On Sunday, 1st October 2006, while in the kitchen, my wife blurted out; “where did those flowers come from.”

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There was a large vase with a beautiful flower arrangement on the table that our friends, Mike and Janet Crump had given us when they came to dinner the day before. I replied that Mike and Janet gave them to us yesterday.

“Who are Mike and Janet?” She said, which seemed like a strange joke but her tone and body language indicated she was serious. I said, “You know, they gave them to us when they came over for dinner yesterday.”

She got really intense and said that “No one came for dinner yesterday.. What did we eat?” This was really getting weird. I said “You don’t remember, we BBQ’d chicken and hamburgers”. She was now really emphatic “No one was here yesterday, we did not cook chicken, you are lying!”

We went around and around like this for another ten minutes. It was obvious she had no recall of the day before. I had read about stroke symptoms in emails sent by friends so I put her through the drill. “Smile, stick your tongue out, raise both arms.” She could do these motor tests.

I decided not to take any chances and told her to get dressed. She said “why?” I told her I am taking her to the hospital. She said “why?” And I told her she had lost her short-term memory.

She did not want to go. I started telling her she may be having a stroke and could die. That seemed to register so she got dressed. I had called a taxi because I did not want to be trying to drive if she had any more complex problems.

When the taxi arrived I tried to get her out of the house and into it. She kept asking where we’re going and then started looking for her purse. We looked for a few minutes and I told her we’re going without it.

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I steered her into the taxi and we started to the hospital. On the way she kept repeating, “Where’s my purse? Where are we going? Why? Did I take my purse?” Then she started being upset. She said; “there’s nothing wrong with me, you’re just trying to get rid of me, – You are taking me to get me committed.”

This continued for the 45-minute ride to the emergency room at CIMA Hospital in Escazu.

We walked in the door at 4pm, gave the receptionist her name, a credit card, and signed an admission form. The duty Doctor took us to a little examining room where I told her what had happened. She asked Aija a few questions and put her through the basic motor skill tests.

The Doctor took us down the hall to the CAT scan room and Aija was in the CAT scan within 10 minutes of our walking in the Emergency Room. The Doctor explained the Neurologist would be there soon.

We walked back to the Emergency room and the Neurologist was waiting to examine her. He checked the CAT scan images and told me his preliminary diagnosis was “global transitory amnesia” and he wanted to have her admitted to the hospital to conduct more tests and monitor her for the night.

The Neurologist’s name is Roberto Vargas Howell. His English is excellent and his whole demeanor was competent, calm, sincere, and concerned. I felt she was in excellent care and I left for our house.

They did an MRI and many other tests of her brain and heart that evening and several more the following day. She stayed in a private room with full bathroom and a nice couch that makes into a bed if a guest wants to stay with the patient.

The next morning she was quite clear in her memory of all she had forgotten about Saturday but she remembered nothing of Sunday. She still does not remember the events of Sunday, which is no loss.

The Doctor came by to check her during the day on Monday and decided to keep her until Tuesday just to be sure she was through the event. She really liked all of the meals. The nutritionist would call even if she had missed the regular scheduled meal to see what she wanted.

She was impressed that all of the Nurses, Housekeeping, and Aids were so attentive and cheerful. They checked on her every few minutes and answered her when she rang the buzzer within a couple of minutes. Her room had great views of the Escazu mountains in addition to being very comfortable.

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Dr. Howell spent time with us before her release on Tuesday after noon. We have a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks.

Now it was time to visit the cashier who has a little cubicle just down the hall from the room and were ready to tally up the costs for all of this.

How Much Did This Cost? Are you ready?

Total for all tests, Doctors, drugs, two days private room in the best hospital in Central America, food and all services = c1,434,189 colones, that’s a grand total of US$2,747 which includes the MRI* which alone cost US$876.

My wife has now been home for a week. All she lost was the day of the problem. She is recommitted to eating healthy and exercising.

What a country!

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Written by our friend George Lundquist, who is the founder of Costa Rica Retire on Social Security. If you are thinking of retiring in Costa Rica, you might want to consider the tour that George offers, his goal is to share his experiences here with you to save you time and money!

* According to Blue Cross Blue Shield; “The average cost for an MRI is about $1,890.”

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