When Sick in a Foreign Country Take Two Doses of an Open Mind

I haven’t written in a couple weeks, partly because I was in Buenos Aires for a week and the other reason, because I was sick. Before going to Buenos Aires, I had full intention of writing about one of my experiences in this beautiful and exciting city, but as I returned I fell ill and have since then decided to tell you all about my experience of becoming sick abroad.
While still in Buenos Aires, I woke up one morning feeling nausea and didn’t think much of it except that it was a little bothersome. The next morning, I had to wake up extremely early to catch my flight back to Santiago and this is when everything started to go downhill. I felt so terribly ill that I wasn’t quite sure how I would make it onto the airplane. Somehow I made it back to Santiago with only one incident, which I’ll spare you all the details of. Thinking the illness had passed I came home and told none of it to my host mom, just saying that my stomach hurt and I only wanted to eat a little that day.
Needless to say, the illness had not passed and I spent the next 4 days feeling sick off and on, staying mostly in bed.
I’ll spare you all the details of the progression of this strange illness and instead, continue on to some of the things I have observed and experienced through all of this. Through almost 4 days in bed, my host mom took good care of me. Like any mom, she had the remedies that she thought would work best to make me feel better. To my surprise, they were completely different from the ones I would think of after being raised in the States. When I said that I thought Sprite would be a good remedy for my stomach, my host mom quickly denied this, saying that herbal tea would be much better. She would give me mug after mug, each one equally lukewarm, sometimes even cold, and I would attempt to swallow it all despite my dislike for it. She had a medicine cabinet full of pills I’d never heard of before and gave me a new concoction every hour that she swore would help me feel better. I never felt worse because of them but I also cannot attest that they cured me outright.
Today I went to the doctor. Although I am feeling much better, my program director insisted that I still go just to make sure there was nothing serious going on. So at noon I headed out to the hospital where my appointment was. Thinking the whole process would take around an hour or an hour and a half I emailed the professor of my class that started at 2, thinking I could possibly be late. Boy, was I wrong.
After navigating the system of how to check in and pay for the appointment, I was quickly called back to my consultation. To my surprise, it wasn’t a bright cheery nurse who called me back but rather my name was called over a loud system with the number of the room I was to report to. I snaked through the hallways unaccompanied to find the room the loud speaker had told me to go to. I felt extremely awkward as I opened the door, having absolutely no idea what I would find. I expected either an empty room or a nurse waiting to take my vitals. However, when I walked in the room, I found a doctor sitting at a desk, almost like an office with an exam room attached. This was like nothing I’d seen in the States.
He asked how I felt and I began to tell him the symptoms I’d been having and when it all started. I paused to say that I did feel better today. I was about to continue but as soon as the word “mejor” (better) came out of my mouth, he told me to go the exam table so he could have a look at me. After about a minute of looking in my mouth, listening to my heart, and feeling my stomach, he went back to his desk, wrote me a prescription, said I was fine, and rushed me out of his office. By the time I walked out the door, only 5 minutes had passed! The fastest doctor’s appointment I have EVER had. But I felt so dissatisfied. I wanted to tell him so much more and have him really assure me that it was nothing, that I had just eaten some bad meat or done too much activity with too little sleep. Something. But all he really did was write me a prescription just to get me out of his office.
The whole process once I had gotten to the hospital only took me about 20 minutes, but while I left with a prescription in hand, I was totally unsatisfied with my experience. I felt completely rushed during my visit and that I wasn’t wanted, like I was just another person in line that he needed to get through. While the process was obviously much more efficient than the States, I didn’t get that feeling that I was being cared for. Thank goodness I actually did feel better and didn’t really need the attention, otherwise I would’ve felt unsure of whether I had even received the right medicine to make me feel better.
Overall, the experience of being sick here in Chile has allowed me to learn even more things about the Chilean culture that I would have never learned otherwise. However, it did leave me aching for home a bit. Even when I’m at school and am sick I want to constantly call my mom and have her by my side. That feeling only augmented when the distance grew and I couldn’t express my feelings in English anymore. But now that the illness has finally passed and I feel better, I am beginning to see Santiago in a new light and am excited to start the beginning of the end of my journey here.

This entry was posted in Brenna Cameron '14, Chile. Bookmark the permalink.