A rainy morning at Drill Hall brings a rainbow over the surf break.

I have never been admitted to a hospital, not while at home, traveling, or during an expat experience. I do not know how the health system works here in Barbados and figured that I would sort it out when and if I ever needed it.  So, it has been a real learning experience as Dani maneuvers how to get Kevin, her husband, care for an appendicitis.

What Dani has found is that there is a good level of private healthcare here for minor ailments, but not for emergency surgeries, at least not on the weekend.  This lead Dani and Kev to wait an afternoon, overnight and the entire next day for a room at the public hospital.

By the first night, Dani was distressed.  I phoned Darren and Erin, who have been here twenty-five years, to ask them what to expect.  Both have been admitted to the hospital in their time here, Erin for babies and Darren after collapsing during a marathon.  Both vouched that while the hospital looked scary (Erin said to ignore the duct tape on the beds), the care was excellent.

There is nothing like living in a foreign country to realize that you don’t know how it works at home. I think that Ontario still has old hospitals that aren’t air conditioned.  Is that right, or am I making that up?  I have heard people wait many hours to be seen, not to mention admitted.  Maybe this is the state of hospitals around the world that offer public health care.  It is what makes the private system in the United States look so shiny, until citizens go bankrupt from medical bills.

The good news is that they have travel insurance.  I know people that travel without it and while it is expensive, this is a gamble.  It also offers a level of care that you might not otherwise be able to afford, at least in the initial assessment phases.

Parker, a friend of Jamie's, left the island on the weekend and we had a gathering at the lovely Bottom Bay on the southeast coast.

When I was in Guatemala many years ago, I got a horrible chest infection volunteering at a local school in Antigua. I developed a cough that made people give me a wide berth.  It was apparent that I needed care and I went to the clinic. I could feel the infection move from my chest into my ears.  To my knowledge, this is the only time that I have had a fever in my adult life.  The kind that you can feel burning away at the infection.

I walked across town to a clinic.  The doctor at the clinic did not speak English, so in my broken Spanish and my mini dictionary (this is way before Google Translate), I conveyed “Mi pecho no esta claro, y tambien mis oidos” (my chest and ears are not clear).  His response in Spanish was clear and translated to,” You have an infection and need antibiotics.”

I walked back to my homestay past chicken buses spewing out black exhaust; my chest was so tight and pained that I could hardly breathe.  I got to my bed and laid there and cried, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in.  I feared then, as I sometimes do now, getting sick while being on my own.

The difference in Barbados is that I have friends, like Erin and Darren, that know the island and can support me.  They have gathered around to also support Dani and Kev. I have expat friends, like Lorena and Conrad, Kate, and Jamie, that may not know the system but will help me emotionally if I need them.  I don’t worry as much about falling ill or being alone.

Dani and Kev are supposed to go home today.  They are waiting on the doctors to decide whether Kev can fly and get treatment in the UK.  Dani has been phoning their insurance health care provider all weekend.  In some ways they are on their own, but they are not alone.  We aren’t in the hospital with them, but we are rallying around for support.

It has got me thinking about health care in other countries.  What has been your experiences either living or traveling overseas, or in your home countries?  Did you find the system difficult to maneuver?  How was the level of care?