Back in 2007 when my family and I moved to Costa Rica, one of big advantages we had heard about living in Costa Rica was the quality and affordability of health care.

As faith would have it, our first week in Atenas, we would test the system (I will get to that story in just a few minutes) and to say the least it passed with flying colors. In the years that followed we have had extensive experience with both public (CAJA) and private heath care, and could not be more pleased.

As the word spread with-in our network of family and friends, many of our loved ones have traveled to Costa Rica to take advantage of the quality care that can be had for a fraction of the cost compared with that of the United States.

Our first Monday in Atenas started out at 5 a.m. when Gerardo woke me up with a “long face”. His jaw had fallen out of place and he was in pain. Have you ever seen the painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch? That is what Gerardo looked like.

I jumped out of bed and we headed down to the Linea Vital, a private clinic that provides 24 hour medical and ambulance service here in Atenas. The quality of service was excellent but unfortunately the doctor was unable to get his stubborn jaw back into place. From there we were sent to a local chiropractors office, where Dr. Sache attended Gerardo and worked diligently trying to get the “mandibula” to stretch so the jaw could go back into place.

With some diligence, amazing patience, and a few muscle relaxers, the stubborn jaw finally snapped back into place. In the mean time, I had to leave and pick my mother up and taker her for a routine check up and cleaning at the dentists office. After dropping her off, I took Gerardo home, and then returned to check in on my mother. To my surprise, out side the dentist office, the Linea Vital ambulance was putting my mother inside.

As it turned out, my mother was having an adverse reaction to an antibiotic. You see, my mother is diabetic, and the dentist being cautious, gave her an antibiotic before the cleaning to prevent any infections. During the cleaning she started feeling light headed and became nauseous. Linea Vital was called and once inside the ambulance, anti nausea medicines were injected and she was feeling better within minutes.

By this point in the day (all before noon), I was completely stressed out and almost in a panic. I realized I had left my wallet at home and had no way to pay the doctors for my mother or Gerardo’s care. I explained the situation and was asked, “Why are you worrying about money when you have two sick people to take care of?”

I was assured that I could stop by the appropriate offices durning the coming week and settle up my “accounts”. I did just that two days later and ended up paying a total of $40 for the services provided to my mother and Gerardo.

The years that have followed my mother and Gerardo would be giving the Costa Rican medical system a great amount of practice. Gerardo, being Tico, quickly joined the Caja. My mother continued as a private pay patient due to needing specialized care for her diabetes. We quickly found an amazing endocrinologist, Dr. Jose Jimenez Montero with offices at CIMA Hospital in Escazu.

Due to the diabetes, my mother has diabetic retinopathy, so having a good ophthalmologist was imperative. Dr. Adriana Van der Laat- Roche has proven to be a God send on more that one occasion. Diabetic retinopathy causes irregular veins to form in the eyes. These veins are weak and often burst, causing bleeds, that impair vision due to the blood floating around behind the eye.

Left untreated, it can cause damage to the eye and retina, and result in blindness. There are several treatments for this including laser, injections, and surgery. My mother had been treated back in Tampa, Florida with laser at a cost of $1,600 per treatment.

Here at CIMA the cost was less than $800 for all the treatments needed to correct the problem. Dr. Van der Laat recently removed a cataract from my mothers left eye at a fraction of the cost that we would have paid back in the U.S.

The year before last, dengue fever made it’s way back to Atenas. Several of our friends had come down dengue, and everyone was nervous. One day Gerardo woke up and could not get out of bed. Being stubborn, he would not go to the doctor. A few days passed and he was not getting any better, actually worse. We begged and finally a week later, he went to see his family doctor at Hospital Mexico.

It turned out he did have dengue, but in addition the enzymes in his liver were off. After many exams and blood tests it was discovered that Gerardo not only had dengue fever, but drug induced hepatitis, brought on by a combination of work out supplements and natural steroids…

You can read Part II of Costa Rica Health Care: Our family’s first hand experience here.

Costa Rica Health Care: Our family’s first hand experience. Part I/II

Article/Property ID Number 3394

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