Travelling can come with a lot of risks, some that even deter people from doing it. When you think of what your worst travel nightmare is what comes to mind? Losing your luggage? Getting robbed? Ending up in jail? Ending up in a foreign hospital? A lot of people share these common worries and for most, they never have to deal with the consequences of facing one of these. We’ve ALWAYS had some of these worries in the back of our minds. I think that the biggest one we worry about is getting mugged. I’m not exactly the type of traveller that fits in seamlessly in other countries. The light hair and pale skin are a dead give aways that we’re tourists when we’re travelling. Because of this, I’m always a lot more cautious and aware of my surroundings…especially the scams in each country that we visit. Aside from that, we never really worried about anything else happening to us…until it did.
One of the things most travellers don’t always expect and obviously don’t want is a hospital visit in a different country. I always thought that if one of us ended up in the hospital in a different country it would be from an accident of some sort, like how most travellers end up hurt abroad. Never did we think that one of us would be hospitalized and need surgery in Central America. But, alas, it happened and we just had to deal with it as it was thrown at us.
We had been travelling for five days at this point and had just arrived back in San Juan del Sur after spending a few days on Ometepe Island. The night before, we had just gotten back into our favourite hostel and went out with the friends we had met a few days prior before we left to Ometepe. When we woke up that morning, we were supposed to switch hostels and then were going to plan our day from there. Tessa started to complain about back pain but just brushed it off to the uncomfortable hostel beds we had the night before. When we got back to Pachamama (the BEST hostel), we checked in and decided that we would get the beach shuttle with some friends and maybe even try to learn how to surf that day. We had to wait for an hour or so and Tessa started to say that she had a sore stomach. Me, being the great friend that I am, told her to suck it up and she probably caught what I had a few days prior. When the shuttle finally arrived to take us to the beach, Tessa was nowhere to be found. I finally found her in the bathroom and as we were walking to it she told me that she was peeing blood. Again, being such a good friend I told her she probably just had a bladder infection and it was nothing. We had to wait another few minutes to load the shuttle and everyone’s gear and in the few minutes we were waiting, Tessa took a turn for the worse and decided that she needed to get off of the shuttle. Since I actually am a good friend most days I got off the shuttle with her.
Once we were off, she told me that she needed to go to a doctor. This started to worry me because as a nurse she is definitely against seeking medical help unless it’s necessary. We headed back to the hostel to ask where the hospital was. We had to walk across town and during the short walk her pain started to become so bad that she could barely stand up, started to sweat buckets, and almost vomitted. I for sure thought she was going to pass out and started panicking because i had no clue what to do if she actually did pass out. Once we finally found the hospital we tried to get her into a doctor but alas, no one spoke English. She had to turn on her phone and I had to google translate what was going on (THANK GOD FOR GOOGLE TRANSLATE) because my Duolingo lessons did not prepare me for this. They wrote some prescriptions for her, made me go to the pharmacy to get them and then injected her with whatever it was when I got back with them. They gave her a prescription to get filled and sent her on her merry way. Whatever they gave her had worked and she was starting to feel and look more like herself again. We went back to the hostel and I sat outside and hung out with everyone while Tessa went to rest. She came out after a little while and said that she was feeling better and was even googling if she could drink with the meds that they gave her (god bless her little soul). But, her feeling better only lasted a short while and again she decided to go back and lay down. She texted me soon after to say that she had now started puking. Me, being great in emergencies, started to panic again (I had already decided that she was probably going to die on me by this point and was planning how I’d get her body home).
Fast forward another hour and I go into the room and tell her that we should probably pack our bags and get a cab to Managua. Managua is the capital city in Nicaragua and has a big hospital. She didn’t argue and soon after we were on our way there. On the car ride she was starting to be in unbearable pain and it felt like it took way longer than three and a half hours to get us there. She tried to sleep and I creepily stared at her the whole time to make sure she was breathing and actually asleep and not dead yet. When we got there, they found a nurse who spoke English and got her into the emergency room right away. While in emergency, she had to have blood work taken and was sent for an ultra sound. When the urologist finally came to speak to her, he told her that she had around 6 kidney stones and would have to stay in the hospital until at least Monday (it was Thursday night at the time). They moved her into a private room where there was a sofa bed for me and that’s where we stayed for the next little while.
The next day, she was sent for a CT scan and they found out that she had more than 6 stones. We’re talking at least 10+ now. How this happened we still have no idea. She was okay that whole day until night hit. She couldn’t sit still, was in insane amounts of pain (at one point they took almost an hour getting her pain meds), and was also vomitting. Let’s just say that the only Spanish words she was fluent in were pain and vomit. They finally came in that night and told her that she would be taken into surgery the next morning. Reminder – all of this was said through google translate. It seriously needs an award.
The next morning they came in and started to get her ready for surgery. The doctor told me that he would come in and tell me when she was out. You would think that I would be panicking the whole time she was gone. In reality, I was relived that she was gone and wasn’t pacing the room so I could watch gossip girl and sleep in peace. Alright, I was a little worried and half planning her funeral but it was honestly better than the alternative of watching her look like she was going to give birth at any second. A few hours after she was taken into surgery the doctor came back and said that she was all good and that the stone that was stuck had been removed and she would be back in the room in a little bit.
After that, she was a lot better and only looked like she was going to die every once in a while. I knew she was back to normal when she started translating Bring It On by what she thought was happening.
You may be wondering what did I do the whole time she was in the hospital? I watched Netflix, and a lot of it. By the time we were ready to go I had watched almost two seasons of Gossip Girl and actually knew so much Spanish from the subtitles on the episodes. One of the phrases I became good at was getting my food from the cafeteria to go so I wouldn’t have to stop watching Netflix for long.
Once she was released, we obviously had to book a flight back to Canada. We got the first flight out of the the next day and just stayed a hotel literally right across the street from the airport. We had some issues getting home (don’t get us started on the United debacle) but we made it back in one piece..just one kidney stone less than what we left with. Looking back, there were some sketchy moments from the shandy hospital in San Juan del Sur to the doctor telling Tessa she would probably lose her kidney (she won’t, don’t worry) to the meds that they were giving her (she’s a nurse, she knows that they were giving her weird shit).
We’re not sure why we keep getting thrown into weird situations when we’re travelling but it needs to stop. This trip was shaping up to be one of our favourites ever and was cut short by obvious reasons. We’ll hopefully go again at Christmas but if this story teaches you one thing it’s ALWAYS get travel insurance. If she didn’t have it, she would probably be out close to, if not more than $10,000 for a short little hospital stay. It’s honestly not worth it to even risk it. Do you think we thought that we would end up in the hospital this trip? Definitely not but it happened, so don’t be dumb.
This experience made us thankful for a lot of things but mostly the Canadian healthcare system….until we got back and now she was to wait over three weeks to see a specialist.