Since moving to Ambergris Caye in late August, we've been quite healthy overall. This isn't unusual for us as we tend to avoid most of the viruses that go around, at least in part because we're around young children only infrequently. In recent years I actually went four years without a single cold, while my co-workers seemed to catch every bug going around. Barry and I both caught a cold with a cough around the Christmas/New Year's holidays, but we weren't sick enough to require doctor's visits.
That changed this week. Barry had been tending to a fingertip that was a bit red, swollen, and infected. He thought it probably started when he poked his fingertip with the sharp blade while cleaning our blender a month ago, but it could have stemmed from a small cuticle tear around his nail that became infected. Whatever the cause, it wasn't getting any better; in fact, it was getting worse. He'd been soaking it and squeezing it, applying antibiotic ointment and Band-Aids, but none of this self-care was helping. The area around his nail was red, swollen, and there were a few pustules visible.
Google to the rescue! He determined that what he had was most likely Paronychia
, a skin infection around a fingernail or toenail. And since the various websites he read indicated that antibiotics were probably going to be required, he decided (with some urging from me) to call Dr. Lerida Rodriguez. We'd heard good things about her and pass her office frequently, since we often shop at Maria's for fruits and vegetables, right next door.
Barry called her office at around 3 pm yesterday, thinking he might get an appointment for today, but she was actually able to see him at 5 pm the same day. Not bad! Most private doctors in the US don't even work past 5 pm other than perhaps one night a week or on an emergency basis.
He rode his bike down to his appointment and was in and out of the office in 30 minutes. Dr. Rodriguez operates a pharmacy right off her office, so she was able to give him the antibiotics she prescribed, along with some epsom salts to soak his finger, without him having to make a trip to another "pharmacia" in town. Very efficient.
I believe her home behind her office is for sale, not the office or pharmacy
Behind the gate
The total cost for the office visit plus antibiotics was $140 BZD ($70 US). The cost for the equivalent generic medication in the US would be approximately $70 for someone without prescription coverage, about the cost of the office visit AND medication for Barry. Since we have only catastrophic health care coverage here in Central America, we pay as we go for any other medical expenses; fortunately, care is much less expensive here than in the US.
Today, his finger is looking a little worse, as more pustules are rising to the surface of his skin, probably due to the epsom-salt soaks drawing it out. Hopefully the antibiotics will start to take care of the infection soon, and they should if it is a bacterial infection and not fungal. The doctor wants to see him again on Thursday to ensure that it is improving.
Today we bought him some probiotic capsules at GoNature and some probiotic yogurt to help maintain proper intestinal flora as he takes the antibiotic.
Today - redder and more pustules visible
We are frequently asked about health care in Belize and on Ambergris Caye in particular, so I guess the silver lining of Barry's ailment is that we finally have first hand (or first finger?!) experience with medical care here. So far, the experience has been a positive one. You can't argue with quick, efficient, and reasonably priced service and medications!