After more than two years of writing this blog on a relatively steady basis, I have let my devotion slide over the last few months while I was at my home in Ontario. Not completely – those of you reading know that there’s been a new post here and there, mostly spurred by political and social issues that got my goat. Now I’m back in Costa Rica, with a renewed vigor for writing, with more time to devote to it, and, of course, new Wolf and jungle stories to share. I’m aware that some of my friends keep track of me through this blog (yet don’t think that I might want to hear from them as well??? Hello!) and friends of Monteverde and readers of Walking with Wolf visit my ramblings to get updates about our friend Wolf and life on the green mountain.
So I return with a new commitment to the written word. This is a great venue for me to exercise my keyboard brain especially as I work at developing a new book theme; to express my fascination and frustration with this crazy world around us (otherwise poor Roberto has to listen to it all); to publicize artists, businesses, and organizations who I think deserve to be recognized; and to spread local news throughout the cyber world by means of this new fan-dangled digital drum.
And for those who accidentally ended up here by googling some obscure subject like pacemaker or pejiballes, check it out. Sorry for the rambling, but I do actually try to add a bit of valuable information. It might be of use to those who plan on visiting Costa Rica, or to people who like to hear about new music. Or maybe it will appeal to those of you who, like me, are moved to tears by injustices in the world, or to laughter by the absurdity of it all, and need to gather together to share the good and the bad.
So first, a Wolf update. If you read my last post, you will know that Wolf turned 80 on August 17. Unfortunately he spent that time in the Clinica Católica, a private hospital in San José, recovering from an operation where he received a pacemaker. The absolutely good news in this is that he has improved each day since. He still received a lot of birthday wishes, including pretty nurses singing the happy song for him, so the day wasn’t completely a loss. Actually, as both he and Lucky say, he received the best gift of all – a new chance at life, with better health and hopefully many more years of celebrating his birthday.
Over the last couple of years, Wolf has been struggling with various health issues. Here in Costa Rica there is social medicine (la Caja) but unfortunately, Wolf hasn’t always been served well by it. Living in a remote place like Monteverde, even with a local clinic in nearby Santa Elena, means that each specialized issue – from his diabetes to his prostate to his need for a knee replacement to the manic depression that still requires lithium – has been treated by a different doctor in a different place, from Santa Elena to San José to Puntarenas. For the most part, these doctors don’t consult with each other. As Wolf ages, he’s less inclined to keep track of his simmering stew of drugs and the growing calendar of appointments. Fortunately he now has his son Berto and daughter-in-law Angelina, a former nurse, living close by and they have been able to help Lucky, Melody and the rest of the clan to take care of his complicated medical requirements and to drive him up and down the mountain for scheduled appointments and in moments of emergency.
In the Canadian version of social medicine, we have family doctors or general practitioners (except in areas where cutbacks have made this impossible) who are responsible for sending us out to specialists and in turn receive reports back from them. It is still in each person’s best interest to stay on top of their own medical care, or have family members who can oversee things for them, but, as in my own case, if you have a quality family doctor, they’ll look at all the reports that come in with you and coordinate your overall health care. Having gone through the process of surviving cancer, with chemo and radiation treatments, I can only sing the praises of social medicine, imperfect as it may sometimes be.
The Guindon family went to a geriatric doctor a few months ago at a different private clinic with the idea of finding a doctor who would oversee Wolf’s various health issues. They paid dearly for a number of tests (as Lucky told me, she has a renewed appreciation for the costs that social medicine consume) but didn’t receive satisfactory analysis of those tests from that specialist so they didn’t return to him. When Wolf had a near-death emergency the week before his birthday, they brought him to the Clinica Católica and have been very happy with the care provided by doctors and nursing staff alike.
The cardiologist that has attended him made it clear that the tests he ran indicated immediately that Wolf needed a pacemaker and that any doctors before him should have seen this. It makes you wonder what is going on – why la Caja doctors didn’t catch this (because he’s old and they didn’t want to use public funds to help him?) or why the doctor at the other private clinic didn’t recommend this? Considering the dizziness and swings in blood pressure that Wolf has been having over the last year, it is easy to believe that giving him a pacemaker is an obvious call. And he seems to be getting stronger and clearer each day, indicating that it is hopefully the right call. So why wasn’t it done earlier?
Along with the new beat to his heart, Wolf has also had his insulin adjusted. He was taking a kind of insulin that wasn’t working for him and is now taken human insulin, along with a pill. It requires his blood to be tested regularly throughout the day and the medication to be adjusted accordingly. It was also found that he was being toxified by too much lithium in his system to the point that they were concerned that he would need kidney dialysis. He hasn’t had an adjustment in the dosage in years for his manic depression. I’m sure his aging body has changed but the doctor responsible didn’t change the amount of lithium. Wolf now must have his lithium level tested every three months.
The Guindons have chosen to keep Wolf’s health care consistent by seeing specialists – cardiologist, urologist, psychiatrist, ophthalmologist (for his cataracts) – at the Clinica Católica. It means they must pay for most of the care, but it will hopefully also mean that Wolf will live a longer and better life.
Wolf devoted much of his life to the well-being of the flora and fauna that residents and visitors to Monteverde continue to enjoy. He did so at a cost to his family and without a great degree of monetary compensation. The Friends Meeting in Monteverde lent money to the family to help with the immediate costs of Wolf’s health care. We now ask any of you who feel moved to donate towards Wolf’s expenses to please do so. The information on how to send money is in my last post (Happy 80th Birthday Wolf).
I arrived in Costa Rica in time to visit with Wolf, Lucky, and their sons Berto and Carlos, in the hospital a couple of times and then we all headed up to Monteverde. Community birthday celebrations were put on hold, but Roberto and I joined in with the family on Sunday evening. A big birthday cake was shared by Wolf, his son Berto (born on the same day 59 years ago), his son Tomás (who was visiting from California with his wife Gretchen and their children Julian and Olivia), and me! I turned 52 on the 26th. It was a wonderful evening spent with this large warm family celebrating our lives and especially Wolf’s recovery. And I have to report that Wolf ate two large plates of food followed by a bowl of cake and ice cream, so, as my Gramma would’ve said, he ain’t dead yet.
His birthday was also celebrated with much of the staff of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve one sunny day when he made his triumphant return to visit his former co-workers. Fortunately the maintenance crew and forest guards were around, as were the office and reception staff, and so we shared a cake and sang the song and each face reflected the joy we felt in being together with our dear friend Wolf.
A special birthday present for both of us came in the form of a meeting I had with Javier Espeleta, the new director of the Tropical Science Center. There is a renewed thrust being put into the publication of the Spanish version of our book, Caminando con Wolf, which Wolf’s son Carlos has already translated. I appreciated Don Javier’s enthusiasm and the fact that they have met with the University of Costa Rica Press and are close to signing a contract with that esteemed press to continue with the publication. I think Wolf’s brush with fate has pushed the powers to get this done while we can all enjoy it. For that, I am most grateful.
After that eventful week in Monteverde, Roberto and I returned to Cahuita. After days of rain in Monteverde (as well as a cacophony of bellbirds, quetzals, toucans, and the spectacular visit of a small flock of rarely seen oilbirds), we passed along roads being cleared of mudslides caused by all this wet weather. Roberto promised me that it would be hot and sunny in Cahuita. The first night we brought the rain with us, but now, as promised, the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the sky pure blue. We heard that the Pan-American Highway, the route from Monteverde to San José, was closed by a major landslide the day after we passed along it.
We have a new member to our little family here in the jungle – a serious male kitten that followed Roberto home one day several weeks ago. He’s named Miel, as he looks a lot like the cat we cared for last year in Monteverde by the same name. The two boys are getting used to having a woman around – Roberto already understands the pros and cons, but Miel is finding that though Roberto will feed him more, I’m more likely to spoil him by letting him take his place on my lap or beside me on the daybed. The immediate struggle is the idea of having a hunter in our midst. The truth is that the cat is welcome to keep the bush rats at bay (and Roberto has already seen him kill a good-sized snake), but I don’t want him to kill the colorful lizards, tiny dart frogs, or songbirds. You can already see the troubled writing that will appear on this wall.
Today we go to town to find the surveyor who will map the land across the stream from Roberto’s. Soon I will have my own little piece of paradise and there I will make the humblest abode I can and settle down to write a book (or so says my inner fortune-teller). The day after I arrived, as soon as the rain quit, we went onto the land and harvested a big bunch of pejiballes, one of my all time favorite Costa Rican foods. Known locally as peach palms, they are hooked off their thorny palm tree from the ground with a very long bamboo stick by a nubile rasta. Boiled and served up with mayonnaise, these tasty nutritious nuggets welcomed me back to my tropical home. As did the local howler monkeys, who have been serenading us with exaggerated mumbo jumbo each night since my return.
Now I sit in the shade of the rancho, writing on my laptop and playing with the curious kitten, while Roberto renovates the cooking area with scavenged lumber from down the stream, as he says “building a Taj Majal for my Mumtaz”. Jungle joy and Jah love abounds.