Sunday, November 22, 2015

Plights of Socialized Health Care and Other 3rd World Delights

In the 3 months that I have been in and out of hospitals, it never once occurred to me to ask about my vision. It took me a couple of weeks sulking on the fringes of training to actually internalize the fact that I had been living quite some time with only one eye .Will it ever return to normal, will I lose peripheral vision, and how long before the gas dissolves and I can see clearly again. These all would have been fantastic questions to pose to the doctor, but in the end, they never even crossed my mind.

I only ever have one question: when can I train again. The doctors have come to know me now, so at the end of every meeting they put their clip board down, look me in the eyes, and stress to me the need to stay still. Hours of waiting in lines, eye drops, and staring into bright lights have molded me into a veteran of Brazilian socialized health care system. There are doctors with selfies of me on their phone floating around in several hospitals (because seriously? why would she let someone one kick her in the face?) 

Catching multiple buses to unknown locations, at 5 A.M, in an unnaturally cold and remote town is a distressing contrast to cruising on a long board down the beaches of Ipanema. Adjusting to the desolate landscape was hard enough when I was a fully functioning fighter, but now, as an invalid, separated front he rest of my teammates, it was down right unbearable.

The food in Curitiba is good  though so I was able to find some respite to wallowing in self-pity in cheap culinary delights. Now I'm getting poked with spears and called fat but hey, its hard to maintain a six pack when your experiencing personal tradegy. 

Having an injury that necessitates an extended hiatus from training is like having a piece of your identity ripped from your soul. Not like ripping a band aid either. It’s more like the slow torturous ripping that ensues when mobsters pull out that roll of surgical knives and neatly lay it in front of a tied up victim. Or for the low budget, less meticulous crowd, like the bathroom scene from the Scare face movie. It’s gruesome and torturous.
Not once did I worry about the medical care. I was in fact, undergoing some serious medical treatment in a 3rd world country, using free health care. I was too worried about my "immediate problems". About getting kicked out, about losing my fighter status, and not having money. There is a shared bond between people that suffer together during training so not being able to train left me dejected. Fighting is like speaking a universal language and I was slowly losing the ability to connect with my surroundings. 

I didn't have time to be scared. I was too worried about trying to be useful or dealing with a myriad of problems that presented themselves on a daily basis like trying to figure out how to get to the multiple hospitals and doctors that were juggling around my case.  It took me 3 months to learn Portuguese when I arrived in Rio, and after a week of refusing to venture past my room or the gym in Curitiba, it took me 1 week to learn the complicated bus system that took you from the remote suburbs into the city. I learned both the same way. Pure necessity.

As with must things in life I never know where I’m going. I just head in the general direction and ask. Then I ask again, and again. Switching from bus to bus, until I finally head up in the designated line. Going to the doctor is free. All of the ensuing exams were free too. 

I lost my phone so I'm short on pictures. One of the places 
in Sao Jose where I like

On doctors days, I leave home around 5:30 A.M. and get back for a late lunch. I’ve learned tricks. If you ask questions you can save yourself up to an hour. Apparently it takes them an hour or two to write down a date on a piece of paper, this can be avoided by asking the doctor a question or two which leaves time for one of the many… what I assume to be medical students, to scribble something down on a paper (you then take this paper to schedule another appointment which should land you in the 4th line of the whole process).

Note on medical students 1: There is always an extra jackass or two that needs to shine a bright light in your eye as he shadows the doctor. You get what you pay for, and this is for free. 

Note one medical students 2: I have seen a ridiculous amount of sexy doctors here in Brazil. It wasn’t till my 5th or 6th trip to the hospital that it occurred to me that they are good looking because they are my age, somewhat unsettling.

The doctors know me by name. They think I’m quite funny. A tiny little girl, with a weird accident, who came to a 3rd world country to fight…like with fists.

My first stop on my odyssey was to a local emergency room in Sao Jose… aka Nowhere. My eye had been bugging me for a couple weeks, but I resisted going to the doctor a. because its hard to get to and b. because I waited until after a scheduled boxing fight I had. The doctor asked me what was wrong and after listening intently to my response his only reply was, “yeah but why do you talk like that?”. He then ambled off down the hallway making phone calls on his cellphone (to another doctor I believe) and joking with his coworkers because not only do I talk like a gringa, but I have a very similar name to a roided up Brazilian model. Silacoid… silacoided… these should possibly be considered for terms to describe Brazilian women with too much silicon AND steroids in their body… but yeah that’s Nicole Bahls a silacoided t.h.o.t if you will. 

Its to cold to be slutty in Curitiba
Anti THOT weather

Anyway… after he had his shits and giggles, he gave me a piece of paper and told me to head to another hospital in the city (within two hours). Like I said, as with most things in life I have no idea where I’m going, I just head in the general direction, in this case: the exit. Exits are a good place to start when embarking on any journey, as they are generally equipped with reception and/or security. They kindly directed me out the door to the left until it dead-ended, then instructed me to bust another left and search for a bus stop.

2 1/2 hours, 4 buses, and a million “desculpa me pode informar onde fica”s later I was ascending a hill (in an area that lacked any of the tell tale signs of a “city”) to the university hospital. I was late and deeply regretting the fact that I was wearing polo boots (socialized health care tips: wear sneakers and always bring a sweatshirt or jacket. If you don’t like standing bring a foldable chair).

I left my house at 7 A.M. with boxing gloves and hand wraps expecting to score some eye drops and get into training by 3 P.M. I returned home well after 6 with orders to immediately stop training and return to a different hospital in a weeks time.
When I returned the 1st doctor passed me off to a second, together they prodded me with bright lights, while scribbling notes.

When they finished they turned to me wearing stone faced serious expression. There was 3 or 4 of them headed by someone that may have been a few years older than me. A motley crew of students trying to assimilate the decorum of their profession was about to render me my fate. 

The words every fighter fears, “You can’t fight”.
So, cliché.

Explanations ensued. They were very adamant.
Severe damage to my retina. Blindness, grave, serious, and something, that when lost in translation sounded like silicon eye were repeated over and over again!

Heart and blood tests, more hospitals, buses, and more early morning check ups. A pain in the ass, but on the bright side it was all for free (take that obama care).

Had I been in the U.S. I would have refused to pay the $20 co-pay, I hate the doctor, so I wouldn’t have gone. I would have fought (mma) and I would probably be a couple grand in debt (by couple I mean more like 10s of thousands) and potential blinded by a fully detached retina. Taking that into consideration, I really can’t complain about climbing out of my house in the freezing, rain at 5:30 in the morning to get down with a little free health care (I had to climb several times because torrential rain took out the power thust the ability to open the gate).

Girls from the social project where PRVT teaches Muay Thai.
I've been teaching a women's Muay Thai class to pass the time 
since I can't train. 

It’s been two months, almost three. My eye is getting better and my vision is clearing. My next appointment is next week. Hopefully, I’ll be cleared to go back to training (especially since I’ve been going back to training).

Being in Rio has been therapeutic. Being back on the mats to drill has been a blessing. It seems like every black belt that I have made a connection with over the last two years decided to show up at the social project my first days back. I’ve been able to get a good 5 (free) private lessons so far from the OGs of my Jiu Jitsu career, the original group of people that pulled me off my back (cause I spent a lot of time just chilling and side control). They encouraged and helped me as I stumbled through my first classes and competitions and have helped me piece together a recovery work out regiment.

This stand up dude jamming in the background has been my go to guy for 
anything Curitibana.  He dragged his ass out of bed at 5 A.M. the two days I needed someone 
to go to the hospital with me and has been partaking in my random
endeavours ever since I met him in a part one day!

So much love and respect goes to the following people…

Mestre Parana from PRVT who took me in, gave me a place to stay, Muay thai Classes to teach, and is constantly huslting to make things happen for me in MMA. Terere, Birrinho, and Nogueira from FT/Cantagalo. Vlademir from Ribeiro BJJ. Achilles, Rodrigo, and Nabala from Checkmat. Perninha from Gordos and of course Dennis Asche from Connection Rio BJJ Hostel who was my safety net for moving here to Brazil. Connection Rio BJJ Hostels has, although often inadvertently, been a major supporters for Terere Kids Project. And of course, I can’t end without giving a special thanks and shout out to Rob O’Heran from MiKiDo Martial Arts in VA. A lot of people deal with me, but few actually understand. Especially since they don’t live the life, but Rob has been a great long distance coach, editor and therapist. Thanks for helping me stay centered on my pigmies!

Curitiba High Life

I met this dude while getting my hair done. He was
chilling at the Dread shop trying to acquire the funds 
to go compete in a competition that was in a different 
city later that day.