Expat Jean McCord recovers from hip surgery but faces a long road to get back on her feet
By John Keeble
Cuenca expat Jean McCord, caught in limbo between Cuenca’s hospitals before being helped by Ecuadorian and expat communities, is recovering from surgery and beginning the long road back to full health. Her experience is a warning for every expat.
She said of her ordeal: “I have been healthy throughout most of my life, and I did not expect this. When it happened there were times when I wanted to die. Literally. Other times are just a blur. I was off my head for three days but I don’t remember that.
“I thought I had enough money to last me for the rest of my life. It went so fast. I couldn’t believe the kindness shown by the GoFundMe appeal. I am overwhelmed. I want to thank everyone who has helped me.”
Although Jean’s situation has been transformed by the kindness of others, her problem is not fully resolved as she recovers at home and needs extensive home care. The GoFundMe appeal has been boosted by personal contributions, either directly or through La Yunta restaurant, and the Santa Ines hospital bill has been paid. The appeal fund is staying open to make sure funds cover other costs and Jean’s home care expenses. Under IESS rules, she cannot go back to an IESS hospital if she has any further problem with the hip.
“If there is any money left over, it can go to helping someone else,” said Jean.
Jean’s plight started with a hip operation in a private clinic in Cuenca. Soon after getting home from that operation, the medical difficulties became apparent. “The whole prosthesis suddenly popped out [of the joint],” said Jean. “The clinic medical team put it back in place without surgery. The second time it popped out, it needed surgery to put it back in place.”
The third time it popped out, the pain was intense. “I couldn’t afford another surgery,” said Jean, aged 79, and who has a heart condition. She was admitted to an IESS hospital, where doctors and nurses were caring and did all they could to make her comfortable.
Local IESS officials tried their hardest to get Jean into a private hospital in Cuenca or an IESS hospital in Guayaquil or Quito where remedial surgery could be carried out. The private hospitals refused the referrals because the cash-strapped IESS had not paid earlier bills, and no bed could be found in IESS hospitals in Guayaquil or Quito.
With no money to buy more private medical treatment, Jean had fallen into a crack in the system and, for a time, there appeared to be no way out despite friends, especially Cuenca Writers Collective friend Ann Fourt and Jean’s carer, Leonora ‘Noshy’ Pinos, rallying to her aid.
Soledad Riquette, the owner of La Yunta restaurant and a friend of Jean, heard about the situation and asked her cousin, orthopedic surgeon Dr Romulo Idrovo, to help. He immediately saw Jean and helped negotiate a discounted and delayed payment agreement with Santa Ines hospital. He operated without charge, using a local anesthetic, and the procedure took four hours.
“He is so kind,” said Jean. “He comes every day to keep track of my condition. He really cares. The nurses here are so kind too. I have been able to get to know them.”
Sra Riquette commented: “Jean is healthy and everything is going in a good way for her. The whole team at Santa Ines are very good human beings, including the management people.”
Dr Idrovo’s caring and generous response was no surprise to Sra Riquette. “Our family likes to help people. My father always helped the community, and that is how we grew up. If we can help someone, we will.
“When I heard what was happening to Jean, I called my cousin Romulo and said we needed help. He said ‘I can do the operation [without charge] and we will worry about the cost later.’ He has been fantastic.”
Sra Riquette said helping others is part of the community ethos, too. People who do know Jean have contributed to her care, including one person who gave $1,000.
Returning home has meant Jean being reunited with two of her pets – a young dog and a beautiful cat. Her other pet, a faithful older dog called Yapa, became ill while she was in hospital and had to be put down.