Friday, June 23, 2017

A Death in Paradise - Our Life in Costa Rica

Today's topic is one which we do not like to think about very often, but it happens. People die, even in paradise.

In March a friend of ours who lived on the ridge (El Cajon) opposite ours (San Luis) passed away. His name was Mark Sandler and he and his wife Laurie had lived in Grecia for a number of years. I took photos of them at the re-wedding back in August. 

Mark had a heart condition and was being treated here in Grecia. One afternoon he was not feeling well and laid down for a nap before dinner. He never woke up. Mark had suffered a heart attack.

Mark & Laurie

I am so impressed that in Mark's honor some of the Grecia expats are putting together a new program to  help save lives. 

Background below

This brings me to some important information you need to be aware of if you are going to live here, particularly in Grecia. 

The healthcare system here is very good (the WHO rates Costa Rica's healthcare one notch above the US) but the best care depends on where you go (which often depends on where you live and how you get there).

I always try to impress upon people when they are moving here to please take into consideration their access to GOOD medical.

For minor injuries and general maladies, all pharmacies in Costa Rica are required to employ an in-house pharmacist, who is able to treat minor problems and prescribe certain medications. 

The 3 best hospitals (all private) are -- Hospital CIMA in Escazu, Clinica Bibilica in San Jose and Hospital Clinica La Catolica in Guadalupe, San Jose. I have also heard that Hospital Mexico -- which is a Caja (operated by the Costa Rican Department of Social Security), has an excellent cancer treatment center.  

Part of the problem is, first of all, when there is a life threatening emergency, you need to get to the hospital in order to receive treatment. If you need an ambulance consider where you live. We are up on the San Luis ridge. It took 20 minutes for the ambulance to reach Mark and the ambulances here do not carry all the state of the art medical equipment needed (as in Mark's case).

As an expat you have options for medical

**(if you are living abroad but not in Costa Rica be sure to check out medical availability for the country of your choice)

1. You can self insure because the cost of treatment here is very low (1/3 to 1/5 less depending on the type of treatment). That means you can go to a private doctor if you need to and go to one of the private hospitals. (this is our chosen option for the moment)

2. You can buy Expat Health insurance. I think AIG has a policy and I have a friend here who sells coverage if you need it. 

3. You can rely on the medical that the local people get through the Caja. The problem with the government medical is that the process is very slow. You might have to wait months for x-rays and sometimes there is just no time for that. Expats are sort of healthcare "snobs" we are used to what we have in the states and the clinics and hospitals here are just not set up like that. You can get great care but (i.e ) you might have to sit in a crowded room on a hard back chair with an IV in your arm for hours or spend hours waiting in the hallway in an emergency room. In Caja facilities the family is responsible for a lot of the non medical care of the patient - like providing food and bathing. Expats often complain (we are very good at that) about the healthcare procedures here but complaining is not going to change anything. It is what it is. Just educate yourself to what is available and make an informed choice. 

4. Or...Of course you can always hop on a plane and go back to the states. 

Mark's story is below and there is a gofundme set up to raise funds. 

I am going to be involved in further discussions about options here in Costa Rica and will update you on what I find out.

Remember, it's not bad -- it's just different!

 I also included the link for the fundraiser. I know most of you do not live here but if you would like to help us save lives we would welcome your contribution. 
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