What “it’s different” actually means …

Living as an expat in Panama, or any country for that matter, is different than living in your home country.  If you want to accept an expat lifestyle and enjoy it you have to accept that things are different.  That’s sometimes easier said than done.  And there are some “different” aspects to live in Panama which often get glossed over in the enthusiasm for all the positives about life in Panama.  “Soup” Campbell who came down from the North Pole, Alaska tells folks that when they move to Panama they need to check their expectations at the border.  It’s different and don’t expect everything to be the same.

The other day our local expat news feed sent out this notice …

We still desperately need 5 pints of O Positive blood for a man in Regional Hospital who is awaiting surgery.

Most of the people on the Blood Donor list do not qualify because they have been OUT of the country in the last 6 months so we need help from anyone who qualifies and can go to Regional Hospital tomorrow morning between 7 AM to 10 AM. The earlier the better.

If you are O Positive, on the Blood Donor list and have not received a call from me yet, please contact me ASAP if you can help.

To donate blood in Panama:

You must be between the ages of 18 and 65. You are generally ineligible when you become 66. In a life or death situation, the doctor in charge of the patient may override this restriction.

You may not give blood if you are allergic to penicillin.

Men can only give blood every 3 months, women every 4 months. The difference is because men usually have a higher hematocrit than women.

Infectious diseases: An active infection or any infection of any kind in the last 10 days, including dental, will disqualify you. A history of the following diseases will disqualify you: TB, malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis of any kind, Chagras disease, Yellow fever. CMV and mono are OK if not recent.

Other medical issues: You must have normal blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are OK if your blood pressure is normal in the ER when you are screened.

You may not give blood if you have anemia falciforme (sickle cell anemia) or if you are diabetic.

You must weigh more than 55 kilos (approximately 121 pounds by calculation).

IV drug users are ineligible.

You may be rejected as a donor by the ER doctor who screens you or by the lab. Your blood will be tested by the lab for normal values and infectious diseases.

IF YOU PASS THE ABOVE QUALIFICATION AND CAN GO TOMORROW MORNING PLEASE CALL and we will provide you with the patients name to give at the lab.

Thank You, Boquete Hospice Blood Donors

There is no blood bank in Panama.

There is no way to give your own blood in advance of surgery and have the hospital store it for use if needed.

Most expat retirees — your friends — are going to be 65 or older and prohibited from giving blood.

So what happens? You lay in bed in the hospital and wait, and hope, and pray.

In the Boquete area we have no ambulance EMT service comparable to what you may be used to in your home country. Ambulances are mainly used for transport. A few years ago a group of gringos got together and raised money to buy and equip and ambulance for Boquete, albeit without any trained EMT. No one is quite sure now what happened to that ambulance and the equipment. My understanding is that the fire department, Bomberos, in Boquete does not currently have a trained EMT. Panama is working on implementing a 911 Emergency Ambulance program but this is only for accidents on the highway. So what do you do?

Our plan is that one of us throws the other into the car and we drive to a hospital in David, about 35 minutes, and hope for the best. The reality is that we had the same plan in Ventura, California where we lived 20 minutes drive from the hospital and knew that it would take longer than that for an ambulance to arrive. That plan may work … except when I’m off on a ship for several months at a time.

It IS different. It’s NOT the same. It is beautiful, a great life style and we love it, but you need to know and accept in advance that things are different.

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