Inside León’s Public Hospital

Hospital, Emergency, León, Nicaragua, expat

I took a friend to the León’s Heodra Hospital emergency room last week. I received a frantic call from a friend who went to the market and suddenly began to feel very dizzy, nauseous, and achy.

She was offered a chair, a cool drink, and a tortilla by one of the vendor’s. They both hoped that this would make her feel better. We didn’t realize that the situation was going to escalate.  My first thought was dehydration. The sun and heat in León can be brutal. It is vital to stay in the shade or use an umbrella whenever possible.

I offered to walk up to the market to help her. She said she was fine. She needed a quick rest before finishing her shopping. But in less than a minute, her breathing was labored and she couldn’t move her hands.

I locked up the house and rushed up to the market. I found her trembling uncontrollably, it looked like someone with Parkinson’s that was also freezing. I immediately flagged a cab and helped her into the front seat.

We were only two blocks away, it would have been much faster to walk under normal circumstances. She was having trouble breathing and her balance was off.

As we entered the Emergency Room, I got her a wheel chair, and helped her to get checked in. There were all kinds of people standing and sitting around waiting to be helped. I was stunned by the lack of emotion from the nurse at the reception desk. My friend had just told her that she couldn’t breath, she couldn’t move her hands, and that they were going numb. The nurse asked for her ID and continued filling out the registration form.


When she finished, I took the form from the nurse and wheeled my friend to triage. There were two doctors seated at desks. One took her form, read it and took her blood pressure. Again there was not emotion of any kind. I understand  that these doctors see  hundreds of patients a day and are unaffected by seeing sick people nor traumatic injuries. I guess I just expected a little bit of urgency after she told the doctor that she was having trouble breathing, she couldn’t move her hands, and the numbness was getting worse.


Now I was thinking to myslef, could this possibly be a stroke?

I had walked by this hospital often, and always wondered what it must look like on the inside, if this is how it looks from the street.

Once inside it was obvious that I was not in U.S. Hospital. I was hesitant to make any premature  judgements about the care they provided. A doctor is a doctor.

I kept looking around and thinking to myself, this is a hospital? It looked like something out of an old movie. I felt like I was in an episode of M*A*S*H.

The smell antiseptic and rubbing alcohol filled the hallways. At least it smelled clean.

After the first liter of two IVs was administered she was starting to feel better. After a couple of hours she went upstairs to the lab to get her blood and urine samples tested. She was later released with a couple of prescriptions.


In the end it turned out to be a severe case of dehydration. I think she may have suffered a slight panic attack as well. Strange country, strange symptoms, strange hospital, it was understandable.

The whole time I was thinking, “I can’t wait until they build that new hospital.” The government is in the process of constructing a new hospital several blocks (and probably years) away. Spain is putting up the 63 million Euros to build it. It is being pitched as a state-of-the-art hospital in northern Nicaragua. Managua, already,  is home to one of the most reputable hospitals in Central America and certainly in Nicaragua.

Granted I was only in the emergency area, but I was curious about how the other floors looked. How the patient rooms looked. How the surgical ward looked.


After the traumatic ordeal, she felt much better.  She was also more confident about the treatment in a Public Hospital. Though initially she was nervous about what kind of treatment she was going to receive, the hospital staff did what needed to be done in a timely fashion.

Triage, treatment, labs, prescriptions, and discharge – in under four hours. Try that in a U.S. hospital. And it was all FREE.

Viva León, Jodido!

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