Hospital day with Dirk Durban


After our amazing snowboard day at Valle Nevado, where Dirk fell down on ice (on the training slopes as we later emphasised to our travel insurance) we though that he only slightly injured his hand.  But, when the pain did not go away after a week, Dirk decided that it was time to visit the hospital, so off we went to the Clinica Santa Monica in search of a doctor.


The task turned out to be a lot harder than we anticipated.  As with everything in Santiago, you need to get a numbered ticket from a machine (this systems even applies when you want to buy cheese from the cheese stand in the Supermarket – no ticket, no service) and wait for the lady at reception to call you.  Either the lady was not in the mood to deal with foreigners, or maybe she was tired… but we really struggled to understand her when it was our turn, even when she asked basic questions like name and surname, which I can usually answer with ease.  Luckily it wasn’t an emergency and it’s easy to point to wrist and say: ‘dolor’ (pain).

After a painful conversation with hand gestures and pointing to Dirk’s passport, she completed the forms and indicated that we must leave and go to the other side of the hospital.  We weren’t sure where to go or what to do, so we sat in front of a door with a security guard, next to a man in a wheelchair who seemed like he was in excruciating pain, so we figured that we’re in the ‘not yet healed’ section.  The security guard explained (with hand gestures) that we must wait there until something from above (maybe a light?) will tell us to enter.  After a while we noticed that the patients are called by name; so we listened, trying to hear anything sounding similar to ‘ACE’.  I mentioned to Dirk that it’s funny, I heard that they’ve been calling someone with the surname ‘Durban’ twice now (it’s a weird coincidence, as we lived in Durban) …when they called the Mr. Durban for the third time (after waiting for half an hour) we realised that Dirk is the Mr. Durban!  The receptionist lady must have gotten confused with the English passport and decided that Dirk’s surname is Durban! Classic!

Luckily a very friendly English speaking intern helped us, so we knew that at least he understood exactly what the problem is, and the ‘therapist’ aka Boss, Dr. Harambio Diaz (in the picture) also spoke English.  X-rays were taken, Dirk’s hand was bent and pressed and pulled…and the verdict was that he had a compact fracture and needed a cast.  Dr. Harambio was so friendly that he even tried to convince us to leave the hospital without paying because he was sure the hospital will find a way to bill our travel insurance!  As if the hospital has the capacity to track down foreigners’ health insurance providers on the other side of the world!  Are all doctors this clueless as to how the billing/paying systems in a hospital work!?  The reception lady took Dirk’s passport and only handed in back to him after payment was made; maybe they had some trouble in the past where foreigners would just disappear without paying – encouraged by the doctor, no doubt!

It was just our luck that by the time we were ready to pay, the same unhelpful lady from reception had by then moved to the payment section and we had to deal with her again.  The more we tried to explain that our insurance will not accept an invoice made out to ‘Dirk Durban’, the more ignorance she feigned.  A helpful woman with a toddler came to our rescue and explained to the hospital lady that we needed the invoice changed.   While he mother was helping us out, the toddler took the opportunity and spat right in my face on purpose.  “He’s at a horrible spitting age” is not exactly my idea of an apology, but I couldn’t exactly spit back, now could I?!


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