Costa Rica Healthcare

Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update: 9 Stitches $80. Tetanus Shot $35. No wait time… priceless

It’s not every day your husband flies over his scooter after picking up a stool sample kit. Please, let me explain. Yesterday morning, Rob left to pick up a stool sample kit from the pharmacy to help access why I have been having stomach trouble for the past few weeks.

About an hour after he left, I hear yelling at our front gate.


“Hmm… Is someone outside calling my name? That’s peculiar,” I thought to myself before peering out the window.

If you’ve been following the Pisani chronicles, then you already know that I’ve named our residence the Thunderdome. Thunderdome protocol calls for all gates to be locked while my macho husband is not at home to save me from marauders. There is also a provision that states whenever Rob leaves my side, I will always have the car in order to run over any looting bandits.

“OH MY GOD!” I recalled myself saying before grabbing the keys and rushing outside. Rob didn’t have his helmet on and there was no scooter in sight. I don’t see one evildoer. There was no pillaging.

“Hurry, open the gate!” Rob shouted while keeping pressure on his bleeding hand.

“OH MY GOD!” I said once again. Or twice. Or maybe I just kept repeating it. All I can remember is that he was losing blood all throughout the foyer, then into the kitchen, and ultimately filling the sink.

“Quick, get me paper towels, or some gauze, or anything to help stop the bleeding. Damn it, I’m going to need stitches.”

“You’re going to need stitches?” I yelled. He might as well have said he needed a bone marrow transplant because as long as I’ve known my husband, those words have never left his mouth. It was about then I started to feel woozy. In the past, he has handled every emergency with a “grin and bear it” attitude. When a guy whose first aid kit normally consists of duct tape is asking for stitches you know that it’s going to be a long day.

Now in my defense, I tend to be a little hypersensitive in trying situations. I wouldn’t be the first person you would want to call in an emergency. But I’m not the last either. You can certainly count on Nadine Hays Pisani for your blood loss needs.  I may spin in circles while performing  a high pitched scream that is not characteristic of the average paramedic, but this could also be taken as a sign of a take charge attitude.

“Grab me some duct tape,” Rob instructed. This actually helped calm me down since it was exactly what he usually says when large amounts of his plasma are pouring down a sink drain. “This is what I need you to do, go down the road and pick up my helmet and sunglasses. A little further down you will see the scooter. Get the key out of the ignition and take everything out of the hatch. Don’t forget the stool sample kit. I have to sit down for a minute and cool off. And don’t for any reason try to move the scooter. It is too heavy. Just leave it where it is.”

I got in the car and quickly discovered the helmet and sunglasses. As I drove a little further, I spotted the scooter lying sideways in a very deep, dirt rut. I grabbed the key out of the ignition, removed the contents from the hatch, and finally found the stool sample kit. Good thing it was empty.

But then I didn’t know what to do with the scooter. It was right in the middle of the road, and even though it is not a heavily traveled one, I was unsure if someone might run it over. And should I really listen to Rob’s advice? A guy who just split open his hand? On that sound argument, I grabbed hold of the handlebars and slowly lifted it upright. I suppose this would have been a good idea if I had held onto the brake while doing so. Consequently, the scooter careened out of control into a drainage ditch. These were not  pressing details so I didn’t immediately share them with my husband when I returned to the house. His blood loss would definitely make his memories fuzzy and he might not even notice.

“Before we go to an emergency clinic, I want to go get the scooter back to the house,” Rob demanded.

“Are you sure? I mean, why do that now? At the very least, show me your hand so I get an idea of what we are dealing with.” It was then he reluctantly removed the paper towels and showed me the gash. It was deep. I thought I saw China.

After seeing his wound, I proceeded with an impressive period of hyperventilation followed by me driving Rob back to the scooter. He acted like it was a grizzly crime scene, swiftly deciphering that the victim was moved to a second location.

Why is it in a ditch?” he asked. “Great, now it’s even going to be harder to move. And where did the ignition switch go? It’s in worse shape now than when I crashed it.”

I acted dumb, which is undoubtedly a natural thing for me to accomplish. Sometimes I’m surprised by just how easily I can slip into this role. It’s as if I am born to play the part.

In some adrenalized, super-Hulk like display of strength, Rob proceeded to walk the scooter back to the house—in the sun and up a hill— while holding one arm intermittently above his head.

“Are you finally going to tell me what happened?” I asked when we were driving to find an emergency clinic.

“It’s really quite incredible. If I wasn’t such a good driver, I’m sure I would be in worse shape.”

“Okay, I get it. You’re a hero. But can you fill me in on what just occurred one hundred yards from our house?”

“It was so ridiculous. I was driving up the hill and saw a big rut in the road. I know not to get the wheel caught in one, but I was going so slow I thought that if I started to slip I could easily bail. I had it all planned in my head, neatly tucking myself and rolling with the momentum as I have a dozen times before. I’m really quite good when there is an emergency.”

“So then what happened to your hand?”

“It was the only part of my plan that didn’t quite work out. I outstretched my palm, using minimal force as I went into the roll, but I guess it got cut on the rocks. When I stood up I thought I was fine until I saw the blood and immediately started running toward the house. Once I realized I could pass out as a result of the heat or blood loss, I tried to remain calm and began walking quickly instead. I didn’t even take the house keys because they were covered in gas in the hatch and I thought it would take too long. Half way in I realized I should take off my helmet. I probably should have done that sooner. When I made it to the house, I got down on my knees in order to conserve energy. I knew I would need it to bust open the gate in the event that you could not hear my screams.”

“I can’t believe this. I hope we don’t have to take you to San Jose. If your muscles or nerves are damaged, we are in big trouble.”

“Let’s not jump the gun. With my superior tuck-and-roll technique, I’m sure there can’t be that much damage. This is just a flesh wound.”

I have to agree with my husband. He does have some mad skills when faced with adversity. I know this because while he was getting stitched up by a doctor in town (luckily no fractures, muscle, ligament, or tendon damage) he turned a color that Sherwin-Williams might call Cottage Whitewash. Apparently, his blood pressure dropped quicker than our careening scooter into a ditch. But with a little bit of leg elevation and a cold compress to his head, his face returned to a rosy glow. And I have to admit, he took it all with a smile on his face.

“See that honey, I’m like Rocky,” he said while making a fist with his newly stitched Frankenstein hand. “Do you mind stopping by the grocery story? I could use some ice cream. And make sure we have enough food in the house because you will have to do all the cooking, I can’t get my hand dirty.”

I can’t say this was the worst day in Costa Rica, but I wouldn’t want to repeat it either. To think, a quest for a stool sample kit started this whole chain of events. Who knew a stomach bug would cause this much trouble?