This is an expat’s story about drama over a fall

A well told story that again depicts Panama’s child like stupidity.

“Yesterday I got the chance to experience 3rd world universal health care at its most comical during a scary minute that turned into a 5 and a half hour ordeal. We went to a birthday party at a waterpark yesterday and as the party was winding down my stepson thought it would be a good idea to climb up the 12-15 foot “jungle gym” (not in water) tube slide from the outside of the tube. All of a sudden there was pandemonium in the playground and screams that Juan was severely injured. We all rushed outside and as I was bringing up the rear my wife’s sister started screaming for me to hurry to Juan. It was total chaos. Juan was leaning on his elbows and was on his knees hugging a concrete block. I got down next to him and saw that his eyes were focused and normal. I looked and felt for signs of a head injury and there wasn’t even a pimple. His breathing was normal and he could speak without any shortness of breath although it was a little hard to understand him as he was crying pretty hard and was pretty shook up. I asked him how he landed and he said on his feet but his left foot made impact first. There were no scrapes to his knees, elbows or hands from hitting the concrete. I had him flex and extend his feet. I asked him if he felt any numbness or pins and needles in his feet, legs, back, arms or neck and his answer was none. I asked him if he felt nauseous and he said no. His grip strength was 100%. After my assessment I determined there were no serious injuries and it was a just a 13 year old boy who fell 6 feet on concrete and although the impact can be terribly painful, it was a case of “boys will be boys”. When I decided to stand him up is when it got comical and INFURIATING at the same time. Lifeguards came out of the woodwork and started screaming at me to not move him. I tried to explain to them in English that there was nothing physiologically or neurologically wrong with him and they were going nuts. The bystanders made it worse by telling the lifeguards that he fell from the top of the gym which stood between 12-15 (with the spire) feet. He fell from 6 feet and landed on his feet. Noone would listen to me. They pushed me to the side and brought out a back board and restrained him from the head to his toes. This was more unnerving to Juan and he started crying more out of fear. At this point his sister started crying and the look on everyone’s faces was of total despair. I kept insisting that I know 100% how to triage a patient in this type of situation based on my own life experiences playing, coaching and training kids and adults, as well as the fact that I do have 10 years practical experience from both the military and civilian health care systems in both Physical Therapy and Nursing. Patient Care vs Insurance/JCAH Documentation (not standards) disgusted me and I left the medical fields with a clear conscience and went to plumbing school. They restrained him incorrectly on the backboard and I knew within a matter of minutes he would start complaining of pains in his hands as his blood supply was being cut off. I was right, they had to loosen the restraints within a couple minutes. I asked what the hell is happening and Annie told me we were waiting for the ambulance. WHAT???????? I told whoever would listen exactly what the ambulance drivers (paramedics) would do when they arrived and sure as shit they did everything I said in almost the exact same order. Every test they did was negative just as I knew from my assessment but to my dismay they transferred him to a gurney and started to load him in the ambulance…OMG!!!! Well to make a long story short from this point on…he was transported by ambulance to the hospital. We had to drive all the way back home to get his insurance documents and then wait hours and hours for us to be told all X-Rays were negative…DUH, and there were no internal injuries…PLEASE GOD HELP ME. He fell six feet ON HIS FEET This is what happens in a country where the most violent sport is soccer. If you look at a soccer player cross-eyed they flop around like a fish and get carried off the field on a stretcher. There was no excuse for putting Juan and his younger sister and grand parents and my wife etc., thru this ordeal. Public Medicine is a joke and it is abused by everyone from the time of birth. A cough here means viral meningitis. Good thing my Sister-in Law Angela got bitten by a scorpion in Aruba because if it happened here they probably would have amputated.”

and more to the story after I read that the lifeguards held his arms behind his back so he couldn’t break free…

“Just to be clear to everyone that may think that the Lifeguards had no idea what I was talking about, so how could I be so upset. My Spanish may be horrendous but it is very understandable for those with half a brain.

I told them- “Yo médico especialista combate y fisiotherapista en Estados Unidos, Él está bien, no es necesario por todas problemas. Anatomy, physiology y neurology todos normales.” This was a case of a bunch of wanna be heroes impress of the girls and women that were walking around in bikinis and nothing more. What if some kid drowned in one of the half dozen pools or water slides? It was a power play against the gringo but most importantly it was the culture that everything here is blown out of proportion especially when it comes to medical care here. The ambulance drivers should have assessed and released Juan back into our custody and they also should have reprimanded the life guards and the facility for wasting their time. I repeated the same info from my assessment to the ambulance upon arrival but this was a payday to them. Never mind that they scared the shit out of the entire family by transporting him with lights flashing and siren sounding. IT WAS A DISGRACE!!!”

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