How I Landed Twice in Less Than an Hour at the San Juan, Puerto Rico Airport
The adventure began around 4:30 am when we got up quietly in our Georgia mountain home. My daughter and I would fly from Greenville S.C. to Charlotte, NC taking flights hours apart. She was bound for Ft. Meyers, Fl., I was headed to San Juan.
I have been many places including Europe and Africa, but never to San Juan. On top of that, everywhere I had ever gone I was able to get along with my French and English. I do not speak Spanish. I was on my way to care for a sick relative I had not seen in several years. I was not sure of my welcome. He had adamantly refused to have anyone in the house except nurses who were rotating out on 8-hour shifts.
Furthermore, I do not drive in the city. Presuming on my age and frailty, friends take me to the city or drive when we go on road trips. Years of damage to my upper neck have left me with a limited range of motion. I do fine in our mountain areas where a traffic jam might be 15 or more cars and only 5 traffic lights in the entire county.
At 4:30 pm our plane landed without incident at the San Juan Airport. We deplaned and I responded to a text from the lady who was to pick me up and drive me the last part of my destination.
The wait for baggage was interminable – almost 30 minutes. I corralled my bags, adjusted my carry-on and stepped out of the terminal headed for section B which I believed was next to C. But, B must have been around the corner, I stepped off the sidewalk to avoid jarring my bags over the curb. Maybe it was the corrugated pavement. Maybe I was just lightheaded from fatigue but the next step I was on my face –yes, my face in the street.
Dazed I waited minutes then struggled to sit up. People were beginning to gather around me. Maybe someone pulled me to a sitting position. Then I was aware I was bleeding from my nose and my head or some place on my face. There were lots and lots of blood.
The lady who had come to pick me up arrived about then, moved her car close and the paramedics moved in. They got me into the front seat of the car. I was bombarded with questions. I kept saying English. My ride rattled in Spanish. They checked everything they could without disrobing me. The bloody nose would not stop.
My ride and the EMTs discussed my condition and decided if I were their grandmother they would take me to the hospital. That said I was loaded onto a gurney and into an ambulance. Actually, I believe it was a large metal can and somewhere in it, rocks were jangling against the walls. Bleeding was not so bad but the ambulance hit every pothole, bump and speed table from the airport to a hospital somewhere near the older part of San Juan. Since I had been sure I would be car sick on the ride I was just glad it had ended.
I was wheeled into emergency. The EMTs assured me the airport was paying for anything required to get me well. My ride – now almost a friend, arrived with of all things - a blanket and bottled water. I was not allowed the water until my condition was determined.
I was glad for the blanket. The room was very cold. As a footnote here let me add that all the hospitals I have now been in Puerto Rico keep the temperature at between 60 and 65 degrees to keep germs from flourishing. Therefore staff all wear down jackets, hoodies, sweats and any other overgarments to fend off cold. Footnote 2, in Puerto Rico you are responsible for your linens, sheet, blanket, comforter, pillow, and towel and wash cloth. Bring your own sanitary products, wipes, pampers etc. too. That can be a financial plus since you are not billed at hospital rates for the above.
Once in the emergency, my bloody nose was probed to assure no clot would run down my throat and choke me – so I just dripped slowly. My right eye was sore and swelling. I was sure I had loosened some teeth, and my lips were distorting from swelling. My ride/friend laughingly took some pictures of me on her cell.
Back in the emergency, many interviews, translated by my ride/friend/ translator. Then I was taken for a CT scan followed by quite a few x-rays of my face, nose etc. I was tired, cold, thirsty, hungry and I’ll admit scared. I was not sure I would even be allowed in the designated home. Finally, a very handsome older doctor came in and announced he was not going to suture the gash above my eye, but would butterfly it. The butterfly stitching was no more than ¾ if an inch long, but apparently had little barbs that would seal the cut till it healed. Then he assured me that following the healing if I used vitamin e on the wound there would be no scar. Meanwhile no getting it wet, "no, nunca, nada."
Discharged We went on to get my prescription. I later realized I had been too tired to show my prescription card and paid full charge – oh well….
I do not think Puerto Ricans ever get too tired to get in the car and drive around. It was after 10 pm. I looked like a train wreck survivor. But my friend insisted we go to her sister’s home, where I received keys and a beeper to get into where I hoped to stay. Then to her home to collect my bags, and then a nice shoreline drive and interstate tour to San Patricio.
Louis was asleep and night nurses welcomed me, showed my bed and where to make a sandwich and a cup of tea. Next day I was officially welcomed by my bewildered relative. I certainly did not look like anyone he recalled all blue and purple and a fat lip. But he and staff got a laugh about his relative who landed twice in an hour at the San Juan airport.
PS : Given the open air location of my event , the fact that at least ½ a dozen EMTs cared for me, and that staff and friends of my new friend know half of the population, where ever I go folks extend a hand and say, “Aren’t you the lady who had that awful fall.”
Patti wrote this story but never had time to publish it. I ask her permission to do so. Patti never leads a dull life and she is a great storyteller even when you know she was in great pain, but she made the story a fun read for everyone who loves her. At this time Patti is still in Puerto Rico and we all miss her very much.