How You Go From Paradise to a Broken Leg w a Nail & 2 Screws

How do you from this???
To this???

The trip started great!  We were in paradise aka Jaco Beach, Costa Rica and slowly relaxed. The humidity was doing dreadful things to our hair but we knew that we weren’t there to look pretty.  We were excited to start our surfing and beach adventure.  Of the group, 2 of us had been surfing before (I was one of them) and it had been a while since either one of us were back on a board.  We were looking forward to hanging out, getting sun, and being out on the water.

On the day of our arrival, we got to the hotel and took some time to walk along the beach and re-connect.  I’ve been to beaches on both coasts as well as Hawaii so I’m very accustomed to seeing white sand.  This coastline was black.  The sand was so soft and felt like it was from the Dead Sea…so fine not a coarse grain to be found.

We decided that we wanted to go to a local place for dinner so I inquired at the front desk about getting a cab and having them drive us to the recommended destination.  As we entered and noticed the sign for homemade apple pie and NY style cheesecake, we knew that we had hit upon a gringo bar…not exactly what we had in mind. I’m sure that the front desk thought that as Americans, we were risk averse.  For us that wouldn’t have been an adventure!  So we finished eating our chips/guacamole/salsa and had our fill of the local brew called Bavaria and headed out to see where the locals were eating.  We saw families eating at an outside patio and decided to check it out.  

Since we were along the beach, we decided on ceviche along w shrimp and rice. 

The food was good and we were ready to move onto one of my favorite activities: grocery shopping!  We ventured into the local grocery market where if we wanted, we could purchase discounted Christmas gift bags along with a variety of mayonnaises. One of the things we noticed while we were out and about was that the locals really enjoy mayo! who knew???  Since we wanted to stay hydrated, we bought lots of bottled water and got fresh fruit for our snacks.  who wouldn’t want to eat the fruit??  It looked so mouthwatering!

We finished the night with gelato and sorbet then hit the hay so that we could get enough rest to start the next day with a 7:30 Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) lesson.  Since I’ve always been an early riser, I was up by 5:30 and reveling in the quiet beauty – mccaws were flying outside of the windows and I could hear and see the waves crashing.  A thunderstorm had passed through that night and the area was still a little damp.  everything looked so lush and the various shades of green were just so beautiful against the blue backdrop of the water.

We all headed out to the beach and our instructor, Dave took us out individually into the water.  It was nice to head in and not have to wear a wet suit.  the temperature was refreshing while also a little warm.  2 of the girls had gone a little farther out than what Dave wanted so he asked me to corral them closer.  when you SUP, you want to be past the break of the waves so that you can be in calmer waters.  You use the same technique as you when you go out to surf by padding to your destination of where you wan to SUP.  My previous experience of SUP is in the estuaries of the  Chesapeake Bay.   The water is still still still so there’s not a lot of movement.  Getting up on the board was a little different than being in still water but the technique is similar to when you surf.  Keep a wide stance and keep your knees bent.  The paddling motion will give you the momentum to glide along the water.  We kept moving farther and farther out as the waves kept coming in closer. It was beautiful – I saw pelicans float from the sky to scoop down towards the water to get their “breakfast” and the other girls saw stingrays jumping out of the water.  I’ve always enjoyed the water but since I started spending more time surfing, I’ve come to better appreciate all of the beauty that is the ocean.

After spending nearly 2 hours going back and forth on the water, we thought it would be a good idea to re-hydrate and fortify.  We got breakfast and resumed the non-stop catching up session.  We re-grouped at the pool and relaxed before we headed back to the water for our surfing lesson.  We had 2 instructors between the 4 of us.  They gave us our on land instruction – how to paddle out, how to pop up, how to position your feet and shoulder to help move you in the right direction, and most importantly, the ways you can protect yourself when/should you crash.

Needless to say, it’s difficult to remember all of the positions and what you’re supposed to be doing when you have adrenaline and all you want to do is stay on the board.  I went out on 2 waves and saw that my friends were returning their boards to the beach.  My instructor told me that it looked like one of my friends, JHU had sprained her ankle.  I rushed back and there she was on a lounger holding onto her right leg.  Fortunately there was a clinic nearby and one of the camp staffers drove JHU to the clinic for x-rays.  My other friends and I washed up and got the essentials so that we could cab over to the clinic.  

When we arrived, JHU was getting x-rayed and we were trying to figure out her health insurance situation.  None of us had international access on our cell phones.  I had my iPad and my blackberry so we could email.  I contacted JHU’s brother, who happens to be a doctor and since he was on call, he got their mom, MamaHU to help.  I emailed all the pertinent info from her health insurance card and the phone numbers that she could call.  With it being the weekend and as well as a holiday, it was difficult to get a person on the phone.  The doctor saw on the x-rays that there were 3 fractures to her right leg, which meant that she had to be moved to a hospital and be seen by an orthopedic surgeon so that they could immediately repair the damage.  The closest hospital was close to 2 hours away so all 4 of us hopped into the ambulance and whirled ourselves to the hospital in San Jose.  

2 hours later, we arrive to the ER and JHU was admitted.  The attending physician along with the orthopedic surgeon, who we will call Dr. Suave (along the lines of Rico Suave) gave a final diagnosis.  Her surgery was scheduled for that night at 11pm. I was emailing MamaHU to give her updates.  She was having difficulties with the insurance so with the trusty iPad, I took a photo of the insurance card and emailed it to her.  She was able to connect with me over the phone by calling the ER number and we all tried our best to re-assure her.  The other girls and I decided that instead of driving back to the beach, where all of our belongings were we would stay the night.  A cab ride back would cost $100+ so it just made sense to rent a car.  So with the help of expedia, I checked for a rental car and reserved a 4 door sedan so that when it was time to discharge JHU from the hospital, it would be easier to get her inside a car instead of hopping into a SUV.

Luckily for us, there was a Marriott  Residence Inn steps away from the hotel.  So after JHU went into surgery, we walked over to see if there were any rooms “in the inn”.  We got a 2 bedroom w sleeper sofa w a full kitchen so we caught a few minutes sleep before we set the alarm for 2:30am so that we could be there when she woke up from surgery.  After making sure that she was doing OK, CTRAN stayed at the hospital while NM and I headed back to the hotel.  

The next day, NM and I grabbed the rental car and made the 1 hour 45 min drive back to the beach hotel so that we could check out and get our belongings.  It was so great to have NM serve as co-pilot/navigator because for some reason, Costa Ricans don’t like to use road signage!!  The hotel and the surf camp staff were so accommodating and offered to credit us for the unused lessons and hotel stay.  After settling up at the beach hotel, we drove back and this time in rain so that made the drive a little more interesting 🙂  One lane roads w tractor trailers and no guard rails always make for a fun drive!

When we got back to the hospital, we visited w JHU and Dr. Suave came by to give us an update of what happened during the surgery.  essentially, he inserted a titanium nail the length of her right leg from her knee to her ankle and she has 2 screws to keep the nail in place.  Since the nail provides the stability needed for her to keep her leg straight and aligned with her left leg, she doesn’t need a cast.  

Check out those screws!

She got discharged and we moved her to the hotel down the street.  She was originally scheduled to travel back with me to DC but with her current condition, Dr. Suave wanted to postpone travel until later in the week so that they could prevent blood clots.  The next day CTRAN picked up a letter from Dr. Suave so that we could get JHU’s travel adjusted without penalty.  That meant looking for the closest TACA airline office so that she could go in and change her ticket.  Thank goodness for GPS and google maps.  We drove to the office, got the new ticket and headed back to the hotel.

All this in a Spanish speaking country where 2 of us (I’m so not in this count!) speak the language well enough to communicate.  By now, I’m traveling back to DC while CTRAN & JHU are still in Costa Rica.  I miss my friends already and can’t wait until the next time we get to see one another.  

What have I learned about this whole experience?  Learning another language is absolutely essential.  Never let a broken anything get in your way to maintaining a positive attitude.  Something I already knew – Value your friends because they really will do whatever it takes to help.  I think I might sign up for the Amazing Race with them.



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