Saturday, 12 April 2014

Public Hospitals in Brazil

The other night I experienced the most shocking moments of my life.

I am currently on holiday in Brazil with my girlfriend, seeing the sights and hitting the beach, soaking up the sun and eating as much food as is possible before I head back to delights of the UK. Three days ago we went on a tour into the Atlantic forest of Brazil, containing jungles and filled with dangerous snakes like the corral, spiders and jaguars, panthers and other creatures you don’t normally see on your average daily commute in London. Towards the end of the trip we went to visit a waterfall known locally as Paraiso (Paradise) falls. It was a paradise and I went for a swim in the lagoon beneath. It was stunning, the only problem was the mosquitoes… I can only say that I was bitten to shit, I and my girlfriend looked a little like we had been to war with these creatures and I am itching now as I write this.

Itching is an issue, but the major problem that my girlfriend had underplayed just how allergic she was to these bites. To give you an example of how aggressive these things are I felt one bite me and it felt like a needle going into my arm and when I swatted it off, the wound gushed with blood.

We returned to the house where we were staying and ate dinner. My girlfriend’s bites were less, but now much larger than mine yet looked like nothing serious at this point. We went to bed and I slept like a baby while she, however, did not.

She woke me a few times complaining of feeling ill and suffering from a fever, but when I touched her she felt normal. After an hour or so at 4.30 she said to me “Help me, I’m dying” I touched her forehead and she was burning up. We went to the living room and looked for a local hospital (she has private medical care here in Brazil) but found that in the local areas there were only public, free hospitals. With experience of the NHS I thought that it couldn’t be that bad. There are two types of hospital in Brazil, Private (UPS) and Public, much like the UK.  We caught a taxi and she was admitted at 5 am in the morning.

On arrival it looked like any standard hospital. She saw a woman who looked like a nurse who took her blood pressure which was critically low. (80/50!) My girlfriend was unresponsive and couldn’t speak or stand and could only lie down as the allergic reaction took hold of her. She saw a doctor (which later I found was a fucking miracle to actually be seen by a doctor) who sent her round to back sounding like he was almost doing her a favour.

We went to a room with 6 chairs, 3 each side facing other, all filthy. My girlfriend was sweating with fever while the rest of her body was freezing and sat opposite a woman covered in her own vomit. The room stank of shit and vomit and there was dry blood on one of the chairs.  There were two women in the room who looked like nurses, yet later I found out they were ‘technicians’ or orderlies as we call them in the UK.

My girlfriend was whiter than a sheet of A4 paper, her lips were white and her hand was freezing and couldn’t grip mine. I sat there wanting to cry, I knew I had to be strong but seeing the person you love, slipping further and further away into lifelessness. She later admitted she too thought she was going to die. The orderly then took an IV and inserted it into her arm, but too my horror she did not drain it and the long tube was full of air. I have seen enough medical dramas to know that you shouldn’t put too much air into the bloodstream and I shouted in Portuguese for her to drain it, release the air, which the woman promptly did and got rid of most of the air and then re-inserted the tube. She then started the first of three drips going in to her arm and I watched in horror as some air bubbles entered her system. I noticed it was only hydrocortisone to rehydrate her and she slipped further and further. I even started praying at this point. The second drip started about 20 minutes later with no sign of improvement, now we were onto our 4th new person in the room, all of the previous signing off and the girl opposite had left 5 minutes before, yet her vomit bin still remained.

My girlfriend asked for some bread and I dutifully fetched some from local kiosk and fed it to her piece by piece as she was too weak to hold the bread or take bites. The second drip finished at 6.30 in the morning and my girlfriend showed no sign of improvement. She then asked for a bin and was given a new bin covered in blood. I think the food started to take effect and did as much good as the drips had. She started her third drip and this had some anti-allergy solution put into it (A second miracle). The room at this point was full and stank of sweat and other bodily products. The old woman next to my girlfriend turned to her and said “If you can go somewhere better, go, because my son died here 15 days ago from being misdiagnosed”

My girlfriend started to look better, and started saying to me she wanted to leave. Then to my horror the orderlies said something I have still got a hard time believing “There are no doctors or nurses here, what are we meant to do”. My girlfriend then heard them say they were preparing an injection of something that would lower her blood pressure further. Now I am not a doctor and neither were they, but to lower someone’s blood pressure which is already critically low is not a good idea, right?

I picked her up and we walked out, escaping at 8 in the morning, the vomit bucket still in the room, that had just been moved by someone with no glove on.
I have never seen anything like that before…

So to summarise. I went to a hospital with:
·         * barely any medicine
·         * no doctors
·         * no nurses
·         * blood stained chairs and a high mortality rate.
·         * 6 changes of staff in three hours and they only passed on instructions verbally as they couldn’t        write it down
·       * No machines, not even the ability to do blood tests
·        *  And no-one to check where I was taking a patient

So why do I write this… they tried to pass a law to make up public servants use public hospitals… but the law wasn’t passed… when Dilma and Lula had cancer.. where did they go? Private care, and who can blame them? They wanted to live! I can’t blame the hospital or the staff, they were doing their best with untrained staff and no equipment, so I must rest this one with the government

So the World Cup… imagine this, a football fan has too much to drink and collapses with dehydration… where do they go? Be very very fucking careful….I fear the number of people being admitted to hospital along with the numbers of those successfully treated.

So my advice:

11)      Buy the very best travel insurance or health care you can
22)      Always check there is a private hospital nearby
33)      Do not put yourself in any danger through your own actions ie excessive drinking
44)      Never ever criticize the NHS… it might be a bit ropey… but they have doctors.

Oh and to let you know… my girlfriend went the next day to a private hospital and was given treatments galore and now looks to be on the mend! If you're coming... good luck :) 

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