Last Thursday, our 20-year-old son Taylor had a medical emergency in San Jose due to a seizure. That day, we found out that the medical emergency care in Costa Rica is very good. And important enough, quite affordable.
A good friend needed help in getting his new ID number to reflect on his new drivers’ license. So even though we live in Atenas we were in San Jose for this diligence.
Howard, my husband, Taylor, and I were driving from the license office to a school in Heredia. An accident and protest on the highway to the airport made us go a different route than normal. Our son had complained of a severe headache that morning. But he took a couple of Ibuprofen and wanting to make sure he ate well, we were just discussing stopping for lunch.
As we started looking for a place to eat, Taylor’s feet started hitting Howard’s seat belt. As we both turned around, Taylor’s head was back and convulsing in the back seat of our truck. Taylor was having a seizure, something he’s never had before.
A terrifying experience
This was our first medical emergency in Costa Rica. It was the most terrifying experience we’ve ever had. One minute things are normal and the next minute it can change quickly and drastically. Only a parent can understand what goes through you at that moment. Howard immediately stopped the truck. He then jumped back to try to remove Taylor’s seat belt to lay him flat on the back seat. Taylor was so rigid it was difficult for him to get the seat belt off.
Hoping one of the drivers stuck in the traffic with us was a doctor I started screaming for help. Meanwhile, I called 9-1-1, and minutes passed without an ambulance arriving. Howard gave Taylor CPR and a wonderful young employee from a hotel across the street came out to help as well. We moved Taylor’s head to the side and placed a jacket under his head and waited. There were three young transit policemen with us but they didn’t provide much assistance. I called 9-1-1 again and luckily within minutes, the ambulance arrived. At the same moment, Taylor became conscious but was very confused.
Ambulance and hospital
The paramedic and medical emergency care were excellent. He took over immediately checking Taylor’s vitals. He let us know that anyone can have a one-time seizure due to various factors such as severe pain. This was a fact we never knew.
I asked him to bring us to Hospital Clinica Biblica since I knew it was the closest and one of the best. We arrived within 10 minutes and the emergency crew there ordered Taylor to take every available test. The neurologist recommended Taylor had a CAT scan, MRI, EKG, and extensive blood testing to rule out epilepsy or any other medical issues.
The care provided was excellent every step of the way.
Costa Rica Medical Insurance and CCSS
As permanent residents of Costa Rica, we are now required to pay for CCSS (Caja). But also choose to carry the private INS insurance “Gastos Médicos”. Our Caja is $75 per month (in 2011 – ed.). That provides 100% coverage at the Caja hospitals or public institutions.
While with private insurance you can utilize private hospitals such as Clinica Biblica, CIMA, and others. Our INS insurance costs us approximately $2,700 per year for the 3 of us (my husband is a smoker).
INS will reimburse us up to 80% for medical emergency care, including all the exams Taylor had to undergo at the Clinica Biblica hospital. The total cost for Taylor’s hospitalization, ambulance, and the cost of the tests was approximately $2,000. This would be so much higher in the U.S.
The Clinica Biblica hospital
There are several private hospitals in Costa Rica and the Clinica Biblica is located downtown San Jose. If you ever have the need for medical emergency care in Costa Rica, the Red Cross gives the ambulance service.
We were told the best thing to do during a seizure is
- to lay the person out flat,
- put a pillow or something under their head,
- move their face to the side,
- and stay calm.
I hope this may help someone if ever faced in a similar medical emergency care situation.
By Isabelle Jones, who was our Atenas real estate agent from 2008 until she retired in 2015. Since Isa’s retirement, Marian Veltman has taken over. For Atenas real estate, contact Marian.
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