Living at the Beach. What would you do in the case of an emergency?

By Keith Clower


When I first moved to Costa Rica, almost six years ago now, it was just my wife Becky, myself and our German Sheppard, Lilly. Fast forward to now, add another dog and two little boys, Kian (age 4) and Elijah (age 2) and my life is completely different than what I would have imagined when I first moved here. One of the things we looked for when buying our first home in Costa Rica was we wanted something walking distance to the beach and a short drive to services. We liked the idea of being “off the beaten path” and not in the middle of town, but still close enough to go out and have a nice dinner at a restaurant every once in a while. One FAQ we get from friends, relatives and clients are, “what would you do in case of an emergency?” To many people, they think we live more than off the beaten path, but more like “in the middle of nowhere”.

When my wife was pregnant, that became more of a concern, so we developed an action plan in case we needed it and we also planned on moving close to the hospital where the baby was to be born, a month before, just to be safe. Gracias a Dios, we had two problem free deliveries and everybody’s happy. Since then I’ve always felt comfort knowing there are several small clinics in the Tamarindo/Grande/ Conchal/Flamingo area with some pretty good doctors. In case something did come up I had my “action plan” all ready to go depending on the scenario. Last week I had the opportunity to put my action plan to the test.

Our oldest son, Kian, loves (or I should say “loved”, because I don’t think he’ll do it anymore) to swing on the “porton” – the entrance gate, even though he’s been told hundreds of times not to. He finally found out why he wasn’t supposed to swing on the gate when he put his hand on the gate and smashed the tip of his pinky finger when the gate abruptly met the metal beam which it is welded too. I had just been outside playing futbol with him and two of his Tico buddies. The nanny was there with my other son, as well as another employee who works for our company. I went inside to get some water and use the bathroom. That’s when I heard the scream.

In our house, it’s not uncommon to hear screams or crying because one of them is always falling, slipping, pinching one another or whatever, but this time I knew it was bad because of the kind of scream it was. I’ve learned to judge the severity of the accident by the amount of time between the intensity of the initial scream, the inhalation in between and the wailing that comes after. In this instance, the inhalation time was so long, I knew the wail that followed was going to be huge! And it was! I came out of the bathroom to find blood gushing down my son’s hand and arm and he was hysterical. So much so, that even his little brother started crying because I assume he was scared. I had to get a look at his finger to see exactly how bad it was. My immediate response was to put ice on it but he wouldn’t let me get anywhere near it. I got him in my lap, got a bowl of ice water and put his hand in it to help with the pain as well as clean it so I could evaluate the damage. The distal part of his pinky finger was pointed laterally and the skin was open pretty wide. So I knew I had to get him do a doctor. I called my wife because I was unfortunately without a car. She was on her way, but I had to leave soon, so I borrowed my neighbor’s car and I met my wife at the clinic. It was then determined we had to get x-rays.

The next 50 minutes was tough. It was prime time in the middle of Semana Santa, the roads were packed and we had a hysterical 4 year old in the car who didn’t understand why I couldn’t make the pain go away. The drive seemed like forever. Luckily during the drive time we were able to call ahead and arrange an orthopedic doctor to meet us at a private clinic in Liberia where we could have x-rays and determine the next course of action. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it there, had the x-rays and luckily it was determined it wasn’t broken, but instead smashed so bad, it almost cut the tip off. It also destroyed the nail. So now we had to numb it up, clean it up and put it all back together. That process was enough for an entire story alone, but in the end we all walked out and my son even said in his excellent Spanish, “gracias doctor por ayudarme”. Kian fell asleep two minutes into the drive home. I was glad there was a happy ending and my action plan worked even with a few curve balls in there (like being at home without a car).

As we drove home, we passed the areas where two new private hospitals are currently being constructed by CIMA and Clinica Biblica. I couldn’t help but think how great it will be to have those excellent kinds of options in the future. It would have saved at least 20 minutes off our arrival time. Even people who live in certain parts of the Central Valley are still 20-30 minutes away from those mentioned medical centers near their home. I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last rush to the emergency clinic …not with these two boys. So I’m excited to know that should something else happen in the future, quality medical help will be that much closer!