given advice and more vitamins and more follow up appointments. really thorough!
The first ultrasound was the scariest /funniest – I went with a friend of ours Arturo, and Juan`s mum (as Juan couldn’t get time off work) and after being told over and over again by Juan and his family that I had nothing to worry about – it would just be some gel on my tummy and no more I felt ok & comfortable with this idea- so imagine my horror when once in the room with Arturo and Juan`s mum I was asked to take off my clothes so they could do an internal examination!!! I had no idea if I was expected to strip right then and there in front of everyone, or if I could do it in private, or if I would even be given a gown to wear – The scariest part was not understanding how things worked here and what was expected of me. I know the English are typically prudish and private, but here that doesn’t seem to be an issue. (this worried me) so after a lot of questions to Arturo, who then translated to the doctor and translated back to me about what I could expect – I had the exam (lets just say it bought me closer to Arturo and to Juan`s mum who must have seen everything!)
The next challenge I was faced with was being told I needed to go to the dentist. After freaking out, crying in front of everyone at the surgery, storming out and then waiting in the car in tears while Juan booked the appointment I realised I would have to face it and go. I was terrified – I hate the dentist in England, let alone in Colombia – I was dreading to think how bad the experience would be. The day of the appointment I made them promise not to touch me – just to look and tell me what was wrong if anything, This they agreed to. but I was told I would have to go back for fillings, but because I was pregnant they would not be able to use any type of anaesthetic or painkillers!!!!!! ummmmmm SCARED!
The day of my fillings I cant remember ever being that nervous – I laid down, the dentist told me she would first just do a bit of a clean up – and after about 10 minutes and no pain, she told me she had finished! she had done 2 fillings and I was good to go! I was so happy, I actually felt that I would go back again without even questioning what needed to be done – never have I experienced such a straight forward and gentle dentist.
I have been cared for so well by all the doctors, nurses, dentists etc – its something that I never expected, but that has surprised me the most about being here.
Health care = Colombia 1, England 0!!!