Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day 2 – Surgery

As a resident of Costa Rica, Elena made her own contact with her doctor and all pre-op arrangements such as blood work and hospital pre-registration. She chose her surgeon, Dr. Alejandro Lev, through referral from a friend. We arrived at CIMA at 8 a.m. and were greeted immediately by Angela, the International Program Coordinator. Elena completed the registration process while an employee of the hospital delivered our bags to the room. Then it was off to the pre-operative area.

One thing that struck me is that physicians, not nurses, provided most of the bedside care prior to surgery. Dr. Greenwood, the anesthesiologist, greeted Elena and me with a kiss on the cheek and proceeded to entertain throughout our interaction, which included starting the IV himself. (I know this happens on TV all the time, but in my experience nurses normally do this task!) Dr. Lev spent a great deal of time explaining what would happen in the operating room. As a former U.S. hospital Patient Safety Officer, I was particularly attuned to physician and staff compliance with safety initiatives. It was clear that CIMA takes the standards seriously. (More on this to come in future posts.) The procedure started a bit later than scheduled, but we were kept up-to-date along the way.

Once Elena was wheeled off to the operating room, Angela gave me a tour of the hospital and showed me to our room. I worked for nine years in an Austin hospital that is well known as a beautiful, hotel-like facility, and I am convinced CIMA San Jose was designed by the same architect. The resemblance in design and layout, right down to the fixtures, is incredible. During the lengthy procedure, I took advantage of the wifi access to surf the web and watch movies on my laptop. I had lunch in CIMA’s impressive restaurant – no, not a cafeteria – with table service and a full made-to-order menu including homemade desserts. Dr. Lev and Dr. Greenwood each called me during surgery to give updates.

Elena made it to the room around 6:30 p.m. and Angela was there (still!) to make sure we settled in. I asked Angela if it is normal practice for her to provide this level of attention to her patients, or were we getting special attention because of my role as a medical tourism facilitator. She assured me that patients are her top priority and that she always sticks around to make sure all goes smoothly. She proved it by rolling up her sleeves to step into her nursing role, checking the IV, and educating me on what to expect during the night.

As is typically the case in hospitals, we got lots of attention but very little sleep that night. I learned that Anabelle, our night nurse, trained in East Texas and worked as a nurse in Houston. I slept on the companion sofa – granted, not the most comfortable place to sleep – but it allowed me to remain at Elena’s side.

No comments: