Dr. Google and Cyberchondriacs


“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”~ Mark Twain

Without a doubt, the internet fundamentally alters all aspects of health care. Dr. Google has been my reliable internet physician since we moved to a small, isolated tropical island in Nicaragua. Online information empowers passive patients of the past, like ourselves,  where symptoms can be diagnosed with the click of a key, a bonanza of data appears instantly, and treatment options are dispensed freely.

Yet, sometimes, I feel like a cyberchondriac. I can find a wealth of worse-case scenarios for my symptoms, all leading to …You’re gonna die. If I have a sore throat…I’m going to die of throat cancer. Dr. Google diagnoses a minor stomach ache as an infestation of cyclosporiasis, the same rare parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis, that sickened 466 people in 15 states. I’m sure this must create a major new headache for doctors throughout the world. A bit of information can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve decided that the only way to cure cyberchondria is to have regular health check-ups with real doctors. Ron and I bought the Silver Plan health discount for Vivian Pellas hospital last year. Health Care for Expats in Nicaragua  Since we’ve had the health discount for over 6 months, we received a 30% discount for extensive health exams. So, we made an appointment with Arlen Perez at Vivian Pellas for our super-duper exams last week.

IMG_3368We arrived in Managua at 7:30 am. Within a few minutes, Arlen met us in the lobby with a printed schedule of our procedures for the day. She took us to the lab where we gave blood and other bodily fluid samples. Then, Arlen’s new medical tourism partner, Maite Soto, filled out a questionnaire for us in Spanish.

Maite spent the rest of the day with us, translating, attending meticulously to all of our needs, and taking us from lab to lab. After our blood samples, we had EKGs and stress tests on a treadmill, then ultrasounds, chest x-rays, and I had a mammogram. What astounded me was that we could ask the technicians, “How does it look?” and “Do you see any abnormalities?” Try that in the states and you will get a response such as, ” You will have to wait until the doctor reads the tests and you’ll find out in a couple of weeks.” Instead, the technicians reviewed the exams with us and reassured us that everything looked fine.

At noon, we finished the major procedures. Maite took us to the cafeteria for our free lunch and COFFEE! Since we had to fast the night before, I missed my morning coffee. Then, we had an hour to wait for our consultations with the doctors, and my gynecological exam.

We walked around the well-manicured grounds, where I discovered the children’s burn unit. You must read the experience of Vivian Pellas and why she started the children’s burn unit. Love Without Limits: Health Care in Nicaragua

IMG_3369A friend, who lives on the island, took her small son to Vivian Pellas Children’s Burn Hospital for a badly burnt foot. Poor little toddler accidentally stepped on a ground fire. She was very impressed with the care and attention he received and all expenses were free.

Our private consultations with English-speaking doctors were held in the afternoon. They carefully reviewed all of our test results and gave us plenty of time to ask numerous questions. The only test result that wasn’t available was my Pap test because I had just completed my gynecological exam 30 minutes earlier.  But, not to worry. They would scan the results and email me within two days. ( AND…they did! )

Now, I know you are curious about the cost of these exams. What would be your guess?
The public price for the Male over 40 Physical is of U$ 350
With the 6 months discount (30%) is of U$ 245
With the 3 months discount (25%) U$ 262.50

The public price for the Female over 40 Physical is of U$ 420
With the 6 months discount (30%) is of U$ 294
With the 3 months discount (25%) U$ 315

We were at the hospital until 5:00 pm. All exams were professional and we received same day results! They sent us home with hugs and packets complete with our x-rays, ultrasound pictures, EKGs, thoroughly reviewed blood analysis’, and most importantly recommendations for improving our health as we age. Although, I am proud to announce that we are in excellent health for two aging baby boomers. 🙂

Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would I recommend Vivian Pellas to other expats? Without any doubts! Their medical tourism program is growing rapidly. Many foreigners come to Vivian Pellas for hip replacements, cosmetic surgery, and other procedures at 1/4 of the cost of procedures in the states.

Does this mean that I’m abandoning Dr. Google? No, of course not. But, now I can make more informed decisions about my health care because of the thorough services I received at Vivian Pellas. Is my cyberchondria cured? Yes! Thanks to the attentive, caring doctors and staff at Vivian Pellas. It is very reassuring to know that we have an excellent expat hospital, same day results, and hospitable staff available in Nicaragua. Have I told you how much I LOVE this country?

The Mangroves


 

 

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I decided to try something new. I subscribed to the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress. This week, the challenge is Stylish Imitation. Weekly Challenge here. Dr. Seuss has always been one of my favorite authors. So, in honor of Dr. Seuss, I have attempted to imitate his style in writing The Mangroves.

The Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado is a 22 kilometer stretch of mangrove swamp in Las Penitas, Nicaragua. Ron and I took a three-hour tour through this incredible mangrove swamp. The variety of birds, turtles, and other wildlife awed me. The entire ride, reminded me of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and the need to protect this fragile area. Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries went dead half way through the tour. Isn’t that always the case? Hopefully, my words, in delirious imitation of Dr. Seuss, will portray my feelings about the need to protect this nature reserve. Enjoy!

The Mangroves

Way back in the swamp, where the mangroves still grow
and the land is still soft,
and the tides ebb and flow,
and the songs of the Green Herons go kuk, kuk, kuk, kuk…
the tides come twice daily and cover it with muck.

And I first saw the mangroves!
Born of thick, glutinous mud!
Whose aerial roots breathe with large pores in and out
Roots snorkeling and twisting for miles all about.

And, under the mangroves, I saw a brown bas-i-lisk
A Jesus like lizard, walking on water enjoying the frisk
as it darted about, eating insects, taking risks.

From the brackish waters,
where other plants cannot grow,
sprung fish nurseries and turtles,
swimming playfully below.

But those Mangroves! Those Mangroves!
Red! Black! and White!
They must be protected,
from Global Warming and blight!

Anchoring their stilt-like roots
between land and the sea,
Mangroves shelter wildlife,
and give food to you and me.
When the sea churns and wails
and the swells surge ashore,
the Mangroves, like policemen,
protect us…and more!

I felt a great calling,
an awakening, a start
I must tell the world!
We can all take a part!

With so little known of the future
it’s important to say,
You’re in charge of the mangroves,
the fish, and the bays.
The bas-i-lisks, and Green Herons
are depending on you
to monitor and protect them
and see them grow true.
Their lives…they are fragile!
Be gentle and watch
as they flourish, and breathe,
and gain strength…and don’t rush!

For life is uncertain,
we must all be aware
of the connections in nature
and the lives that we share.
We depend on one another,
through thick and through thin,
With your help… together
we can be whole once again.