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Vagabond Tales: Nobody plans to visit a hospital in Uruguay



About the last thing that anyone wants to have happen on their vacation is to end up in the hospital. This much nearly all travelers can agree upon.

What's even more fun is ending up in a hospital in a country that speaks a foreign language, realizing your vocabulary doesn't yet include the translations for words such as "syringe", "infection", and "spinal tap".

Luckily for me I found myself in a hospital in a country where I actually do speak the language (Spanish) and I didn't need any of the aforementioned words listed above. Also, perhaps even luckier is that I wasn't actually hurt, but instead was simply in search of some prescription drugs.

Allow me to explain.

Punta del Este, Uruguay is a South American beach oasis that's part South Beach and part Las Vegas. Furthermore, it's safe to say it's one of the premier party spots for global jet-setters who may be interested in obtaining some prescription drugs for a big night out.

It also just so happened to be the beach town that my wife and I found ourselves in on our honeymoon when we realized the Xanax she had been packing for the trip home was actually long-expired and completely ineffective, and we had 21 hours of flying coming up before we were safely back home in Hawaii.

It's been well documented here on Gadling that many people frequently cope with a fear of flying in their own personal ways, and the seriousness of this situation was not to be taken lightly. With the issue of the expired Xanax making itself known, we were really reduced to only two options: buying a used car in Buenos Aires and driving back to California without being kidnapped by FARC rebels in Panama's Darien Gap, or finding the nearest hospital and getting another prescription whipped up and bottled with our name on it. Stat.
Which is how I ended up in the waiting lounge of a Punta del Este hospital attempting to convince the receptionist that two twenty-something year old foreigners who hadn't even checked into a hotel yet and held no travel insurance really did in fact need some prescription drugs and could only pay in cash.

Yeah. Right.

To be fair, I knew that extracting drugs out of a foreign hospital with no prescription in a second language was going to be a little tricky in the first place, which is why the hospital wasn't the first place we tried.

Prior to aiming our rental vehicle for the skeptical confines of the Punta del Este hospital we had actually done our best to terrify everyone in an upper-class residential neighborhood on the tip of the doorman at our hotel. Informing him of our immediate need for Xanax, he gave us some rudimentary directions to what was essentially "the house of a guy he knew who could hook us up." He said the guy was a doctor and ran a home practice, but it was sketchy at best.

Some people go to Punta del Este and lay on the beach or gamble at the casino, while others apparently creep out amongst manicured lawns and spend their day on a mystical hunt for a home-practice doctor who's mentioned only in hushes and whispers. After having lurked around at least 6 or 7 different yards with the glazed determination of international drug fiends we finally settled upon the hospital as our best bet.

Finally planted in the backroom of the beehive that all hospital's the world over seem to be modeled after, we actually received a doctor who was very understanding and forthcoming with the goods. No English, but at least forthcoming.

He said he could recognize the genuine nature of my wife's distress, but we must understand that the number of people who go into doctor's offices complaining of anxiety to get their hands on some Xanax had taken a disastrous turn in the past few years.

Counting out some little blue pills and securing them in a sterile clear baggie he finally handed over what was literally our ticket back home.

Come to find out later the dosage of drugs such as Xanax in Uruguay is apparently much higher than the legal dosage allowed in the US, which is why to this day my wife on airplane flights can usually be found spilling her drink into my lap with either her chin or eye socket.

Is the hospital in Punta del Este the best way you could plan to spend part of your honeymoon? Absolutely not. But it beats losing all of your money at the casino.

Read more of the Vagabond Tales here...

Filed under: Stories, South America, Uruguay, Travel Health

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