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Our Tour of Peruvian Regional Hospitals

Normally we stick to the standard tourist sites….. archeological ruins, art museums – that sort of thing. But while in the Sacred Valley of Peru we decided to tour the regional hospital system as well. It wasn’t just for fun though… it was for stitches.

We were staying in one of the most magical and atmospheric towns we have visited so far in South America – Ollantaytambo. Narrow cobbled streets, dating back to the beginning of the Inca empire, radiated off from a central square where ladies still dressed in their traditional clothes. Stunning. We were staying in a hostel quite near to the central square. It was a crazy good location. Our room was on the third floor with a view overlooking to the archeological site. What was less than ideal however were the metal steps leading to our room. Little did we realize, but the metal steps had been soldered on to the railing backwards. Meaning the little guard lip was at the back of the step, and the front of the step was razor sharp metal. Of course, this isn’t the sort of thing you notice until it’s too late.

Simon was downstairs cooking our dinner while casually dressed in flip flops and was about to bring it upstairs when it happened. I was upstairs in the room with the baby when suddenly I heard very loud profanity from the stairs. I ran out to the landing to see Simon hopping on one foot, while balancing two plates of food in his hands. I grabbed the plates off him while he hobbled downstairs. It turns out that while walking up the stairs, his front edge of his flip flop had slipped under neath the stair, while his foot went up to the top of the stair. What resulted is that his foot was pulled into the stair, and that razor sharp edge almost sliced off half of his big toe entirely.

I’m not great with blood and gore, so I will spare you the details of how it looked, but it looked bad. Simon of course, insisted he was fine and didn’t need medical attention. I was of the other opinion. As in all marriages, the female opinion overrode the male, and we hobbled into a tuk tuk for the short ride to the local hospital.

We walked through the doors of the hospital and was greeted by… nothingness. There was no one there and just a coupe of hand drawn posters on the wall dealing with topics such as the benefits of breastfeeding and how teen pregnancy is bad. Eventually someone appeared and took Simon into a treatment room. The hospital was run down… run down is probably an understatement… but at least it was clean.

As Simon lay on this stomach on an examination table, the boys and I sat in the waiting room. People went in and out of the room, and I was given some forms to fill out. I had to go pay before they would start any work on him. As the lady in the attached pharmacist calculated all the costs and handed me the equipment that the nurse would require, I wondered if I should make that call to my travel insurance company now or later. Apparently the answer to that was never, as it all only cost me $6. Meanwhile, Simon was being numbed. Or sort of being numbed. From outside the thin walled room I could hear him wince in pain each time he was given a needle in his bloodied foot. But that was nothing compared to what would come next.

According to Simon, after being given the anesthetic, the nurses waited a few minutes. After a bit of waiting the nurse tapped his toe and asked if he could feel that. He answered that he could. Apparently that was the wrong answer as the nurses didn’t really acknowledge his answer and instead started with the stitches. I don’t know how many nerve endings are in the big toe, but I’m pretty sure that getting stitches into a fresh wound with no anesthetic would pretty much suck every time. The noises that Simon was making from that little room pretty much confirmed that.

Stitches with no anesthetic. 100% not recommended by Simon.

We were told to come back every 48 hours to get it cleaned and to have the stitches removed in 4 days. Simon didn’t follow either direction. He’s a rule breaker like that. I didn’t approve. He kept it very clean himself, but felt like 4 days was too soon to remove it. Instead he waited an extra day which put us in Cusco. Getting the stitches removed was just as much of an adventure as getting them put in. We didn’t want to go to the ER of the main hospital for something as basic as stitch removal, so we tried to search online for clinics in central Cusco. After a couple false starts – google directed us to a gynecologist – we found a clinic to have them removed. $4 later and with considerably less profanity than our first visit, we were done.

Although both the hospitals we ended up in were a little less than posh (understatement), both experiences were totally fine (other than the lack of anesthetic). However, for something more serious that a couple stitches, I probably would not recommend going to local hospital route though, although we didn’t have any other choice in tiny Ollantaytambo. While there are some great hospitals in South America (like when we got Z’s four month baby vaccinations in Santiago), the one in Ollantaytambo was not one of them.

Either way – we survived.


One thought on “Our Tour of Peruvian Regional Hospitals

  1. Well done convincing Simon to get the wound stitched! He would probably have seriously regretted not getting it done, since the wound would have had difficulties healing properly and it would have taken a long time too.

    You never know when it will happen, do you, even if you think you have control of situations. Stupid little things like the combination of the wrongly applied steps and Simon’s flip flops, and there you are!

    Happy it all ended well and he didn’t get an infection in the wound! Take care 🙂


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