It was a dark and stormy night (we’ve always wanted to start a post like that!). The rain was coming down hard, a rare event in Manta, and our power had just gone out. In fact, looking out our 11th story apartment windows, it appeared that the power had gone out in much of the city. We decided to call it a night and started the usual preparations to get ready for bed. The screech from the generator powered intercom startled us around 8:45 PM and the security guard at the entrance to the property engaged us in a fractured dialogue involving our basic Spanglish with the attendant miscommunications. Finally, we came to understand that the physician we had seen twice to treat Enfermo’s bronchitis was at the entrance.
His daughter, Jema, a second-year medical student, came on the line and explained that she and her father were concerned about Enfermo’s health and were making a house call. After we shut our gaping mouths, we invited them up to the apartment and then hurriedly changed out of our sleeping attire and back into street clothes.
The back story is immaterial but through circuitous means the doctor had learned that the nebulizer he had loaned us for inhalation treatments was not working properly and they had come to investigate the possible causes of the problem. Upon deciding that yes, there was a problem with the machine, which of course didn’t work now because the power was out, the doctor and his daughter insisted that we get in their car and go to a pharmacy with power and test it there. So, with Jema driving, we set off into a black night and an entirely different view of Manta. In addition to the nonfunctioning street lights, many of the traffic lights were also unlit and we slipped and slid on wet, slick roads up and down the steep, winding city streets through a crazed checker board of darkness and illumination.
We found an open pharmacy and after turning on the device the doctor was able to ascertain that the compressor could not produce sufficient force to vaporize the medicine. This perplexed Dr. Cedeño, as it was a new machine, but he quickly thought up a solution. Once again, we set off through the rain-speckled, night streets in quest of another nebulizer at his office which was located in the teaching hospital at La Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manabi where he rounded daily. Upon our arrival at the university campus the doctor ran into his office only to discover that the equipment that he had envisioned loaning to us was no longer there. But, (Aha!) he had one other option, an older model in his office across town at the Clinica Americana where we had first met him.
Setting off on our quest once again, we talked about the improbability of this ever happening in the United States. A physician, with his medical-student daughter, making unsolicited house calls out of concern for the health of a patient. Both of them expressed incredulity at what we described and explained that it was quite common in Ecuador. Part of the physician’s job was to see the patient in the home, as necessary, and here the family would listen to the doctor and also be a part of assisting with patient care.
At last, with a serviceable machine in hand, we arrived safely at our apartment shortly before 11 PM and were deposited at the gates expressing our profuse, totally inadequate thanks for the care, concern and unbelievable efforts just bestowed upon us. Shaking our heads as we mumbled “incredible!” the thought dawned upon us that there had been no discussion of compensation. Only in Ecuador. Only in a land far away from where we once called home.
By Richard and Anita