146. A Beautiful Reunion

Reunion Dance GIF from Reunion GIFs Saturday 2/3- Many of you who know me know that once upon a time I was in the military. During a deployment to Iraq nearly 17 years ago (Ugh, I really feel old after saying that!) I got close to 2 battle buddies who I hope will be in my life forever. We were all young girls from MN in a military field where very few women end up and we formed a tight while trying to keep each other as sane as possible during a tough 18 months far, far from home. After the deployment we all ended up back in MN, but only saw each other about once a year. Despite not seeing each other very often, when we do get together it’s like no time has passed and we can step right back into our friendships without any problems. The last time I saw these gals was shortly before we moved down here, and ever since then we always talked about when they would come visit us. That was finally happening! We have been working on planning this for a while, and today was my & Ramie’s d

144. More Firsts: Some Good, Some Bad!

Even after being in Costa Rica for nearly 3 years, every once in a while, we do something that is the first time for us. This week had plenty of them!!

Monday 1/22-Wednesday 1/24- The first official days of the new job are here! While I started on-boarding, getting my systems set up and technology things squared away over the last couple of weeks, today was the first full day. Even though, at the end of the day, I am doing more or less the same type of work that I was doing at the old job, I’m discovering that they do things quite differently here. I’ll be learning lots of new processes and procedures, but I’ll definitely be giving them my recommendations for how to do things differently and more efficiently. I don’t want to be that new guy stepping on people’s toes, so I’ll be taking some baby steps and see how it goes.

Not only is the “new one” pulling me on board for as many hours as they can, tax prep season is starting up too so we had our official start of the season team meeting for that company and I’m getting ready to ramp up with them too. It really seems like everyone needs me this week, but I know it won’t always be like this.

Another thing that is happening this week is that we are getting our driveway concreted. Is it necessary? No, but it will be nice to not have to worry about the gravel washing away into the street during the rainy season. Just like most projects around here, Ramie will be overseeing this project too, and he’s here to tell you a little bit more about it.

Hello everyone, Ivan the jefe (boss) and his 4-person crew showed up bright and early at 5:45 on Wednesday morning to get started. This is the same boss (and possibly some of the same crew) who built our new backyard wall a few months ago. First things first, we talked about how we wanted the driveway laid out, and once that was all decided, the crew would get to work on the preparation and building forms today so they would be ready to pour the concrete the following day. After the layout was agreed upon and explained to the crew, Ivan left and the guys started pickaxing away at the hard lastre (gravel) that our current driveway was made of. For those of you who have been following our blog since the beginning and read about our house build, you may remember that they rarely use heavy equipment down here and all of the hard work is usually done by hand. This project is no different. Three of Ivan’s crew had pickaxes and one had what I would describe as an ice chipper and everything was done by manual labor. They first started digging around the edges where all the forms would be set. 

Perimeter is done, now it's time to remove more dirt and set the form

Once that part was done, two of the guys started cutting wood to the size they needed and began setting the forms. As it turns out, the small apron to my carport had to be removed so that the new driveway would match the existing grade, it was pinned to the slab and the guys had to work extra hard to break it out with sledge hammers and pry bars.

The Apron is removed and forms almost in place
The other two guys continued to dig and remove the lastre inside the forms where the main area of the driveway would be to make sure that everything was dug to the proper depth. They then had to load all that gravel into a wheelbarrow, walked it down the street a short ways and dumped it where we actually needed more dirt outside our fence.  

They worked until around 4:30 and they had it at the point where it was prepared and ready for concrete to be poured tomorrow.

Done and ready for concrete in the morning.

Thursday 1/25- Once again at 5:45am the guys were outside of our gate and ready to continue on our project. As they were getting set up for the day, Ramie went out to talk to them and let them know that e would be leaving them on their own to their work today since we had to do some shopping. It seems like we were just in San Isidro not so long ago, but in reality it had been almost a month since we went to look for the non-existent Christmas clearance sections. We didn’t need so much as far as groceries, which is usually the reason we find ourselves driving the hour over the mountain, this time we had a different reason to go. The last time we were in San Isidro we bought some expensive new batteries that we thought would work in the gate to our property, but as it turns out, they weren’t the right batteries. Randall, our Tico friend, went to San Isidro shortly after we discovered that they were the wrong batteries and tried to exchange them for the correct ones, only what happened instead was that he discovered that the correct ones don’t seem to exist down here (even though the actuators for the gate were bought here). The store wouldn’t let him return the batteries for a cash refund, but they did allow for an in-store credit, but it would only be good for 30 days. Well, if we didn’t want to lose this $100 credit, we had to go back to the store and use it. 

This particular store had a strange variety of items that they kept in stock, and fortunately they had some things that we could use. While they don’t have a ton of inventory, this is one of the very few places that we know of that sells fabric, sewing essentials, and foam like you’d use in seat cushions (and it is actually where we bought the foam we used in the cushions that I made for our old lounge chairs when we first moved into our house). We knew that we wanted to make some covers for the cushions of our new patio furniture because Skye makes a mess with her muddy paws on the light gray fabric.  With as expensive as things are here, we figured that the fabric would use a sizeable chunk of our in-store credit. It turned out that the fabric was much less expensive than we anticipated and we had to find more stuff in this store full of random things to spend the money on. In the end, this $100 bought enough fabric to do the cushion covers that I knew I wanted to do as well as foam, fabric and zippers for future cushions for our dining table benches, and even a few other small things that we picked out just to use up the credit. While what we came home with were not all things that I would have bought right now, it's all stuff that we’ve talked about and we would have eventually probably wanted anyway. I guess I have some new projects to add to my list… they’ll get done someday!

We got home around 1pm today, which is a little bit earlier than usual since we didn't have to make a lot of stops. As we pulled up to our gate, we saw Ivan hooking up a cement mixer to his truck and a different one than the one that was there this morning was now sitting in our yard. Ivan was not too happy as he told us that the motor on the one that they had originally brought here yesterday had died and they still had about a third of the driveway left to finish. We talked briefly about the status and then mentioned that we had some groceries that we needed to get into the house. He told his guys to let us through, and they were very accommodating and made a path through their "construction zone" for us to carry everything from the street up to the house. We decided that the rest of the non-essential stuff like the foam and fabric could stay in the car overnight until we could walk across the concrete tomorrow.

After all the groceries were put away Ramie went to check out the progress on the driveway, and later Ivan showed back up around 3:00 to check the progress again as well. This time while Ivan was here, Ramie had a chance talk to him again about the plan for the rest of the project since it was getting late in the day and they still had quite a way to go. Ivan let us know that the guys would be working on this tonight until they were finished with the entire driveway.

Concrete is done differently here. They poured the entire thing then they go back over it and do a final layer to smooth it out. Also no expansion joints.
Getting smoother.

It was around 6:45pm and plenty dark out (and we already had all the doors and windows closed up to keep the night time bugs out) when we heard Ivan back outside and calling for Ramie to come out so he could let us know they were finally finished. Ivan gave the instructions that for the next several days it was now up to Ramie to water the concrete every few hours during the day. No, not to make it grow, but to keep it “cool”. Since it is so hot down here this is important so that it doesn’t overheat while it’s curing and end up causing cracks or holes. Another home-improvement project on our new house is finished.

Friday 1/26- Its 6am and time to water the driveway. 

Doesn't it look so nice?!?!

Today it was back to work for me, but today I didn’t have any scheduled meetings so I was able to work on things at my own pace and on my own schedule. I was still busy, and I was still trying to figure out how to work with the new boss & co-worker to improve the company’s efficiency. The new co-worker seemed to be completely on board with a couple of the recommendations that I had, now the 2 of us could team up on the boss to make some policy changes. After I was done with the new main job, I had a couple of tax returns to work on—yes, tax prep season is already in full force and it’s not even the end of January yet. Such is life in this field, but these are the choices that I have made!!

It wasn’t a big deal to put in some long hours today even though it was Friday, because Ramie had been called to help out at the shipping company again to unload a 40’ container. Little did we know what this container would bring for us today.

He left the house this morning at around 7am and I was surprised when I didn’t hear from him until about noon when he messaged me saying that there was a ton of hand unloading in this container, there were only 3 of them there working on it, and they were only about half done. He was worn out and taking a break but had to get back at it because they had to finish unloading it so the driver could head back to wherever he had to go. You see, down here instead of dropping off the whole container and allowing the shipping company to unload it at their leisure, they don’t have the equipment to take the container off of the truck, so they have to unload the contents of the container while the driver waits. At around 2:30 Randall, Ramie and the helper were wiped out. Lowell, the owner, was helping on and off when he could, but he had customers to help during the day as well. They were just over halfway done and had so much more left to go. They needed more help but no one was available. Lowell even talked about paying the driver to stay overnight so everyone could rest and start up again the next morning. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option and the driver couldn't stay. Randall made some phone calls and found some more help but they couldn't arrive until after they were done with their regular jobs, so the 3 original workers who had been working on this all day just continued on getting more and more exhausted. Later that afternoon, 4 more people were able to come to help, and by 4:30 pm there were now 8 people unloading. This was absolutely needed because the all day-team was beat!. Lowell was not happy at all with this particular container, and if he had known that it was packed like this he would have made sure that there was a lot more help lined up before-hand.  You see, these containers are not typically like this, and there typically isn't so much hand-unloading necessary.

It wasn't until around 6:30 pm and completely dark out that I finally heard from Ramie again. He messaged me to say that he was utterly exhausted and needed to go sit in the office in the A/C and cool down before he came home. About a half hour later he messaged me again and said that he was not feeling good at all and he had been vomiting. He seemed to be able to think clearly, but he knew he didn't feel right and knew it was not safe for him to drive home so he was going to sit there a while longer to cool down more and see if it passed. He didn’t tell me that everyone else had finished and left for the evening and that he was sitting by himself.

About another half hour had passed and we were still messaging back and forth and he finally told me that he thought he was getting worse and he needed someone to come pick him up. I had no way to get Dusti out of the driveway with the fresh concrete, and we decided that it was best to try to call Geoff or Loren to see if they could just get him home.  We'd worry about the truck tomorrow. I reached out to Geoff & Tracy but didn't get an answer and just left messages for them letting them know why I was calling. At that point, Ramie reached out to Loren who was more than happy to come lend a hand.

When Loren arrived Ramie told him what was going on and that he thought he felt cold and clammy but was also starting to shake. Loren checked Ramie’s skin and felt that it was hot and dry, a danger sign, but he didn't tell Ramie that and just let him keep talking. Loren was very patient and was asking Ramie questions, basically simple tests of things like rolling his tongue and counting backwards from 10. These were the types of questions Loren was asked when he had his heart attack, and was using them to assess Ramie's current state.  Ramie could do it all so that was a good sign that he probably wasn't having a stroke or heart attack. After about 15 minutes of conversation Loren and Ramie thought that it was probably best to go to the hospital to get checked out.

Loren told Ramie that he was going to go pick me up and then he would drive us to the hospital in our truck. Ramie messaged me and tried to assure me everything was ok, but he decided that he was going to go to the hospital and Loren was on his way to get me. I quickly packed an overnight bag (since we learned that even if you don’t expect an overnight, it’s better to be prepared) and before I was done grabbing things, Loren was at the house. Ramie’s one request of things to grab, a puke bucket, it was in my hand before I left the door.

A few minutes after Loren left Ramie to pick me up, Geoff ended up arriving at the warehouse and sat and talked with Ramie too. Ramie filled Geoff in on what was happening and the decision to the hospital.  Geoff took the opportunity to ask Ramie some of those basic medical test questions as well, as Geoff has had two prior strokes and knew some of the stroke warning signs. Geoff confirmed that Ramie passed all of these tests too, so that was another positive, but even to Ramie it was clear that his condition was worsening since the first symptoms started a few hours ago. I am so glad to have good friends available for times like this!!

On my and Loren’s way back to the warehouse we stopped to pick up Nancy who would drive their ATV back home when Loren took us in our truck.  We got back to the warehouse about 8:10pm and didn't waste any time; Loren helped Ramie to the truck, Nancy and Geoff locked up the warehouse office as I was thanking each of them for being there and giving Geoff the keys to our house in case we needed him to go check on Skye, and we were on the road to the hospital at about 8:15. Wouldn't you know it, in January when it is technically dry season here, we ended up hitting rain. Fortunately it wasn’t a torrential downpour, but it was just another stressor added on to everything else going on. Ramie’s intuition was right about the puke bucket and he started vomiting again and his entire body was shaking from his head to his toes. Loren was concerned that Ramie’s nausea was because of his driving but Loren’s driving was just fine and it had nothing to do with that at all. The hospital is about 30 minutes away and we arrived there sometime before 9:00.

The one thing about the hospital we were going to this time is that this is a public (CAJA) hospital, not a private one like we went to when Ramie hurt his knee. Hospitals in Costa Rica are not all created equally and this experience was very different than last time.

Why is there a difference and what’s all this public vs private? To step back a little bit, let me explain that Costa Rica has socialized healthcare. Those of you from the US may not understand what this means, but Canada and the UK have similar systems. What it comes down to for us tonight is that nothing happens quickly, there’s really no sense of urgency by the staff, and you can spend a LOT of time sitting and waiting unless you're dying or bleeding profusely. Loren had a possible solution; tell them you think you're having a heart attack. Ramie certainly didn't look good and that idea just may work. The public hospitals also have a much smaller chance of having people on staff that speak English, since, for the most part, it will be Costa Ricans that visit these hospitals. Loren pulled right up into the Emergency entrance, Ramie and I got out while Loren went to move the truck and wait. I talked to the nurses that were sitting outside the emergency room doors and in my best broken Spanish told them that I think he is having a heart attack. It was entirely possible, we didn’t know what was wrong with him, so I wasn't exactly lying. They immediately got him into a wheelchair, brought him to the intake area and hooked him up to a machine, meanwhile they had me go inside to the check-in counter (to speak to another person who didn’t speak English) and start getting the check-in process started. It took me longer to check him in than it took the nurse outside to check out his vitals on their machine, but whatever they saw must not have concerned them overly much because they just wheeled him into the waiting room where he sat in the wheelchair shaking and rocking back and forth with his eyes closed and head down. This man did not look good at all!!

There were a handful of other people in the waiting room but I think we only waited about 15 minutes after I finished getting him checked in (which felt like an eternity) before they called us back into an exam room to talk to a doctor. This doctor didn't speak English very well and I was having trouble understanding and communicating answers back, so they brought in a nurse who spoke a little bit better English than the doctor to help with the communication. They asked a lot of questions about whether he had taken any drugs, when was the last time he ate, and when the symptoms started. They wanted to do some blood tests to see if it could be from a virus or a reaction to something he ingested, but first they wanted to get Ramie hooked up to an IV.  They had me wheel him to the end of the hallway where they had a little nurses station set up, got the IV in, and then put us in a little cove with about 5 chairs to wait for the blood test results to come back.

It took over an hour before anyone came back to see us and by this time the small bag of IV fluid that they had given him was about half gone. When the doctor called us back to his office to showed us the blood test results he explained that Ramie had severe heat exhaustion (which is what I had suspected this whole time). The full body shaking was happening because his muscles were experiencing small ruptures all over causing them to spasm. He had very low electrolytes but he was not dehydrated (he told me a dozen times thought the day when he was telling me how exhausting the work was that he drank plenty of water, so at least he was good on this one thing), but the worst part of all of this was he had started developing renal (kidney) symptoms because his body was overheated & over stressed. Basically, once you reach a core temperature of over 104*, your kidneys start to fail, and this was the most severe of what was going on with him tonight. His kidney levels were off the charts with the test results being more than 10x what they should be and 4 times higher than the “high” end of the range.  

He actually fell asleep while getting his IV fluid & waiting for the test results

Even though the first bag of IV fluid that they gave Ramie was small and we don’t really know what it was (I’m guessing just standard saline solution), it seemed to help stop his shaking. He had finished this little bag of fluid long before anyone came to get us again and tell us what would be happening next. Eventually, after a shift change and all new people on the floor, someone finally brought a very large bag of IV fluid, this time a high-electrolyte solution and a machine that it would go through before going into Ramie. I’m not 100% certain what this machine was all about, but it may have been to regulate how quickly he gets it. It was around 11:30 pm when we were informed that Ramie would have to spend the night. The doctor told me that there would be a specialist in the next morning to see him and evaluate the next steps, but he would probably be released about mid-morning after the specialist did what he had to do and checked what needed to be checked. 

I guess it was a good idea to pack that overnight bag so at least Ramie could change into some clean clothes since he was still wearing the sweaty, nasty work clothes and boots that he had been wearing since 7am. Unfortunately he wouldn’t get a shower tonight so the clean clothes would have to be enough. Since this is a public hospital, they don’t have private rooms so I wouldn’t be able to spend the night here with him. It turns out that Ramie wouldn’t even be put in one of the shared rooms tonight, and they brought him to a hospital gurney that was lined up against a wall near the nurses station, in the main hallway. There were already 3 other guys hooked up to small IV bags lined up on the wall and around the corner too, all already sleeping. We aren’t sure why they were keeping everyone in the hallway, though, because all of the shared rooms that we could see nearby were completely empty. 

After Ramie got changed into clean clothes I tried to convince him to keep the overnight bag that I had brought him with a phone charger, his toothbrush, and a few other items, but he insisted that since he was sleeping in the hallway and didn’t have anywhere to store it, that he didn’t want to keep it there since someone could walk by and grab it while he was asleep. I tried to convince him just to keep it up on the bed with him, but I still don’t think he was thinking quite clearly and he just wasn’t going to agree with me. We said our goodnights and I headed back out to the truck where Loren had been waiting for us all evening. 

I had been texting Loren, Geoff & Tracy throughout the evening any time we learned something new, but now I’d be able to tell Loren the whole story on our 30 minute drive home. It was a little after midnight by the time we made it back to Uvita and I told Loren that we could stop at his house first, I’d drop him off, and that I’d drive the couple of miles home, but he insisted that he would bring me home and take our truck back to his house for the night. There was no point in arguing, so I just went along with it. Besides, Loren was very willing to drive us back down to the hospital tomorrow morning to pick Ramie up whenever they released him.  

Some of you may not know this, but since coming to Costa Rica I have pretty much stopped driving, and Loren was fully aware of this.  I have only driven down here a couple of times, and although I'm sure it's like driving a bike and you never forget, it was probably for the best that I didn't drive home tonight, even though it was just a couple of miles through town, since it was dark and I was under a lot of stress at the moment.

When I got home and got ready for bed it felt strange, this would be my first night by myself in Costa Rica. Last time Ramie was in the hospital I got to stay with him since that was a private hospital. Skye lucked out tonight because it was well after midnight by the time I crawled into bed and I just let her cuddle up next to my knees and go to sleep instead of putting her in her kennel.

To Be Continued.....

Pura Vida!