Friday, April 26, 2013

MEDICAL CARE IN CUENCA ECUADOR - and Cuenca's 2013 15K Run!!


Being ill in Cuenca is NO FUN!  Why?  Because you end up missing so much.  Every day in Cuenca there is something to see and something not to miss!  I've had an unfortunate situation with my health lately, and in less than 5 months here, I've been ill three different times (almost as many times as we've moved!!!).  This last bout took me down, down, down.  I though I was over illness #2, and after a week of feeling great, it hit me again - only now I had a high fever, a hacking debilitating cough, breathing issues, and absolutely no energy to leave my bed.  So, it was time to visit the doctor for the first time since living here. 

There is a wonderful pharmacy around the corner from our apartment.  The doctor there (yes, pharmacists here are doctors) speaks English and she is absolutely wonderful and knowledgeable.  We have been going to her for our medications and medical advice since we arrived here in December.  So she knows us, and she cares about us.  Bo went there to see if he could get me a stronger cough medicine, and when he described my continuing symptoms to her, she immediately, without hesitation, told Bo he must take me to see a doctor.  Bo said that right there, she phoned a doctor at the Santa Ana Clinic and made me an appointment for exactly one hour later.  I could barely dress and go down our three flights of stairs.  I was so ill, I was ready to do anything and take anything to feel better.

When we arrived at the doctor's office, I simply paid $30 for the consultation.  No paper work.  No questions asked.  You just pay the money to the secretary and have a seat.  The doctor called me in immediately.  No waiting, no going into a room to be seen by a nurse and wait some more.  He had us sit at his desk, and he began to ask me a few questions and type them into his computer - name, address, phone, date of birth.  Then he got right to it - what were my symptoms?  I explained (Oh, this is all in Spanish, of course!) how I had been ill several times since moving to Cuenca, and now I was at my worst.  He saw my feeble condition and reached for my hand, smiled and said, "I'm going to help you.  I promise you, in less than 48 hours you are going to feel well again."  His kindness, promise, and gentle touch assured me I was at the right doctor.

Now, Dr. Manolo had me sit at his exam table and began to check my sinuses and listen to my breathing.  He immediately diagnosed me with Chronic Rhinitis and Asthma.  He ordered a chest x-ray, and Bo walked me around the corner to the facility where I paid $25 and was taken in immediately.  Being so ill, the "no waiting" was something I appreciated.  I had been instructed to go back home, and then return at 5 pm so Dr. Manolo could do some pulmonary function tests, which he could not do at this time since I had taken a hit from my nebulizer, and he needed several hours for it to wear off.  Bummer!  I couldn't even imagine going home and then having to do this all over again the same day  - but I knew it was necessary to get the medications I needed to fight this illness.  This kind doctor said he was so sorry I had to wait and return again, but he promised me once again that he would help me.  He told me to call him if I needed anything, and I now had his personal cell number.  Doctors here give you their cell #'s, and they invite you to call them anytime!  A friend here who recently became ill had his new doctor come to his apartment for a house call.  Who does this?  Only here in Cuenca.

And so we left the office.  By the time I returned home and a couple hours went by, I thought I would die.  My fever was now up to 103, and I was almost delirious.  So, Bo dialed my doctor's cell number and he immediately answered.  I could barely talk, and through tears I explained I had a very high fever and needed help NOW, before our 5 pm return.  He instructed me to tell Bo to go to the pharmacy and get a certain prescription and take it immediately, which Bo did.  I took the prescription, not even knowing what it was, and for the next few hours I slept. Now, If you know me, you'll know that I never take anything, especially Pharma Poison, without first looking it up and finding out what it is.  I was now in "trust mode" and would take anything. This is how absolutely crappy and sick I felt.  Ahhhh, to sleep away a few hours and not feel the misery.  During this time, my doctor called back to check on me.  He was so available to me.

Bo woke me at 4:15 pm (shoot me now!!), I slowly dressed, and we were once again in a cab headed for the clinic.  At 5:00 pm I checked back in.  No charge.  Dr. Manolo took me in right away, and quickly did the pulmonary tests.  He then wrote me three different prescriptions for antibiotics and my asthma and then sent me on my miserable way.  Again, he reassured me that I would feel better by "tomorrow."  And so it was!  Bo got me home and back in bed, and he went and bought my Big Pharma Poison drugs.  I loaded up and then closed my eyes for the next 24 hours.  Ahhhh, more sleep.  I woke up only long enough to take drugs and drink water.  By the next evening, my eyes popped open.  I still had a fever, but it was now only 101.  Amazing what that 2 degrees can do.  I still felt extremely ill and weak, but hopeful.  On the third day, my fever finally broke!

I continue to take my drugs and today, over one week later, I feel better.  I'm still tired and unable to do much in my day, but I know I'm healing.  Bo asked my doctor what could be causing my breakdown in my health (I'm always so healthy - really!).  Well, it could be the dust that was created in our apartment when they repaired and sanded the damaged floor in one of the bedrooms - and didn't cover up things so there was "polvo" everywhere.  Or, it could be the bus fumes, daily climate changes, or altitude (we're at 8,500 feet).  Maybe it's just seasonal asthma here.  For now, we're not going to try to figure this one out.  Our hope is that we can continue to live in Cuenca, that I will completely heal this round with all the drugs I'm ingesting, and that this too shall pass - permanently!

The cost of my medical care for this round was $155. 
Doctor Consult - $30
X-rays - $25
Pulmonary Testing - $40
Medications - $60.

Every time I went to my allergist back in the USA, the visit alone was written up as an intermediate consult for $225, even though the doctor spent less than 10 minutes with me.  His nurse did all the work - writing my history, performing the pulmonary testing, taking my vitals, etc.  Then came the drugs.  If anyone reading this has asthma, you'll agree that the big pharma drugs for asthma are absolutely unaffordable without medical insurance, unless you're rich!  I remember spending hundreds of dollars just for the basic breathing medications.  This doctor visit was very affordable in comparison to previous allergy visits in the states.  I'm so thankful for this. 

So, this is my personal experience with my first doctor visit here.  I'd heard many positive testimonies from other ex-pats that we've met since being here who have had unfortunate medical issues and were either hospitalized or had to visit a physician.  Not one of these testimonies was negative - only positive.  The medical care here in Cuenca is 5-star.  The final bill is always well below what one would expect, being used to the outrageous cost of medical care in the states.  Those of us here who have had to seek health care are truly thankful for this affordable benefit living here.  It gives me another reason to say, "What's not to love about Cuenca?"

Cuenca's 15K Race 2013

The Sunday morning before I became too ill to wander around my city and capture "life in Cuenca," there was a 15K (9.3 mile) race that attracted over 10,000 participants.  I could hear them running early that morning, and I looked from our terrace to see the herd of runners racing down Calle Larga.  Quickly, I grabbed my camera and headed out the door for Simon Bolivar and Parque Calderon, knowing that was the main "calle" where these athletes would be circling towards.  I was right!  I had the opportunity to capture this yearly race to share with you.  It's always my joy to bring our readers photos of Cuenca's weekly events.  I love the fact that Cuenca is a city with extraordinary talent and incredible athletes.  So, enjoy!

Running partners!

Simon Bolivar is crowded with 15K runners and cheering fans!

The audience cheers!

Strong and Swift!

Expressions of determination, pain, and perseverance forever captured!

Someone will be getting flowers!

Racing through the streets of Cuenca (9.3 miles)

A precious spectator

The water station

Ahhhh, my passion - photographing Cuenca's events for our readers! (Photo captured by a friend)

Over 10,000 runners participated in this years 10K race.

Already a winner - determined and focused!


  1. What amazing photos!!! So glad you are feeling better. Would still love to meet up before we head back to the US on the 14th.

    We plan to go to the charity event at Gary Myers Studio on Tuesday night, not much else for plans. Want to find the markets that have clothes, crafts, etc tomorrow. Understand Wed is May Day so everything will be closed...guess we'd better lay in more PB&J (we've been eating out..LOL).

    PM me at froggi dot donna @ gmail

  2. Hi Donna,
    Glad you enjoyed the photos of Cuenca's 15K race.
    We would also love to meet you both before you head back to the USA.
    I will write you so we can make a plan.
    Looking forward.

  3. Hi,
    I use papaya and pineapple enzyme(bromelain) for sinusitis. If used consistently, it works.
    Hope you are all better soon. Thanks for the enlightening article on the medical part of Cuenca. Sue O

    1. Hi Sue,
      Thanks for the tip on Bromelain. Pineapples are very inexpensive here, and they are a daily part of my juicing. So are papayas. Love the abundance of fruits and vegetables in our mercados. I'm feeling better, finally. Glad you found my personal experience with the medical care here enlightening.

  4. Your posts are great - thanks for sharing. Glad you are on the mend. Question about the running race - I saw the great picture of the woman in the wheelchair - were there any other women running the race?

    1. Welcome to our Blog, JKM!
      Glad you are enjoying our posts of our Cuenca adventure. Yes, there were women running the race, but mostly men! I looked back at some of the many photos I captured, and interestingly, I have few of women in this race. Good observation!
      Hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Cuenca.

  5. Hello from Los Angeles, I would like to know some more about Cuenca. I would like to visit Cuenca around June this 2014, would that be a good time to go?
    I enjoyed reading about the medical care, it is very hard to trust anybody nowadays as our friend mentioned; however, there is always a first time!!!


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)