I’m going to start by saying that this happened over a month ago. Spoiler alert: I’m ok.
It was a Wednesday when I started feeling ill. High fever, sweating, and barely able to sleep.
On Thursday I had the same symptoms… but during the day, my legs started to hurt and I developed small red dots on my arms. I knew it was time for me to seek professional help.
I first stumbled into a private hospital… the security guard was nice enough to point me in the direction of a public one.
I’ve never felt more like a foreigner than I did when I walked into Centro de Salud del Puerto. Don’t get me wrong: the people were super friendly, I was just very aware that I was in a foreign country, speaking a different language, and asking for help in a time of need.
I showed them my arms and explained in (broken) Spanish that I was an American looking to see a doctor. Everything from there on out was a mix of English, Spanish, and Google Translate going in-between the two.
[Which, by the way, worked out very well for me. I wrote up the timeline of my conditions in Google Translate and had that ready to go in Spanish whenever I talked to someone new. Additionally, Google Translate has an awesome feature where it can listen to someone and translate what they’re saying. Super, super helpful.]
After a little while, I saw a doctor. They tested me for strep. Nothing. They asked about my vaccinations. All good, including chicken pox (but that’s a story for another time).
Working under the assumption that it was something viral, they sent me home with a Paracetamol prescription for my fever and told me to come back in three days if I was still sick or if my symptoms changed.
On my way out, I asked how much I needed to pay. Nada. They told me that if I needed to pay then they would send a bill in the mail, but otherwise their services were free. They were surprised that I asked this. I was surprised that I didn’t have to pay.
Fast forward through Friday to Saturday… my symptoms definitely started to change. The small red dots started to disappear and in their stead appeared larger red spots on my arms and legs. It was like all the red dots decided to get together and have a party in the form of larger spots.
I started getting other symptoms too. A cough, chest pain, and sores around my mouth. [I looked these up later, and I think these were a side effect of the Paracetamol. I stopped taking it when my fever started to decline.]
On Saturday, I was in so much pain that I genuinely wasn’t sure if I would be able to get myself to the hospital if my symptoms got worse and I waited another day. It was time to head back to the Centro de Salud.
One of the doctors from Thursday was there, so we had a little exchange and he had another doctor check me out. After some questions and conversation, they told me… well, I think they told me… that their blood testing facilities weren’t as extensive as a larger hospital’s, so I should go to a different hospital to get a blood test.
Off I go again, this time to Hospital Universitario de Gran Canaria Doctor Negrín.
I took the bus and… woah. The university hospital was huge. I walked into the first door I saw, found an information desk, and asked for directions to the emergency room. The woman started giving me directions… and saw the confused look on my face, and asked me “you don’t understand, do you?” I sheepishly said that my Spanish wasn’t that great and she sent a nurse with me to the emergency room.
A little while later, I spoke to a nurse, then was put in line to see a doctor. The doctor had no idea what was wrong with me. He even talked to another doctor and busted out a medical book, which is always confidence inspiring.
Finally, he decided that the best thing for me to do was to get a blood test… but not at the university hospital. I think he said that it would take longer for him to get the results back from a blood test there than it would be for me to go back to the Centro de Salud a couple days later. I told him that they had sent me to him, to which he said that I should not go into the emergency room and instead I should ask for a personal doctor because I was going to be in Gran Canaria for a while. He gave me a note to give to the doctor and sent me on my way.
At this point, I was feeling a little defeated. I was proud of myself for going to multiple hospitals to get help, but disappointed that the only thing that resulted from it was a note to see a primary care physician a couple days later.
The next day, I started to feel a little bit better. Everything was starting to subside. Not by a lot, but a little bit.
Same thing the following day. I decided not to go back to the Centro de Salud because things were headed in the right direction.
And soon enough, I was fine.
So what happened?
I don’t know. The doctor at the university hospital didn’t tell me this, but in the note that he sent with me, he threw out the idea that I could have erythema nodosum. I know you’re going to look that up… just don’t. It’s a little bit similar to what I had, but it doesn’t look the same, at least from what I can tell.
I’m grateful that I’m feeling better now, and I’m especially grateful that I was able to get medical attention, for apparently free, here in Spain.