Delayed in Guatemala City

Guatemala City Travel Blog

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Sat 13 Dec 2008 – 16 Dec 2008

We had only a day in Chicago for me to say hi to my family and Tim and were already off again. I was very excited for the second leg of my adventures. Nick and I departed for our trip to Argentina at 6:30am.  It was strange to go from Belize back to Guatemala for a layover, but the flight was cheaper this way. In Guatemala City, we had an 8 ½ hour layover. Sleeping on the floor of the airport was really painful and annoying. It was even worse for Nick, who, after being sick in Mexico, was now not feeling so well again.


Nick go sicker, so an hour before our flight to Lima, we were ambulanced to the hospital.  The ride was awful. There was a very sick man laying on a stretcher in the ambulance, so Nick had to sick on a hump along the side. None of the cars would pull over for the ambulance, so if weaved around like crazy, slamming on the breaks every 2 seconds, causing us to lurch forward and backward. Nick fell into the middle of the ambulance and couldn’t get up. He moaned in pain. Meanwhile, I was holding on for dear life.


We arrived at Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room and Nick was placed on a cot lined with bright yellow sheets. The doctors and nurses spoke very little English. So for awhile, Nick just laid there. They took some blood tests and gave him an IV. I stood by the bedside, watching the rest of the action, and patients were brought in and out of the room either yelling in pain, “A Dios mio!,” or drooling at the mouth. Right outside there were other patients and their family members sitting on benches. All throughout the emergency room there were cots with ill-looking patients laying in silence.


The doctors kept asking what was wrong with Nick and I kept saying “Duele su hecho y achi,” pointing to his side. “No puede respirar.” One nurse made an attempt to help us out more than the rest. She showed me to the filthy bathroom , which a few hours later closed down due to a flushing problem.


At one point, the doctors said that in about 20 minutes, Nick would have an x-ray. Nick complained of being awfully tired, but couldn’t sleep. Eventually, he did fall asleep and some time afterward, I did too. A couple hours later, he did get his x-ray.


I stayed at Nick’s bedside throughout the night.  I wouldn’t think twice about leaving him alone or for me to go anywhere alone.  Nick was having a very difficult time and at one point he asked me to sing for him. Nornally, I would  definitely not sing, but this was a rare and extreme circumstance. He asked me to sing a lullaby and I awkwardly did so. I couldn’t imagine he actually enjoyed it, but he said it took his mind off the pain. So I continued singing whatever came to mind, Disney songs and the like until he asked me to stop. Gabe’s singing skills really would have come in handy then.


Sometime very early in the morning we were moved to the next room over.  It was very quiet and no one was really bothering us, so after awhile I sat on an empty cot and fell asleep.  A few hours later, about 4am, a nurse came in and said I couldn’t be in the room.  Perturbed, I went right outside and sat on a bench. There, I met a very nice Guatemalan woman who had brought her brother in due to an asthma problem. She spoke a good amount of English and I explained my situation. She decided to try to help Nick and I out and figure out what was wrong with him. The doctors didn’t have much more to say though. After a couple hours, the lady’s brother was discharged, but I was given a number and told to call her if I needed anything.


 In the late morning, I ventured out of the hospital to contact our parents and find drinking water. I’d been in Guatamala before, but here I was in Guatemala City, not knowing the area at all, but knowing it was a dangerous city.  I couldn’t figure out how to make a phone call. I couldn’t find an open bank – only later did I realize that it was Sunday, and of course all the banks were closed. When you’re traveling, you lose track of what day it is. So with no Guatemalan currency, I sought out a supermarket, which took awhile to find. When my patience ran out, I ate lunch at Pollo Campero, similar to a McDonald’s, which accepted credit cards. Then I got enough water to last the day and some snacks. Before returning to the hospital, I found an internet cafĂ©, which fortunately, accepted US currency, so I was able to send an email home.


Guatemala City near Roosevelt Hospital is bustling with people. There are vendors lined along the streets and it’s difficult to squeeze by on the sidewalks. In order to cross the highway-sized street, you have to walk along a pedestrian overpass bridge. Hotels and small shops line the roads, but it’s easy to pass by what you are looking for because of all the commotion on the sidewalks.  The buses slow up traffic, but they don’t even really stop. People jump on and off and the money collectors hang half-out, half-in yelling in Spanish. Some of the vendors sell merchandise and others sell tasty-looking food for cheap prices. Kids are toted by their parents. It was interesting to see the hustle and bustle.


After almost 20 hours in the hospital, the doctors still didn’t know how to cure Nick. They believed he had some traveller´s illness, but antibiotics weren´t working. His liver hurt and it was difficult for him to breathe. They doctors kept saying that we would get discharged soon, but they kept taking more blood and doing more tests.


In the afternoon, I read out loud for Nick a book that Gabe had given him. He said it helped keeping his mind occupied. For awhile, there was a young teenage boy in the room who pretty much only spoke Spanish. He was in for a stomach problem. We talked back and forth in broken Spanish and I read aloud from my Spanish dictionary while we laughed at random phrases.


Since the doctors didn’t really know what was wrong with Nick, they decided to keep him overnight again.  Thus, another problem ensued. The doctors kicked me out of the emergency room. They said I couldn’t stay here because it wasn’t visiting hours. I didn’t understand why I could stay the whole first night and now I was getting kicked out. For a while I just ignored the nurses and doctors. I sat on the floor under Nick’s cot and read Gabe’s book. But then one of the nurses brought in a security guard. Now, I was really being forced out. My eyes began to well up. Where  was I to go with no Guatemalan currency??? I explained my situation, but they didn’t give a hoot.


There were rough wooden benches right outside the hospital and one right inside, that I could spend the night sleeping on. That DID NOT seem like a happy alternative. I wondered what I should do. I did not want to spend the night in the dangerous part of Guatemala City by myself. I sat outside, frustrated beyond reason, when Nick came out in his hospital gown. It was so silly to see him walk outside like that my frown turned upside down. Now the tables were turned and he was trying to cheer me up. He encouraged me to find a hotel to stay at for the night and gave me a mini back rub.


So I walked from hotel to hotel, trying to surpass the dodgy –looking ones. They all had locked front gates or doors and I had to be let in by buzzer. None of them accepted credit cards. None in that part of the city, I was told, accepted credit cards. The little hope that I had diminished. I trudged back to the hospital with one strand of hope left. Since I didn’t have any pesosn, I went to the front desk and explained my situation. They gave me some coins to call the Julia, the Guatemalan lady I had met earlier in the day. I prayed that she would be able to put me up for the night. After a bit more frustration, I was able to contact her and she agreed to pick me up. Good luck at last!!!


I was supposed to meet Nick around 7pm, where he’d come out into the main foyer since I wasn’t allowed in his room.  Still frustrated with the whole ordeal, I sat right inside the emergency room entrance and continued to cry. At that point, the doctors took noticed and asked what was wrong. They even brought an English speaking worker to me! It was only then that I was told there were accommodations for patient’s families to stay for the night. If only I was told this before!!!! Earlier, the security guard and nurse had basically told me that they were going to send me to a shelter! Maybe it was all a communication barrier problem, but I was certainly getting more attention now then before. But by this time I had already found a place to stay.


Nick came out shortly before my ride came and I explained the situation. I would be back in the morning to get an update on his status. Nick had a new doctor taking care of him and she spoke better English. She believed he had salmonella. The extra night they were keeping him was for observation. Nick’s only worry is that treating salmonella for a central american body is different than treating it for a north american body, so the treatment in Guatemala may not work. Also, he was worried that it may cause permanent liver damage



Julia and her 28 year old daughter, Caren picked me up and I spent the night at Caren’s house with her sister Cecilia. Julia lives a block away. We ate a Pollo Campero dinner and I was set up in my own bedroom for the night. I was so grateful that these amazing people took me into their home. Julia called me her 3rd daughter. Caren lives in a very safe area, unlike the area near the hospital. In the morning she made me breakfast and let me shower. These ladies that I met are angels. They also said that once Nick gets out of the hospital, he can stay here for a day to recover.


In the morning, Caren took me to the emergency room during visiting hour to check on Nick. However, Nick was no longer in the emergency room. Another

obstacle to overcome. We went across the street to the in-patient part of the hospital, but visiting hours are only twice a week and we were told we couldn’t see Nick until the next day. However, Caren explained the situation to a nurse and we were able to go see him. How glad I was to have her there!!!


When we finally found Nick, he had stories to tell! The doctors said he would be discharged in a few hours, but after Caren spoke with the nurses, Nick was going to be discharged immediately (in Guatemalan hospital time). Caren had to leave, but would pick us up after Nick was discharged and we picked up his prescription meds.


While I waited for Nick to get discharged, I was introduced to two men he met a couple rooms over. deyvid is a young man who had his left leg amputated due to a tumor. he has a good sense of humor and doesnt know much english aside from numbers, but he was fun to talk with. he gave nick and i a keychain gift made from hospital materials. he is an incredibly strong young man.


luis was in the hospital for stomach problems. he was forced to leave the u.s. after having driven on a suspended license a couple times. he lost his green card and cant be in the country for two years while his 2 sons, one of them 19 years old, his wife, and his grandchildren are living on the east coast. he will return to the states in april, but he will be spending christmas in the hospital. luis helped translate for us while nick was in the hospital and guided us to the pharmacy. he is a very helpful, hardworking individual.


Caren picked us back up and took us back to her home. We were entirely grateful that her and her family were being so nice to us. Nick immediately went to bed as soon as he was in the house. He was still in pain and very tired. Caren and Cecilia made us dinner and they offered to help us out the next day with out flights and getting to the airport.


At that point, our Argentina trip was still up in the air. Nick still wanted to go forward with it. Our parents were quite worried and of course wanted us to come home. I wanted to still go to Argentina, but also wanted to make sure Nick was back to good health.


We talked to TACA. They wouldn’t refund our tickets, so we had 2 travel options. We were originally going to stay in Guatemala a couple days so Nick could recover, but they only had a flight going out the next day or one on december 23rd. so we had a flight boarding at 230pm the next day. That made us due to arrive in Buenos Aires at 445am dec 17th. Our new plan was to fly out and rest in Buenos Aires for a few days.

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