cusco, peru: health

As I boarded my plane to Cusco, I felt a bit better than the day before but not my best. I figured I’d make my way to my hostel and rest and recover once I got there. After an uncomfortable plane ride from being sick, I arrived in Cusco with some additional barriers. There was a citywide protest and festival happening simultaneously. My taxi driver drove me about 5 minutes and said he could not go through- that I’d have to walk. I google translated how to get my money back but he refused. I started to walk with my luggage trying to get a taxi along the way, which seemed like an impossible feat. I walked for about 45 minutes and thankfully found an Argentinian couple that let me share their cab for the last leg. I was so grateful.

As you can tell, I have had quite a few minor hiccups on my travels in South America. I have in other places, as well; however, it seems much more frequent here and being sick on top of it doesn’t help either. It makes me so grateful for such smooth and seamless travel majority of the time. In these situations, I try to reframe and say, “at least I made it to Cusco safely” instead of focusing on the negative logistical frustrations. Easier said than done sometimes, of course, but always helps to try! Also, the harder moments make the better ones stronger and brighter!

For the next two days, I toggled between not feeling well and attempting to see some of the city. Although I did not make it far, as I read in my bed, I was grateful to have the company, care and kindness of several hostel roommates. Each of whom I just met that day but were offering me medicine, to bring me anything, etc. I’d hope medicine and rest would bring me back to health but by Friday, I still was not recovered. I went to the doctor thinking I would get an antibiotic and continue on with my trip, however, the day took an unexpected turn. After two hours of waiting for results, I saw the doctor and nurses come down with my folder and frantically talk in Spanish about it. This made me very concerned that something was more wrong than I expected. The doctor brought me into the room and explained that I had a urinary tract infection but that my blood cell count was too high and that I needed to be hospitalized. Given the Spanish and medical language barrier, I was very overwhelmed by this news. The doctor said “I should not be out on the street,” which I think meant I needed treatment but not knowing what was going on, my mind went wild.

They brought me to an IV and the cutest little boy stood by my side and followed me out as they rolled me on the bed to another floor. I think he could sense I was scared and it made my day to see and smile at him. I spent the day with IV’s, nurses and medicine, not entirely sure what was going on. My hospital room had the nicest view and I think I subconsciously started to learn some Spanish with the cooking shows on TV. The doctor came in late that night and explained I needed to stay the night and maybe up to 3 days and they would update me in the morning. I went to bed, exhausted, uneasy, but very grateful for this incredible kind staff and to be getting the treatment I needed.

 So grateful for this care & view <3 

So grateful for this care & view <3 

The next day, my brother’s girlfriend’s brother (mouthful :)), who is a doctor in Spain, spoke over the phone to my doctor about what I had and my treatment and translated it back to me. I was so unbelievably grateful to know more of what was going on and to know it was normal. Turns out what I had were very treatable and common but since my body was unable to fight the infections, I needed to stay monitored and medicated.

Spending 4 days in the hospital was not at all what I expected but it really put things in perspective for me. Before I knew I was going to be hospitalized, I sat in the waiting room reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. She uncovers finding happiness in different parts of her life. The one chapter I was reading at the time was about spirituality and preparing your mind to deal with anything (ie bad health news). It was eerily fitting at the time and gave me a boost of hope when I needed it most. It also for some reason mentioned to have something purple in every room and turns out my hospital bed sheets were purple!! Serendipitous yet again.

Being alone in a hospital in another country with another language while in physical pain and not knowing what is going on is one of the scariest experiences I have had. Despite this, while having plenty of time to think over the past few days, I have tried to re-focus on what I am grateful for. I’m grateful for the amazing nurses and doctors working tirelessly to make me better (thank you!!). I’m grateful for Marta’s family for translating for me no matter the time of day (thank you!!). I’m grateful for having health insurance. I’m grateful what I have is treatable. I’m grateful for my family and friends for reaching out from thousands of miles away (thank you!!). I’m grateful for my new hostel friend who came all the way here to bring me my things. I’m grateful for my health.

Although this gratitude has helped in amazing ways, it has still been hard mentally. I am someone who thrives from being in big, diverse cities, being constantly active and being surrounded by people. Being isolated in the same room for 4 days after being bed ridden has proved to be quite challenging for me. I’ve been re-reading Daily Stoic while I’m here and it has been a great reminder that curveballs will happen. They absolutely will but it is how you respond to them that matter. Yes, I was going to do a 4 day Macchu Picchu trek and go to Bolivia, however, change of plans. Yes, I wanted to book more social impact experiences and catch up on my blog, however, change of plans again. These changes in plans are out of my control, however, accepting this and viewing it with positivity is within my control. I am getting the healthcare and rest my body needs, which is of the utmost importance. I have been able to catch up on reading and writing and with family and friends. I think of how lucky I am that this is my first time in a hospital in my adult life.

Relativity continues to loop in my mind as I travel. For me, this is an unusual experience but for some, hospitals are all too familiar. I am fortunate that what I have is treatable in just a few days and is covered by insurance. I am fortunate that I am healthy the majority of the time. I think of those that I do know and do not know that are not as fortunate and think of what a blessing health is. I think about what I can do to bring happiness to those that need it most, whether that be fighting for healthcare rights or sending a note out of the blue to brighten someone’s day (if anyone has other suggestions, too, please let me know!). I am very much aware how minor my hospital experience is in relation to many other devastating health issues across the world. I hope to carry the empathy with the emotions I endured during my short visit into future actions.

I want to continue to keep things in perspective and be mindful in face of adversity. This is certainly not the last challenge I will face so I am grateful for the strength and learnings in this experience and hope to be there for others when they need it the most.

Now, onto a restful but adventurous last month in South America.

1. BWE on my mind! 2. My room 3. Jello <3 4. First day exploring Cusco post-hospital

Lauren Wittig1 Comment