January 26, 2010

CT Scan in Cartagena

Alex brought in 2010 this year by ignoring a "CAUTION" sign on the slopes of Silverstar and proceeding wildly down a path and through some trees that came to an opening and then a jump and then....nothing but air......and then life flashes before eyes and then hitting the ground and then wondering how he survived.....wondering what he had broke......scared, dazed confused.

Graham and I were the lucky recipients of the phone call at the bottom of the hill letting us know that he was coming back to the paramedic trailer by ski doo and would be there shortly and that luckily he seemed to be ok. Longest 20 minutes of my life. He arrived all bundled up on a stretcher pulled behind the ski doo. I unwrapped the tarp from his face to find a HUGE smile and a shiner on his left eye. He thought he had just been treated to the coolest rescue ever. Since the part of the hill that he landed on was so steep the rescue team had to take him part of the way on a sled by hand and then the second half on the ski doo stretcher/sled. He felt like a king.

The paramedics checked him all out and the good news was that he hadn't lost consciousness and that he seemed to remember the accident. He had a thorough examination and then due to my concern the fellow checking him out had another senior paramedic check him out again. Thumbs up from everyone. Chalked it up to a lesson learned and a frightening experience.

About a week and a half ago Alex complained of a bit of dizziness. It came on while we were doing a 700 piece puzzle together. He felt like he couldn't focus and it also gave him a bit of nausea. Over the past little while he has had 2 bouts of dizziness, 2 headaches, nausea a few times off and on, a couple of times of wonky vision and most recently vomiting. Since his symptoms didn't all come together and really weren't that severe, it took me a while to put them together. The vomiting was the tipping point. He had no other symptoms like you would get with a stomach bug or food poisoning, etc......so here this story begins.....after that very long lead up (sorry)..

Sunday night Graham and I went back over everything that Alex had been experiencing and we both agreed that it would be a good idea for him to see a doctor. At each port when we arrive we always either ask other cruisers for health care information or in most cases there is a document of info made by someone with all important numbers and contacts. This is the case for Cartagena. The dock master at Club Nautico had made a small guide and had the names of several doctors he recommended. Under the advice of one of our new friends here (Kathy on Seastar) I call Dr. Jaime Ambrad at 8:50am on Monday.

Dr. Ambrad picked up the phone himself?? He spoke English and asked what time would be good for me. We arranged an appointment for 10 am. I wrote out the address for the taxi driver and away we went. We knocked on Dr. Ambrad's door and his nurse let us in and we were then led into his office with no wait. My first impression was how kind, genuine and warm he seemed. He was probably in his 60's and he isn't a family doctor. He is a specialist dealing with cardiovascular and thoracic complaints but he is also a fellow sailor and willing to see cruisors with other issues. He treated our appointment as his top priority. He heard the symptoms and also agreed that the nausea/vomiting would have other symptoms associated if it was a bug, etc. He said that he wanted to call some of his contacts who were neurosurgeons and get us a referral. He said that he didn't want us to have to wait and that he would call us with the information but that he would like to arrange for an appointment for this afternoon. He said he wouldn't be charging us for our visit.

Within an hour of being home Dr. Ambrad called and asked us to come back for a CT scan and then a follow-up appointment with one of the top neurosurgeon in Cartagena. We arrived and were taken directly to the lab. Amelia stayed upstairs and waited with the doctor. Alex was thinking that it was pretty cool that he would get to see pictures of his brain. He climbed up on the table and they put his head in the apparatus and after about 10 minutes it was done. We waited about another 10 minutes for the pictures to be developed. During this time the doctor brought Amelia down because he wanted to see the pictures and evaluate them with the specialist at the lab before we went to the neurosurgeon. He came out and gave us the "Thumbs Up" and called us in to look at the pictures. He translated for the specialist and she let us know that there was no internal bleeding or blood clots. All good news. He then offered to drive us across town to the neurosurgeon, since he was done for the day??? You can imagine the SHOCK on my face! He still hadn't charged us and never did and we only paid $110 for the CT scan.

He dropped us off and asked me to call when I left the office and let him know how things went. I was blown away by this doctor. Since we have never been able to get a family physician, I have taken the kids too many walk in clinic doctors in Canada and I am sorry to report that most do not even make eye contact with us. They have been quick and abrupt and we are made to feel as if our concerns are of their last priority. I remember on one occasion even leaving the office crying after the doctor chewed me out for questioning his diagnosis. Ok, so this is why I was shocked by the warmth, caring and sincerity of this man. He was everything I had always thought that doctors should be.

We had the same experience at the neurosurgeons office. We were taken directly in and he evaluated the pictures. He gave Alex a series of tests. He agreed that there was no bleeding, clots or skull fracture. Alex had no problems on all of the tests. Dr. Luis Yarzagaray (Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago) said that he has seen symptoms such as Alex's and that they are a normal effect of the trauma and that they should last for 2 to 3 weeks once they begin and that he would fully recover. He said that Alex should refrain from too much physical activity or anything that will shake things up. He gave me his personal cell phone and said to feel free to call if I have any follow-up concerns.

So that was our Monday. Alex is feeling better now and is only feeling nauseous but we would sure like it to end. We will let you know if anything changes. He is in good spirits and given that he has always wanted to be a neurosurgeon, he said that his day was very inspiring. Dr. Yarzagaray even pointed to a shelf full of huge text books he had written and then pulled one down onto his desk with a thud and said to Alex, "Someday you will read this text book and you will remember me". Very cool.


  1. Alex:
    Silver Star has called here wondering how you were. I will let them know that you have been checked out by a world renowned neurosurgeon!
    Hope you are feeling better before the rock and rolling starts on the open ocean.

  2. Glad to hear it's nothing too serious Alex. Hope it passes quickly. Pretty cool that you got to meet a neurosurgeon and have a CT scan. Too bad he didn't give you one of his textbooks. Have you googled him? Maybe you could read some articles he wrote?

  3. rebecca, sam and julianaJanuary 27, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Great to hear that alex (and all of you) are doing well! what an inspiration for alex, i'm sure he'll bring that compassion to his patients when he is a dr!

  4. well that was scary but I'm glad not too serious. pretty incredible to find doctors like that!

  5. Wow - it's always so worrisome when you are dealing with head injuries, but now you know that he has been completely checked out. Thank goodness for great doctors - they do exist up here too, but are much harder to find!

    Do you get to keep the pictures?

    I bet that you are counting your blessings that he was wearing a helmet. You may want to get the helmet checked out before you use it again..

    Hope Alex feels better soon!


  6. Glad to hear that your scan showed no bleeding or clots Alex. I sure hope your nausea stops soon and your dizziness. When are you planning on sailing? Sure hope the nausea is gone by then. Thinking about you all.

  7. Gee Alex,I wonder that a CT scan wasn't done after you had the accident. I thought there was one done.I hope your symptoms don't continue for too long.Might be a good idea to hold off on the sailing until you are 100%.Better try to relax for a week or so . hope you are feeling better soon and how wonderful to meet a famous Neurosurgeon. Better google him and find out more about him. Take care.......Gail

  8. Super glad everything worked out okay. Alex - no skiing on the boat okay
    Luv Grampa Griff and Nana Cheryl

  9. Glad to hear all is well now. Still have to be careful for a month or so.
    love you

  10. ummm, have you ever thought the nauseau and dizziness might be due to viedo game withdrawl?

    lol...just kidding. Glad you are OK Alex. Miss you guys!