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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 »

Say it with a sign

Posted by urufish on May 31, 2007


A few months ago I was sitting outside at a restaurnat (Old Maz actually), talking to my wife and I noticed a man scaling a tree at the corner.  To a Toronto boy, a grown man climbing up a tree is quite an event.  It caught my attention.  I watched him get up to about 15 feet and then he pulled up something that looked a like a big roll of paper.  Sure enough, more or less, that’s what it was.  He tied it to a branch and then he unrolled it to someone standing below.  That person grabbed it and when the traffic was clear, marched across the street with it – to another tree.  And he climbed the tree also.  After a few minutes, it occurred to me this was a sign… a very big sign…  being strung across a major street – 21 de Setiembre.  After a bit longer, I could make it what it said.  It was a birthday wish.  I asked my wife what that was all about.  She told me that it was a birthday card (Pocitos style) from a girl to her boyfriend.  She said that the boyfriend probably drives this way and when he sees it, it’s a big surprise to him.   She said that people can put up any kind of sign at all, as long as it’s civil.  Birthdays, anniversaries, proposals, you name it. 

I found that fascinating…  As the guys were leaving, an official looking guy came up to them and after a brief discussion, the original guys climbed the trees and pulled the sign down.  My wife said they probably didn’t have a permit.  So now I get it.  To do this, you need to buy a permit from the intendencia to put your sign up.  About an hour later, we were walking up 21 and there the sign was, a couple of blocks north.  So either they had a permit but it was for another corner or they walked up the street, waited for the other guy to leave and put it up without a permit. 

Today, we had to get a sign made to hang on our balcony to rent our apartment.  We went to one of the shops that make those signs.  We paid $650 pesos for a 3 meter sign, including the guys to come and hang it up.  Not bad.  I reckon the sign that goes across the streets cost around $1000.  Have no idea what the permit costs.  Dont know anyone who has put a sign up. 

Posted in Love | 3 Comments »

It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow

Posted by urufish on May 14, 2007

Normally, this is a joyous occasion.  The days leading up to it are full of suspense, as I tryto figure out first, what she really wants and failing that, what she would really like.  As all husbands trying their hardest to please their wives, there have been a few sorrowful mistakes along the way resulting in returned gifts…   but always a big smile no matter….

But here, I’m totally stressed out.  First off, there’s the card.  This isn’t Toronto, where I can choose from like 2000 cards from a couple of stores close by.  The two stores I know in the area dont have 2000 cards in total between them for all occasions combined.  Then there’s the bigger problem.  Cards are not written in simple words.  There are overtones and undertones and nuances that a gringo simply isn’t going to know.  So what looks like something totally befitting my most precious friend, could be taken the wrong way.  Im too wise and have been her husband too long to want her to be taking anything the wrong way from me.  Better to not be taken at all :-). 

I think I’m going to buy a card that looks about right and then write-up, fill-in my feelings in English, the result:  a nice Spanglish card. 

Next comes the present…  (flowers aren’t until the following morning here… everything is fresh… no one buys flowers the day before).  What do you get somene who still has their house and life upside down?  In the past, each birthday was a continuation of the previous one and had a flow from year to year.  Here, it’s a whole different world.  So I think I’m going to throw myself wholly into feelings this year.  Smother her with affection and hope for the best 🙂

(BTW, Mother’s day wasn’t nearly as bad…  flowers everywhere and the cards were plentiful and simple.)

Posted in Love | 6 Comments »