Many of us will go to great lengths to plan the perfect Jamaica vacation and in most cases it comes at least close. Many of us will not plan properly for medical emergencies. It may have something to do with us not wanting to face the facts that something may happen to you or someone you care for while on vacation. It may be something else all together, no matter what reason you have for not planning for medical care or emergencies it’s not a good one. There isn’t one.
I brought along two emergency medical kits that I loaded with lots of extras. We have lots of bandages, sutures and supplies for minor cuts or bites. We have antihistamines, antacids, OTC pain relievers, cold and cough remedies and more. We brought a lot of stuff with us and I’m glad we did. I never expected we would use all of the stuff we brought but I knew it would cost a lot more here for the same things and I was right. Not only that but we’ve had a hard time finding things to replenish what we have used such as a triple antibiotic and gauze bandages for dressing the nasty bite on my leg. I was finally able to find a tube in the Fontana Pharmacy in Sav La Mar. I could not find any in Negril, Mobay or even Kingston although I only looked in 10 or 20 of the 100 or so pharmacies I’ve seen in Jamaica.
What passes for a pharmacy here should most often be classified as a trinket shop. Many of them don’t carry even basic medical supplies. I stopped in over a dozen shops asking for a roll of medical tape. Not a single one had any until I reached one in Kingston that had some. The Fontana pharmacy in Sav La Mar has some but Negril Pharmacy and Key West Pharmacy nearby have none. You can buy all sorts of other crap but not a roll of medical tape in Negril. The bite on my leg was serious and it hurt like hell. I was in some very serious pain and walking around Kingston to handle some business on the morning it hit me. I went into 4 or 5 different pharmacies in Uptown and Downtown Kingston and most told me that the strongest they had was over the counter and I knew that would do me little good. I was finally able to find one that had Panadiem in stock and he was willing to give me 10 pills to get me back to Negril on the next day. Those worked pretty good and did not make me very drowsy as many medications do for me.
I left Kingston and returned to Negril where my leg drained for 5 days after swelling up so large I could not walk on it. It was over a week of hobbling around on it and not a single doctor or pharmacist I showed it too would do more than an OTC pain reliever. My wife was not so lucky. She got bit by whatever got me also (we still assume they are bites with no real proof). She got two bites on her butt and they were pretty bad. They begin to swell from deep inside and there is only a tiny head on the boil as it forms. I lanced mine as soon as I saw the swelling take off, my wife held off on lancing and she regrets that now I bet. In her case after about 3 days the lumps got hot and hard, they were in such bad shape we knew she needed medical attention and soon but this was actually the day Hurricane Dean was to land and of course we had other things going on. We were deep into moving our stuff and dealing with the weather.
The day Dean hit she was in some pretty intense pain and we decided we needed to do something just afterwards. She contacted a few places but no one was open on the day after the storm. No one was interested in helping me with mine anyway so we felt we’d get much the same for hers. She contacted the hospital in Sav La Mar and they said they could deal with it right away and that they were not even that busy. We decided to drop her off the 2nd day after Dean struck and I left her there alone that morning. I honestly thought it was no more than a local anesthesia for the pain and then they would lance them open and drain them. I was wrong, they admitted her and said she would need surgery to deal with it. She spent the whole first day in the lobby and then waiting in a room with a woman who was apparently dying. The woman kept calling for Jah to come and save her. She said this went on for hours and it drove her nuts. When they came to do the surgery she was relived to get away from that woman. She was not fine for long though as she found out that they were not administering a local anesthesia but would in fact be putting her to sleep for the procedure. Now she was very scared, she just did not trust things to go well and they didn’t go so smoothly. My wife is not a religious person and the anesthesiologist seems to have been. She recited some prayers and even had out some beads and a cross as she administered the drugs to her. She told her that she had had a problem in the past with people underestimating her tolerance and she wanted to make sure the doctor gave her enough to knock her out fully. The doctor kept praying as she fell asleep. Sometime into the procedure she woke up and had to be re-drugged.
She woke the next morning still groggy from surgery but ready to leave the hospital. So it’s been a hectic ew days and we just had a Hurricane. Power was out for much of the island and every ATM we knew of was out of order. We had some cash but who knew how long we would need it. When she called the hospital my wife asked about payment and terms and she says they told her they could not refuse her services and she did not have to pay at time of service. We could pay later or make payment arrangements. We chose the hospital because we were worried about cash flow in the coming days and did not want to lay out a bunch of cash. Heck I had no idea what it would cost but with the way things cost here I expected the worst. I was sure it would cost us a thousand in US dollars or like 60 to 70 thousand Jamaican dollars. We’re not rich but I can normally pull that kind of cash from the bank but I would never have that much money on me for any reason. So anyway I went to the hospital to pick her up with no cash, no credit cards and only my drivers license on me plus about $2500 JA or about $40 US. I thought we’d grab some food in Sav and head back home. No need to carry around all my stuff and it’s safer in the room safe.
We get to the hospital to check my wife out and as soon as we arrive its static. First they won’t let her leave until she is seen by the surgical team to check the work from the night before. Trouble is the surgical team is busy and they may take a long time to come around. According to the girl in the bed next to my wife a lady sat there for two days waiting for them to come around and check her before she could be released. I was not waiting two hours much less two days to get her out of that place. I was there for 10 minutes and I felt dirty. The mosquitoes were thick and the thought of them biting some patient and then me or my children was too much. I tracked down the surgical team myself and informed them they needed to clear my wife as we were leaving. They agreed and about an hour later they came around and did their thing. It took about another hour for them to run the paperwork and so forth before we were handed a receipt and told to go. Since my arrival that morning I was very clear we were leaving and leaving soon. I wanted to be sure we left properly and were discharged in case we ever needed to return. If you leave without being properly checked out they can and will refuse service to you next time. So we waited until they discharged her.
The Sav La Mar hospital is like all other government buildings in Jamaica, covered in steel bars and security guards. The recovery rooms are actually in a multi story building behind admittance and under heavy security. All entrance and exits are locked or guarded by live security officers and each time we came or went it was through one main gate. There are I’m sure other ways in and out but we kept using the one with two guards that carried handheld metal detectors and police batons. As we approached the guards on the way out I was still carrying the bill in my hand and one of them told me that my wife would have to remain at the gate while I went up front to pay the bill. I told them I did not have the cash to pay it but I would gladly make arrangements to pay it soon. The guard told me that was not good enough, I was going to have to pay the bill in full or my wife was not allowed to leave. I told him he was wrong and he needed to check with the hospital because we were told over the phone we did not have to pay for services at that time. We went there for that very reason and did not carry the means to get the money with us. The guards were both pretty nasty with us and honestly I was just over it. I told the guard that I was walking through that gate with my kids in hand and I did not want any trouble. The male guard braced himself between me and the gate and refused us exit. I told them to go find and Administrator to discuss this with but they insisted on pushing me back instead.
I was becoming angry, which is never a pretty scene, and my kids were scared which made me angrier. I moved away from the gate and proceeded through the hospital looking for another way out. I walked through the maternity ward and found a rear exit but as we approached the same guard came running around the corner and slammed me back inside the building. Thats when I lost it. This man tackled me football style and dropped me on my ass. I jumped up and grabbed him. I pushed him and the big female guard bulldog style out the door and into a railing facing the parking lot. I slung my wife and kids out the door and over the railing into the courtyard as the guards regained their footing and starting whooping my butt with their metal detector and baton. The big girl grabbed my hair from behind and dropped to her knees yanking me backwards by the neck until I fell on my head and shoulders. The guy jumped over me and spun us all around as he dragged me back inside and and then placed a knee in my throat as be mashed me into a corner on the floor. The big girl sat on my chest and held my legs wrapped backwards as if to hogtie me. I sat there for a minute to collect my thoughts and figure out how this had happened to me and what to do next. My wife and kids were free. My wife was yelling for me and I told her to just leave, call the embassy and get me the heck out of there. I told her to call the cops because they were beating me and I was scared of what might happen to me. At least the cops wouldn’t kill me right?
So I sat for a minute to catch my breath but I could not breathe because this jerk had my throat blocked. I squeezed out a “I can’t breathe. Please get off my throat” before the jerk ground his knee in deeper and with more force. He actually totally blocked my windpipe and forced me to react. I grabbed him by the balls and yanked as hard as I could. I squeezed him hard and he yelled until the big girl grabbed and choked me. I let go of him and he grabbed his metal detector and proceeded to slam my elbow at least 10 times with some long full swings. I was sure it was broken but xrays reveal they are trained pros. He hit me on the tip of the elbow so it made it seem as if I fell on it but it was not broken. After he whacked me really good I was scared again because I had no idea how serious these people were and if they intended to really hurt me. So big girl starts talking smack and says some things like this is my fault and I’m crazy. She leaned over into my face as she held her arm against my throat and she looked into my eyes. I grabbed her by the ears and jammed my thumbs into her eyes. I actually had my thumbs down alongside her eyeballs at one point and contemplated scooping them out of the sockets but I knew that was over the top and I was going to jail for that. I still had hopes of avoiding jail and just walking away from this all and it would be hard to do so if I blinded one of them. I was still right and I was only defending myself so far. Gouging out eyes is beyond self defense in some peoples view, not mine but some people. Anyway I caused her enough pain to jump up off me and I started wrestling with him again on the ground when I was told the police had arrived. I laid down and waited for them to show.
The cops tried the same crap all pigs try. They start blaming you for everything right away and raise there voices. The lead cop got in my face and told me I was going to jail. I spun around and placed my hands behind my back and said lets go. I can’t wait to see a judge. I can’t wait to call the Gleaner and I can’t wait to meet your boss and the police attorneys when we got to court. Please take me to jail for defending my wife and kids from being kidnapped and held without our will. The cop was surprised to see that I was honestly not scared to go to jail in Jamaica if thats what it came to and I’m not. A jail in Jamaica has Jamaican men in it and I fear no man. So the cop sat me down and told me I was going to jail for damaging government property. I bent some aluminum shutters on a window trying to get out and I was to be charged with the crime. I told him that was fair, I did bend the shutters and it was a crime against the people of Jamaica. I needed to be punished and so did the two guards for kidnapping my family and assaulting me, in front of my children I might add. I would gladly pay for my crimes but I was expecting they would as well. I asked the police officers for the names of my attackers and they told me I was not entitled to them. I asked for a pen and I was told I could not have one. I was told to wait, they were discussing the situation with administration. I said that was great because I was trying to speak with them earlier. I think someone needs to clear up whats really going on. After about 15 minutes the lead police officer walked up to me and waived at the door. He said, “You can go. They can’t hold you and you don’t have to pay”.
I asked about the guards and the cops told me to leave. I told them I wanted to file a complaint and they told me to leave. What else could I do? I left. I got in my van and drove to the Sav La Mar police department where I filed a complaint on the male guard who’s name I was able to retrieve from his badge and Jane Doe accomplice, the big girl guard. I was given a slip and told to report to a hospital for a medical examination. I laughed and went home.
My wife needed to have her wounds redressed every day and the holes they cut into her needed to be packed. We returned to Negril and were advised to go to the Negril Medical Center on Norman Manley Blvd (Beach Road). Not only did they do a great job on her dressings but they had an x-ray machine to look at my elbow which passed inspection after being sent away to a specialist in Mobay. They looked over my arm and the cut I got in my leg and patched me up really nice.
I so wish we had simply waited and gone to see them instead of traveling to Sav La Mar and having the experience we did. If you are in Negril and have a minor medical emergency go to Negril Medical Center. If you have a major emergency and need a hospital go to Montego Bay Hospital and avoid the Sav La Mar hospital unless you’re dying and you want Jah to come and get you.Tags: contact, drivers license, food, Jamaica, Jamaica Tips, jamaica vacation, kingston, mosquitoes, Moving to Jamaica, negril, Negril Jamaica, pharmacy, re, rooms, travel