Motorcycles and Machetes
Once a nurse, always a nurse. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a busy metropolitan city working in a big, shiny, trauma hospital or here in the jungle using my front porch as an examining room. Once word got out that Lizzie is a nurse, the friends and neighbors have called on me to help out with a variety of medical needs…and I couldn’t be happier about it. The desire to help and heal is in the blood of every truly dedicated nurse.
By far my most frequent patient is my husband. I am convinced he married me, not in spite of my being a nurse, but because I’m a nurse. His head seems to be the most frequently traumatized area due in part to his minor surfing accidents and scraping his head on rocks or reefs. Most of his head injuries, though, are cause by the fact that he’s a good deal taller than most Ticos. Low hanging roof structures, boat canopies, and patio covers, built to accommodate most of the local population, seem to be the biggest culprits. Rarely does a week go by when something on him is not bruised, broken or bleeding.
The rest of my medical adventures to date have run the gamut from the mundane to the potentially life threatening. I have had a young woman brought to the house, unconscious from a head injury due to a surfing accident. She had literally been scalped by the fin of someone’s surfboard and was bleeding profusely. Many a time I’ve treated machete inflicted wounds, machetes being the preferred tool for just about anything down here from yard work to snake rangling. I’ve attended to an abundance of motorcycle accidents that range from muffler burns to a broken foot, motorcycles plus winding gravel roads…you do the math. I’ve been called in to rule out a number of illnesses including dengue fever, took a long hot shower after that one. I even had a young, very pregnant woman come to the house on New Years Eve telling me her contractions were about 5 minutes apart! I do NOT birth babies. She ended up having a cesarean section so I was relieved that I immediately sent her packing to the nearest hospital.
That nearest hospital here in the southern zone of Costa Rica isn’t all that near and one can pretty much kiss off that “golden hour” that we know so well in trauma medicine. It’s one of the drawbacks of living here that needs to be considered long and hard. My husband and I do have a plan in place in case one of us is in dire need of immediate medical care…it involves illegally entering another country so I won’t go into detail…the less you know the better. Consider it one of those situations when it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
With that in mind I keep telling myself that I’m much more likely to crash on the freeways of southern California than I am falling off a waterfall. At least a beautiful, tropical waterfall will be the last thing I remember instead of congested rush hour traffic.