Expat caught in agonizing ‘health care trap’ is a cautionary tale for others; How you can help

Dec 2, 2022 | 18 comments

By John Keeble

One of Cuenca’s most respected American residents has been caught in an agonizing health trap that is a warning to every expat.

Jean McCord, well-known in writing and church circles, has been left, through no fault of her own, with only the generosity and help of others as a lifeline.

In happier times: Jean McCord with one of her many friends, Robert Lochow, at Bistro Yaku.

On Friday, she underwent urgent surgery because a Cuenca medical team is working free and Jean’s good friends are taking the personal risk of guaranteeing hospital costs before money can be raised.

Soledad Riquette, whose cousin Dr Romulo Idrovo is operating on Jean, said: “We are in the middle of hell. We really need cash to help Jean now and for therapy after the surgery.”

Jean, aged 79 and with a heart condition, had been suffering severe pain after being diagnosed as needing hip replacement surgery.

IESS advised her that she would need to go on a waiting list for three months, despite extreme pain, and the lack of sleep and mobility.

She was persuaded by a non-IESS advisor to get the surgery done at a private clinic. The cost, $20,000, exhausted her funds but she was confident that it would give her relief and enable her to reclaim her active life.

Instead of relief, she began weeks of emergencies and excruciating pain. This is how she got caught in the health trap:

THE surgery was carried out at a clinic in Cuenca and first indications were good;

THEN, early problems appeared and were treated;

SHE was sent home, still in considerable pain;

A SERIES of dislocations occurred, leading to emergency treatments;

Jean McCord (second from left) at a Cuenca Writers Collective performance.

ON the third occasion, she was kept in hospital with no possibility of being discharged. Ann Fourt, a key organiser helping Jean, said: “She was taken to an IESS hospital by ambulance in excruciating pain because her newly replaced hip had dislocated for the third time.”

JEAN was kept in the emergency area for two days because there was not a bed available for her, and then, once admitted to a ward, she could not be assessed because it was the weekend;

IESS specialists examined her and determined that the replacement hip joint was not the correct one for Jean;

HOSPITAL staff concluded that no IESS hospital in Cuenca could deal with remedial surgery;

THEY tried to refer her (in a process successful for patients in the past) to three Cuenca private hospitals which had the skills and equipment to treat her;

THE private hospitals refused to accept the referral for Jean because cash-strapped IESS had not paid for earlier referrals;

AS a priority emergency case, IESS staff in Cuenca asked hospitals in Guayaquil and Quito to take Jean;

NO hospital was found and Jean was left helpless, having spent her own funds and not being able to get treatment by IESS;

LITERALLY, she was trapped in agonising pain, at one time strapped into her bed to prevent her harming herself. Later, drugs controlled the pain enough for her to remain calm but there was no possibility of treating her.

Meanwhile, Jean’s friends in the Cuenca Writers Collective launched a GoFundMe appeal and set about seeking other ways to help her. Initial efforts by Fourt and Jean’s carer Noshy Pino widened as more people understood the seriousness of the situation.

Riquette, the owner of La Yunta restaurant and a friend of Jean, heard about the situation and used a family connection to help.

Dr Idrovo, an orthopaedic surgeon, agreed to put together a volunteer medical team and Santa Ines hospital said it would allow the use of its facilities and give a little time for funds to be raised.

The effect of these developments was dramatic: the ‘team’ could get Jean’s remedial surgery done for about $8,000 instead of the predicted cost of between $30,000 and $40,000. Several thousand dollars more will be needed for post-surgery help, therapy and payment to Noshy Pino who has worked on solidly to help with IESS even though she could not be paid.

“Jean is a very special person,” said Riquette. “We could not leave her in that condition without doing everything possible to help.”

The GoFundMe appeal has raised nearly half the $10,000 target – which means that more donations are needed urgently.

If you can help with a donation, please go to the GoFundMe appeal page or call in to donate at La Yunta restaurant.