It’s one thing to take a tour of the Belizean healthcare system, it’s another thing to experience it. On Friday June 10th I took a trip to the Corozal Community Hospital for a severe ear infection. We had just taken a tour of the hospital the day prior, which was pretty ironic. It most definitely looked and felt different when it was pitch black and 8:00 at night. My experience with the Belizean healthcare system and being sick while out of the country was very eye-opening.
As we approached the guarded door of the ER, I was so nervous. Our team leader Fidelio had called beforehand to let Dr. Correa know we were coming so we entered without any issues. I was the only one being seen at the time, which I thought was extremely surprising. In the United States, the ER is almost always busy, if not totally full, and it can take hours to be seen. The process of being “checked in” was a lot more relaxed than it would be in the United States. They took my ID and asked me a few questions, but nothing more than that. They also didn’t ask for any insurance because public healthcare is free in Belize. After getting my vitals taken by a nurse, I went back to see Dr. Correa immediately. He gave me an examination and quickly diagnosed me with an ear infection. I got my medication, for free, right after I saw him and we headed back to the hotel.
At first, I felt happy and confident with the care I received. I had normal medication, a good doctor, and felt good about the situation in general. However, as the days progressed, my anxiety increased. I was not getting better as quickly as I thought I would, and the pain and hearing loss was actually getting worse. If I was in the United States and this happened, I wouldn’t have been nervous at all. I know my family doctor, and that there are Ear Nose and Throat specialists I could see if anything were to happen. In Belize, this is not the case. As my ear got worse, I got increasingly more nervous and anxious about my condition. I felt helpless and felt like if something went wrong, there would be nothing I could do. I believe that this stress was also a part of why I wasn’t healing as quickly but regardless, it was terrifying. I was in a country that I was unfamiliar with, very sick, dehydrated, and eating foods my body was not used to. Even though the care I received at Corozal Community Hospital was great, the aftermath of healing was mentally and physically taxing.
As I reflect on this experience, I realize how small my level of sickness was compared to what some people in Belize deal with on a daily basis. An ear infection is a relatively simple infection to cure, and I was terrified feeling like I didn’t have a specialist at my disposal incase something went wrong. I could only imagine how parents, children, family members, and anyone who is suffering from something far worse must feel. There are not many specialists for specific illnesses in Belize, and there is often a long wait at the hospital if you need to be treated. I was able to get a small look into what it felt like to be sick in a place where healthcare isn’t like the US, and I left much more appreciative of what we have here. I sincerely hope that our time in the clinics gave people a little bit of hope and relief for any ailments they were suffering from.