There we were yesterday in Costa Rica on vacation, having a great time, white-water rafting on a beautiful, wild rocky river, careening through a fast-water sluice, when suddenly the force of the water was overturning my kayak-raft, and the next thing ya know I am suddenly out of the boat, in the water, but it’s no big deal because I have survived it and my glasses are still on, but then I felt something odd about the fingers on my left hand and when I look at the hand I knew something was terribly wrong.
It did not hurt and that seemed quite a mystery considering the contorted appearance of my left ring finger–the one that has never, in 34 years, been without the wedding band on it, no not even for one second.
We were very near the end of our white-water rafting phase of this day’s adventure, which had begun with a leisurely horse ride, and was planned by our guide/hosts to move nextly into the zipline and climbing/rappeling phases. After my injury, my expert rafting guide, Ming, accompanied me to see another guy, a supervisory person, who walked me to the spa where there was a gal there with some sort of medical background, but when she saw the finger she declined to intervene because of the possibility that a fracture may be lurking in that twisted digit somewhere.
So it’s off to the emergency room I go. That was their decision. Safest medical decision for this American guy’s well-being, as well as the hosts’ insurance and all that legal stuff. Now this was fine, by me, because I didn’t like the looks of the finger, but it still did not hurt. A few minutes later, I’m back at the breezy, backwoodsy reception building, starting point of our GoAdventures/Canon El Viejo escapade, which has turned out to be life-threatening. No, not really, just kidding.
José, the very friendly manager of the outpost, will be driving me the short distance, less than a dozen kilometers or so, to the hospital in the city of Liberia. While I’m sitting on the bench, waiting for José on the porch outside, I look down at my finger displayed against the black background of the seat cushion, and so with my other hand I snapped a little pic:
Now in all my 63 years I have never had a broken or disjointed bone, so this is all new to me. And I’m looking curiously at this distorted digit and it still does not hurt, which is mysterious. But still, in the back of my mind I’m wondering if I’ll ever play guitar again, which I’ve been doing since I was fourteen, and I have spent years in my youth pining away for music, writing songs and recording them in Nashville and Asheville and so forth. The mind, you know, can whack out with fears and speculations about the dire implications of this unprecedented, state of the twisted finger. And then there are the three novels I’ve written, and the four hundred blog posts, including the one you are reading now, and so forth and so on and will I ever write on my little Mac again?
Nevertheless, José seems like a really nice guy, smiling and relaxed, and now he’s driving me to hospital and furthermore I’m a Christian and it seems that all is well in spite of the crookedness. It still does not hurt. Isaiah had said that the crooked shall be made straight. I hear this sung every Christmas season while listening to the tenor sing in the chorale, Handel’s Messiah: . . .”the crooked straight, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”
A little while later, José gets me to Hospital Enrique Baltodano Briceńo and we settle into the waiting room. My adventurous morning on horseback and white water raft has now become this:
But it’s okay. It’s all good, because I am finding that the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are very pleasant to be around, even in a hospital waiting room. Furthermore, I’m starting to wonder about those three ceiling fans spinning slowly overhead, because the place is cool and there is no air conditioning. Costa Rica is about 11 degrees from the equator, and this Sale de Espere is quite breezy and cool.
I was born and raised in the deep South of USA, where air conditioning is next to religion, nehis and moon pies in collective cherished memory and necessity. How do they it here, so cool without A/C? Part of the mystery, and my finger still does not hurt. All these people are waiting patiently. The are beautiful, gentle people, with good children and friendly, accommodating medical personnel.
There is something special about Costa Rica.
After about forty-five minutes, my turn comes to go into the little adjacent room for the medical assessment and whatever treatment is indicated. Jose accompanies me. In the small examining room, about the size of a dorm room, a very lovely Doctora is sitting behind a desk. I notice also that she happens to me a raven-haired beauty. She asks to see my hand. I lift the left hand so she can see it plainly, right in front of her, just a foot or so from her face. She looks at the hand with a clinical eye. Doctora Lorna touches the crooked finger gently, then glances at me, ostensibly to assess my reaction. She looks back at the the finger; then with no discussion or hesitation she very nimbly, minimally, grips the fingertip, with one hand, on both sides of my fingernail and moves the crooked part to its correctly aligned position. Voila! Nothing too it, like spreading butter on bread.
And it still does not hurt!
We were in and out of that healing room in five minutes. Doctor’s Lorna’s expert Tico touch was all it took. Neverthless, we were at the hospital for two and a half hours, because it is after all, a hospital. José was managing the various stops for admission to this that or the other department, or person-behind-glass for record-keeping red tape etc etc etc.
Next stop would be the radiology department, where the X-ray would, and later did, confirm that no fractures haunted my straightened finger. We ambled through a long, busy breezeway to get there. Concrete breezeways connect all the departments. Everywhere we go in this medical facility, breeze is blowing gently, pleasantly cooling the Ticos as they go from ER to radiology or urology or whatever.
After a fairly predictable quarter-day there, we managed to stroll through the whole hospital adventure, after Jose paid the bill. Here he is with the precious receipt in hand:
It had taken him an hour to get that receipt. I suppose Dr. Lorna’s diagnosis, prognosis and treatment had been so swift that they couldn’t find much to charge us for, and so the persons-behind-glass who handle the payment end of hospital business might have been a little confused, or maybe, as we say in the States, “covered up with (paper)work.”
What I learned from all this is: everywhere you go in Costa Rica, the people are patient, happy, and not weighted down by the slings and arrows of high-stress stuff like us Americans. I think that’s why many Americans dream of retiring there. The Ticos are, as the millenials say. . .”chill,” or as the hipsters used to say, “cool,” even though the country is only 10 degrees from the equator.
The Ticos have a name for their national attitude: Pura Vida!