Having been to the hospital in Xela, Guatemala a half dozen times by my final visit, I understood the drill at the trauma ward, or at least I thought I had. Once again I was wrong.
I waited in line-up for the nurse as usual while shuffling for a position among the other broken people and their care takers. This visit to the hospital was to be different – it wasn’t just a checkup again – as I needed an x-ray and thus I was sent off to radiography with the appropriate instructions.
Radiography, much like the trauma ward, was another long check-in lineup without however the benefit of much seating prior. I and a number of others on crutches found ourselves standing or rather leaning as we waited patiently for the nurse in this second line up.
After checking in and claiming a spot on the terrazzo floor, I began the next wait. Thankfully if wasn’t long before I heard my name called, however what was odd was hearing it among twenty others. I quickly realized that our group was being herded towards the location of the x-ray room, a place devoid of chairs and any floor space to sit on. This was exactly what twenty hobbling people needed, to stand and wait again.
I have to give the radiologist credit though. She was fast and in less than 30 minutes I returned to my place in the trauma ward to wait for the doctors.
Knowing it would be some time until I would see the doctor, I set out to determine what I would need to know in order to make the smooth transition to walking. This wouldn’t be an easy endeavor as I couldn’t just ask him in English everything I wanted to know about my recovery.
I had about ten or so detailed questions that I carefully prepared and translated with the help of my e-reader and my decent knowledge of Spanish up to that point. I’m happy to say my medical Spanish is far better than the day I broke my foot.
After a time I was called into the office to see a Dr. Alex and the exchange went something like this (I know my translations are rough):
Me: “Tengo muchas preguntas para empiezar caminando.” (I have many questions, about starting to walk.)
Dr. Alex: “No hay problema, pero en primero necicito ver los rayos-x” (No problem, but first I need to see the x-rays.)
Dr. Alex: “De donde eres?” (Where are you from?)
Me: “Soy de Canada.” (I’m from Canada.)
Dr. Alex: “So you speak English then?”
It seems that Doctor Alex had spent about half a year in England during his studies and though his English was not perfect it was pretty darn good. I was simultaneously elated and disappointed; on one hand I could now get very detailed answers about my recovery, on the other I worked damn hard on those translations.
I was frustrated to learn that I would still have to use my crutches for the next two weeks and then a single crutch for one week as I relearned how to walk. Aside from still being crippled, the cast came off, the pins came out of my foot (I got to keep them), and the x-ray looked good (at least to my untrained eye).
Oh and having someone pull steel out of your foot hurts like hell!
Doctor Alex gave me instruction on how I should proceed to exercise my “finger” in hot water and slowly over the course of a few months the “finger” should return to normal. If I have any issues with my “finger” I’m to go back to the Hospital in Xela, but he thinks all should be well. We finished with me politely reminding him that on the foot the digits are called toes.
Before I left the doc had one more thing to add, “go have a shower.” I’m pretty sure he was just suggesting that as my leg needed a wash, but it may have also been a jab at me being a dirty hippie. I’ll assume it was the first one.
My first goal out of the hospital was to get some new shoes and sandals as my barefoot shoes wouldn’t do for recovery and I had broken my sandals around about week three of using crutches. I still wouldn’t be wearing shoes for a while however as my foot was still ginormous.
I headed over to Megapaca, a hipsters paradise – it is nothing but used clothing from North America in a store the size of Walmart. I ended up with my first ever pair of skate shoes as I accidentally tore the tag of the shoes I really wanted and they refused to sell them to me (stupid store policies). I also somehow managed to pay more in Guatemala for a pair of cheap sandals than the final markdown from Target that was still on the tag.
Chris’ First Steps
Over three weeks I relearned how to walk and visited a physiotherapist a few times at a total cost less than $70 CAD. I found myself forgetting my crutches damn near everywhere as I relied on them less and less. A special thanks to the fruit lady in the market for calling me back to her stall.
When I finally stepped out of my house one Sunday without any crutches I almost felt naked as my physical crutches had become metaphorical ones.
I decided that I should be very careful on my first day given I hadn’t really walked in over three months. So where does one go for their first measured steps back into the real world? The WATERPARK!!!
Retalhuleu, Guatemala is home to what is supposed to be Central America’s best theme parks. I can’t say anything for the dry side of the park, but the waterslide portion called Xocomil was awesome!
I ran around that place like a 10 year old after eating an entire birthday cake. By ran I mean walked, in pain, but I was just as excited!
Two friends from PLQ and I got there a little after opening and decided that instead of breakfast we’d just start riding slides to beat the crowd. We we’re hungry of course so we had a quick healthy snack of ice cream (again, I’m 10 years old).
The park itself is quite unlike any water park I’ve ever seen. It is hard to tell where the slides are or how to get up on some of them as the lush vegetation often obscures the view. In fact, coming up to the park you barely notice it’s there at all due to its setting amongst the trees.
We raced each other down the six lane crazy carpet slide, found ourselves near vertical and changing direction on a crazy tube slide, and were pummeled by tons of water from a giant dumping bucket in the kid zone. All of which is overshadowed by the adrenaline inducing looping Jaguar slide.
Wait, a loop de loop on a water slide?
As you climb the steps leading to the beginning of the Jaguar you can tell something is very different about this slide. Noises of mechanical hissing and computerized countdowns sound out as you near the top of the tower.
When you hit the platform at the top it becomes immediately apparent that this is no ordinary water slide. There is no sitting down and pushing yourself as fast as possible, no, this slide starts with what resembles a cryogenic chamber.
The attendant unlocks the clear door to the chamber and it swings open to one side. You step into the chamber onto a platform and feel the cool rush of water over your back. You cross your arms and legs like you would on any other slide as the attendant swings the door shut and locks you in. He moves his key from the chamber lock to the ignition and you begin to hear the countdown. Three, two, one… then the floor disappears from under your feet and you fall vertically (or close to it, about 80 degrees) through the enclosed space barely noticing your exit from the cryogenic chamber.
As you rocket at speeds up to 60 km/h through the short waterslide it’s almost impossible to know your body position when you fly through the loop de loop. You might be upside down, you might not as the loop is situated on a 45 degree angle. What I do know is that it is an incredibly crazy adrenaline rush.
We had some fried chicken for lunch, funnel cake for dessert (hey its healthier than ice cream right?), relaxed in the lazy river, hit the wave pool, and took in a few more rides on the waterslides before catching a chicken bus back to Xela just before the rain started.
After all the fun of my first day walking I passed out around 3pm and sleep almost straight through to the next day. I could almost hear my parents saying “Aww, the poor little guy is tuckered out after the waterpark.”
Walking is awesome, don’t waste it!
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