Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Trip to the Wellness Clinic in Panajachel

The sign on the gate at the front of the Clinic property.
Unfortunately, we had to take a trip to the Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic this morning. Bert started feeling very badly yesterday and was only worse this morning. Analyzing his symptoms with the help of Dr. Google, I determined that this sort of thing should be dealt with right away!

Bert felt well enough to walk to town, although I think he was regretting that decision about halfway. We made to the Despensa, where I got some money from the ATM. We hailed a tuk-tuk to take us the rest of the way.
The Wellness Clinic is located on Calle Monte Ray in Panajachel, just off of Santander. Here is a video that shows the clinic. It is a charity set up to treat the local population, but we had been told by our landlady, P., that we could also go see Dr. Luis anytime. We knew he spoke English too, so that helped make the decision easier.

We arrived just after the clinic opened at 9am, and there were already eight people waiting. Bert sat down on the floor, partly because there were no chairs left, and partly because he was exhausted.

The outside of the Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic. Very unassuming.
We figured out pretty quickly how things worked. A patient would come out of the side room, and the doctor would say something that sounded like, "Sigue", which we figured meant "Next!" The person sitting in the chair closest to the room would get up and go in, and then everyone would get out of their seats and move over one! It was a neat way to handle patients without a secretary or checking people in or crazy paperwork.
Poor Bert had to use the bathroom to throw up, and then discovered that the toilet wasn't flushing. When we informed the doctor later, he said, "There's no water. It's a third world country. It happens."

Bert's pale face and miserable demeanor caught the attention of the kind Mayan woman in front of us in the chair-line. She spoke to us in Spanish, most of which we didn't understand, but we took it to mean that we could go ahead of her. So sweet!

Bert and I went into together when it was our turn. Dr. Luis de Peña was sitting behind a desk with a laptop open, a giant array of drugs arranged on the shelves behind him. A Guatemalan woman was helping him.
Bert sat in one of the chairs. We introduced ourselves, that we lived with P&B, and that we had spoken before on the phone. He was very friendly but very busy, so we jumped right to it. Within seconds of describing Bert's symptoms, he told us that Bert most likely caught a bug from something he ate. He told us the nurse would give Bert an antibiotic shot in the other room, and that he would have our medicine ready when we were done.
The woman took us through an open door to the adjacent room, which looked more like a doctor's exam room, with a examining table and various mysterious medical things. The nurse readied a syringe and I asked, "Amoxicillin?" She said, "Yes." She gave Bert the shot in his hip. He cringed. I said, "Oh, ow!" The nurse chuckled and left the room.
That's when Bert ducked out of sight of the doctor and started going, "OW OW OW! Oh my god, that's the worst pain I've ever felt. Ow ow ow ow!" I laughed! Oh, poor baby.
(But truly, it was a painful shot and he limped for quite a while after.)

Coming out of the room, Dr. Luis gave us 10 tablets of Ciprofloxacin 500mg, an antibiotic. Pretty standard treatment for a variety of buggie-boos that can infect a person here in Guatemala. He gave us a few instructions and waved us out, already focused on the next patient. We had been in his office for less than five minutes.

I paused at his door before leaving, a bit confused. Even though I knew the clinic was a charity, I was still expecting him to ask for some sort of money to pay for the drugs at least! Feeling a bit foolish, I asked, "Can I make a donation?" He said, "Sure. I'll take whatever I can get." I pulled some cash from my bag and handed it to him. He smiled and said, "I'll spend on a beer at the Palapa!" I laughed and replied, "We'll see you there... in a few weeks."

So that was it! Bert has a series of pills to take for the next five days and we'll see if that works. To be honest, I don't think he got the right medicine. I think he has either Giardia or H. pylori, which would require a different set of medications, but then again, I'm not a doctor. Bert is quite tired but feels better already. Fingers crossed for a full recovery!

For those looking for an English-speaking Walk-In Clinic in Panajachel, here is the phone number, as of June 2015:
Dr. Luis de Peña, Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic, Panajachel. 5595-6731

Another doctor that was recommended to us:
Dr. Anabella Perez, Atitlab, in Jucanya near Hotel del Sol. Phone for appointment 5526-9099

Other Resources
One man's hospital experience in Guatemala:
Medical Travel and Assistance -- http://www.guatemalamedicaltravel.com/

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