It’s been pointed out that I left off with
us in a squall, 100 miles from the Suriname River
and then went quiet. Sorry about that.
Navigating up the river was
straightforward—we came in on the flood and rode it 30 miles to the moorings at
River Breeze in Domburg. There we met the marina owners and settled in to the
welcoming space with its friendly restaurant, well-stocked book exchange,
pretty pool, clean showers and washing machine: Pretty much a cruiser’s paradise.
Our first full day was spent taking the bus
into Paramaribo (and learned that buses are cheap, crowded, irregular and
slow—we opted to rent a car after our first effort to economize). In the city
we checked in; a surprisingly quick and easy procedure for us which turned out
to be the exception, rather than the more typical experience. Then we hit a
clinic to have my ear infection taken care of. $45 US and a trip to the Apoteek
and I had a fistful of new antibiotics. Then it was off to the grocery store.
It’s been five months since we’ve been in a
store that boasts more than four or five types of fresh fruits and vegetables,
fresh milk or a selection of cheese, baked goods and chocolate.
|Paramaribo street scene--all white wooden buildings with dark trim in the hist||oric district|
While most tourists probably hit a grocery
store now and again for snacks or supplies—in our first four days we went to at
least six different shops. We’d slowly wander up and down the aisles admiring
options of things we’d long run out of, or never knew existed: real fruit
concentrates from the Netherlands, tonic of a known name brand, corn tortillas,
fair trade chocolate, sesame oil, bagels, fresh anything…
Who needs a museum?
The hardware stores, chandleries and
supermarkets might seem like culture enough, but we did spend a day as
tourists; visiting the main cathedral, the rum distillery and Fort Zeelandia,
which was originally built by the English then taken over by the Dutch. Most of
our time though has been spent trying to decipher Dutch names (why so many
letters?), eating fresh tropical fruit (mmmm) and navigating the medical
|the river at dawn|
Just after I finally recovered from my ear
infection and we were starting to plan an inland trip to the Amazon River
basin-Evan developed symptoms of a heart attack: moderate squeezing pain in the
chest, left arm was tingling/numb, he had some edema (swelling) in his feet and
ankles and very high blood pressure. The marina owners provided me and Ev with
a ride to the hospital and he was quickly admitted into an overwhelmed
The experience was intense--the doctors train
in the Netherlands,
so that was good, but the vibe is developing world. It was the last day of
Ramadan, and a holiday, so there were a number of well-dressed people in
distress. At one point several ambulances from a car accident arrived--one of
the young men died and there was a very public visitation/mourning in the small
emergency room. He was a beautiful young guy and looked flawless (Ev saw the
whole process of doctors working on him etc-it's a small emergency room) the
disbelief in his death was raw and overpowering. At least 30 people were in to
see him and were wailing.
Not long after this, the head doctor let us
know that while Evan wasn't showing classic signs of a heart attack-he wanted
to admit him for observation and to see how he did through the night. The
initial EKG was negative (i.e. didn't show any heart irregularities or damage)
and they did some initial blood tests which were also negative. But the next
day one enzyme marker (CPK) went quite high, which can be a symptom of a heart
attack. At this point the doctors admitted him to the cardiac unit for an
angiogram-which they (English being a second language-and us not being versed
on heart attacks) told us was surgery, not simply an exploratory procedure.
Communication was an issue for both Evan as
the patient and me as the family. When I got home from the hospital I realized
I had no idea *which* hospital I had left him in. The next day, when I called
the hospital to track him down, I was told to come in and look for him-starting
with where I'd last seen him. Payment had to be made in advance of the
procedure-and my last contact with Ev and his doctors (before I lost them
again…) was that based on the blood test he had definitely had a heart attack
and needed immediate surgery and likely a stent-but first I had to pay.
is in a state of economic distress. Bank machines only give out <$200 at a
time credit cards aren't accepted at any businesses (or the hospital) and the
currency is devaluing on a daily basis. I was asked to pay a deposit. Initially
I was asked for $4400 Suriname $$ or about $750 US, but when I returned with
that amount I was told that because of the chance of Evan needing more
intensive care in I'd need a deposit equalling 6 days in the hospital's
Coronary Care Unit or $1200 US x 6 = $7200. And I'd need it by 7am the next day
(it was now past bank closing) or they'd delay his surgery…
Eventually, the hospital accepted what I
was able to pull together with the huge assistance of Ley and Neil (about $5200
US-we eventually were refunded $2200 so the total cost of care came to $3000).
Ev had the angiogram and gleefully learned he has the arteries of a much
younger man and that aside from the puzzle of the increasing CPK #'s and high
cholesterol that needs treating, his symptoms were likely caused by some type
of esophageal spasms-a very common source of misdiagnosed heart attacks.
He left the hospital as soon as he had
recovered from the angiogram--something about noisy roommates, a 4 am bath time
and the food at the place being a disappointment. Most meals consisted of four
slices of bread and a condiment.
So we're back at home on the river-monkeys
in the trees, birds overhead. We'll be leaving for Trinidad
and Tobago in a few days: Our touring in Suriname limited to Paramaribo and the hospital. But we're all
healthy and happy-which we were reminded is what really counts.