Before heading to Costa Rica, I was convinced someone in our family would become infested with whatever jungle bacteria was floating around down here and end up being airlifted to the Mayo Clinic. The question was who would contract the crippling fever and bone-snapping shakes first.
Pam jumped to an early lead by spending her first week here rolling around face first on rotting, germ-laden yoga mats that looked as if they hadn’t been washed since B.K.S. Iyengar was still in diapers. Combining the yoga mats with her insistence on petting, hugging and generally molesting any stray animal that came within 50 feet of her, Pam seemed destined for nausea and bleeding from the eyes before anyone else. She shot herself in the foot and blew her lead, though, by eating bucketfuls of vegetables and vitamins each morning. Tough luck, Pam.
I took over the lead by maintaining a diet consisting solely of cold Imperial beer and room temperature sea bass purchased out of a plastic bucket at the Saturday “fresh” market. This seemed like a sound strategy for landing me in the emergency room first, but I must have screwed up the proportions and dumped so much beer into my system that no virus or bacteria could have possibly survived. My health remained strong, with the exception of pounding headaches each morning.
With Pam and I holding steady, the race became Rae’s to lose. She was the darling of Las Vegas odds makers given the fact that she’s a child. Children breed disease.
She didn’t disappoint. On a Sunday evening two weeks ago, she began complaining about having a terrible headache. Recognizing the symptoms, I got worried and immediately checked my supply of Imperials. Finding none missing, I decided to take Rae’s temperature. She clocked in at 99.6 degrees.
By the next morning Rae’s temperature was up to 101 degrees. She also started complaining about having a bad sore throat. We kept her home from school. She spent the day reading, eating noodle soup and whispering orders to us rather than yelling them.
That night her fever spiked to 102 degrees. The sore throat remained. We threw some Children’s Advil at her, wished her good luck and went to bed. On Tuesday morning nothing had improved. She stayed home from school again.
Her symptoms worsened on Wednesday so Pam and I decided it was time to try out Costa Rica’s health care system. I grabbed Rae, who was burning up, and we all headed down the street to the Monteverde clinic.
I was expecting the clinic to be a little bit on the rustic side with maybe a few stethoscopes and a handful of dirty syringes, but it actually had all the latest equipment.
Unfortunately, it was latest all-terrain vehicle equipment. The Monteverde clinic also doubles as the local Honda ATV/Quad dealership.
The nurse/salesman asked us a few questions, checked Rae’s tire pressure, then told us to wait for the doctor.
The doctor was a young man and Monteverde native with the decidedly un-native name of “Dr. Johnnie Tong.”
Dr. Tong took Rae’s temperature, poked her in the stomach for a few minutes and looked down her throat. I was researching helicopter charter companies on my iPhone when Dr. Tong announced his verdict.
“She has an infection.”
“What kind of infection?” I asked. “Malaria infection? Dengue infection? Bubonic plague infection?”
“An infection infection. It’s in her throat. Here’s a prescription for some antibiotics.”
Antibiotics? That’s pathetic.
What about helicopters? Jaws of Life? The made-for-TV movie featuring me carrying an unconscious Rae on my back while hacking through the jungle with a machete until we reach Westernized medical care?
Azithromycin and cough drops are for Gringo pussies. I didn’t come all the way down here just so my daughter could get a measly sore throat.
This trip sucks.