Learning Uruguay

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Archive for June 9th, 2007

How good is Uruguay’s medical system.

Posted by urufish on June 9, 2007


The inspiration for this post comes from David’s recent post about his experience with the medical system here.  You can find it at   http://www.uruguayliving.com/, titled ‘The Lazarus prospect–a medical adventure begins.’  He described it as ‘superb’.  I agree.  Not only that, but it’s the reason we live here now.    

In the past on this blog, and in other posts on other sites, whenever the issue of our reasons for choosing Uruguay came up, we answered with a number of good reasons, but we never talked about the main reason–the decisive factor.  Until I read David’s post, I felt it wasn’t something to talk about.  But his post has given me the courage to speak the truth.  It’s not something to be embarassed about.  Perhaps someone else is in a similar situation and will be better off knowing they’re not alone.  Pain shared, is pain lessened.    We’re here now because our daughter was losing her life in Canada’s health system.  In Uruguay, she is getting it back.     

In the spring of 2005, her behaviour went from strange to scary.  Those of you who know me, know I’m a little eccentric.  I thought she was just following her dad, until her behaviour crossed the line.  Self-destruction is not eccentric behaviour.  We decided to seek professional help for her. 

Patient:  Doctor, doctor, I’ve only got 59 seconds to live.
Canadian Doctor:  Wait a minute please.

Friends recommended us to a well respected psychiatrist.  We interviewed him to make sure he wasn’t crazy, (most we know are) and he agreed to treat her.  We wish he had actually treated her.  Her last session with him, in December of 2005, ended with him telling me that he didn’t want to treat her any more, but if I insisted, he would.  The next day we flew to Montevideo for our yearly, Christmas vacation. 

For the next 2 weeks, my daughters behaviour got worse and worse and a few days before we were to fly back to Toronto, it became unbearable.  A friend of ours referred us to a local, well respected psychiatrist for a 2nd opinion.  Actually, this wasn’t really a 2nd opinion, because her Toronto psychiatrist, in 6+ months of treatment didn’t have an opinion yet.  If we got real lucky, maybe we’d actually get an opinion. 

We didn’t have to wait long.  After 2 days of intensive testing with a team of 3 mental health professionals, we had a dignosis, and a treatment proposal.  This was the toughest decision of our lives together but we decided that our daughter’s best chance of success lay here, in what all my friends back home call the 3rd world. 

Everyone back home thought we were crazy.  That we had gone Jonestown or something like that.  But we felt we were making the right decision and stand by it still. 

The treatment would take 18 months, possibly longer.   Both of us would have to commit to her 24/7.  That meant early, and mostly unplanned retirement for me.  For my wife, it would mean a permanent return to a country that she wanted to summer in–not live in–in her later years.  

That was 18 months ago.  Our Canadian friends still think we were and are crazy.    Our immigrant Canadian friends were and are supportive.  They know that just because it’s not the US or Canada, that doesn’t mean that Uruguay cant have excellent medical care.  My friend from India says if you have the money, (which, fortunately for Uruguay, isn’t that costly), medical treatment is often better outside of North America. 

Neurotics build castles in the sky.
Psychotics live in them.
Psychiatrists collect the rent.

In our daughters’s case, she didnt need 5-star clinics, fancy equipment or $300/hour specialists.  She needed people who have the time and the desire to treat her as a person… not a patient.     

How has the treatment been so far?  As David put it, superb and affordable. 

Posted in Love, Medical | 18 Comments »

All for one and one for all

Posted by urufish on June 9, 2007


Winter is coming.  We’ve had some cold days.  2 days ago we had a hanging fog, the kind that lasts for a couple of days.  A quarter of the people I know are sick with respiratory illnesses.  Most of them have various combinations of sore throats, flu, nausea, fever and coughs.  How is it that so many people get so sick with the same thing so fast?   Besos and Mate!!!

Anyone who knows Uruguyans know they kiss no matter what.  When I was still a tourist a few years ago, I remember my wife got sick just before our flight back home.  We called a friend who called a friend and an hour or so later, a lady doctor showed up at our apartment.  She had no idea what was wrong with my wife but she kissed me when she came in and then my wife, who was lying semi-conscious in bed.  She kissed us both upon leaving.  Doctors kiss patients, regardless what’s wrong with them.  

It’s the same with the Mate straw.  I’ve never seen anyone decline because they’re ill.   Maybe this is where the description that Uruguayans make little distinction between friends and family comes from.   Parents and children will still hug and kiss when someone is sick.  At least in this family, everyone getting sick seems inevitable, so why not embrace it, (exceptions made for things like the mumps or measles :).  If friends are like family, then being sick together feels better than being sick alone. 

Posted in Attitudes | 4 Comments »