Isla Iguana is a small island off the coast of Pedasí that I have written about before. I and many others enjoy visiting there for the day for snorkeling, swimming, exploring, and sunbathing. It is only a 20-30 minute boat-ride from Playa Arenal. A visit to the island is one of the popular attractions for visitors and tourists as well as the locals. It is a national reserve, so there is not much in the way of infrastructure (no resorts, restaurants, etc.) – what you bring in, you bring out.
Last month. around the beginning of the month, an undetonated bomb from World War II was discovered on the island. Apparently Isla Iguana was used as target practice for the U.S. bombing squads. Although it had been over 70 years, the bomb was still considered unstable. So the island was closed off until the Panamanian government officials could prepare the island to destroy the bomb. Because Isla Iguana is a national reserve, animals and wildlife on the island had to be relocated away from detonation site near a beach. Unfortunately some of the coral from the reef around the island would be lost due to sand covering it after detonation. Once the area was cleared, the bomb was destroyed. BOOM! The island opened up a few days later.
But that wasn’t the end of it. About a week later around Carnival time, another bomb was found. Again, the island was closed off and prepared for detonating for the 2nd time. BOOM #2! This time though it was decided to keep the island closed until they were sure there were no more bombs. Sure enough, two more bombs were found. BOOM #3! BOOM #4! Each time the bombs were destroyed it felt like a small earthquake and you could hear it all over the Pedasi District from Playa Venao to Mariabé.; the first two without warning, the last two with warnings by our alcalde (mayor).
This time though the national government decided to close the island for an undetermined length of time. You can imagine what concerns this decision brought to the local tourism trade and fisherman. So our alcalde and several other citizens from Pedasí boarded the official “Pedasi” bus early one morning to Panama City to speak with the governmental assemblyman and other officials to present a plan for the island to open soon as long it was determined safe.
Officials came out and visited the island and then the island was scanned throughout manually with metal detectors. No more bombs were found. Then, the alcalde invited the people of Pedasí to join him for a day to clean up the island; trash was picked up, the bathroom were cleaned, structures were painted, and the beaches were raked. A committee was formed to maintain the island’s natural beauty. Finally Isla Iguana was opened once again.
During part of this time, Carnival was once again celebrated in Pedasí, starting the night of February 9 until the morning of February 14. I had gone with some friends the first night and observed how organized the food, beer, souvenir, and music stands and structures were arranged and set up, much more than years before.
And again there was the very loud music with the bass constant pounding throughout most of each day and night, the colorful parades for each queen (Calle Abajo & Calle Ariba), and the colecos (tank trucks filled with water to spray over the crowd during the day), along with children (and adults) shooting their giant water guns at each other. And can’t forget the fireworks, especially at night, but also throughout the day. “BOOM, BOOM, BANG!”
Unfortunately after the first night, I wasn’t able to enjoy or participate in the parties and celebrations, even our group who were asked again to participate in the Pollera parade on Tuesday. I could only see pictures posted by others because I was laid up for a couple of weeks. I had contracted Cellulitis in my left lower leg, a skin infection which quickly started spreading from my ankle to just below my knee all the way around the leg. I first came down with a headache and fever, thinking I was coming down with the flu. But then when I saw the rash on my leg which became very red, hot, and painful when touched, I knew it was something more serious. Within 24 hours the infection had spread about 5-6 inches up from where it started. So my sweet friend Bev volunteered to take me to the Salud (health clinic) which is now located outside of town. I had a blood test and it was determined I had an infection (Cellulitis), which if left untreated could turn into sepsis or possible a flesh-eating bacteria. I don’t know how I contracted it; could have come from a bug bite, a small cut, a blunt force trauma to the leg. I don’t remember any of these things. Nevertheless I had it. So for the next 12 days visited the Salud for a daily injection of antibiotics. I also had a few pain killer injections along with taking both antibiotics and pain medication orally. My blood pressure went through the roof, and once was hooked up to an IV to get the pressure down. Then the doctor doubled the medication I had been taking previously to get it to come down. My leg and foot was very swollen and it felt like pins and needles sticking in me 24/7. (BING, BING, BING!) I kept my leg elevated as much as possible. But it hurt to even lay my leg on the bed or ottoman. And each time I got up on it, I had to breath through the pain (felt like a “charlie horse” where the muscles contracted) until is subsided a little to be able to walk.
Things didn’t look like anything was getting better at first and I contemplated whether to go to the hospital in Las Tablas. Another man in Pedasi had gone there and was on an antibiotic IV drip for 15 days. I decided to research the internet about natural remedies for Cellulitis. Tea Tree Oil was one of the suggestions. I asked around as to where I can get it. Someone told me of a store in Chitré. Some friends offered to go pick it up for me. Then others brought some over to me as well later. So I started applying Tea Tree Oil to my leg about 3-4 times a day. I figured it wouldn’t hurt. And actually it help take the heat and stinging away. I think between the antibiotics and the Tea Tree Oil I finally was seeing some improvement. The redness was diminishing although it first turned into blisters. In reality the skin had been burned. Afterwards the skin started flaking. But the pain was gone. Today you can still see where the infection affected my leg, a pale redness. There is still some roughness on the back of my leg and the leg is still flaking off dead skin. I am using coconut oil and aloe vera to keep the skin moisturized. I have been told it could come back (like Malaria or dengue). So I am being very careful. I got bitten by a Chitra or mosquito on my leg the other day; immediately I put antibiotic cream on the bite, hoping to stop any possible reoccurrence.
I want to again thank all my friends who checked in on me from time to time and those who offered help, especially Bev who drove me each day to the Salud and sometimes back and forth to the farmacia (pharmacy) in town when the farmacia in the Salud did not have the medicine including the meds needed for the injections. It was interesting trying to maneuver the car around the Carnival celebrations those first days. And to share with my readers the costs for all this:
$2.00 per doctor visit; 4 visits = $8.00. Lab tests: $3.00. Antibiotic injections: $1.00 each, 10 injections = $10.00. Pain killer injections = $1.00 each, 3 injections = $3.00. IV for lowering blood pressure: $1.25. Medications/Prescriptions: $70.00. Total costs = $95.25.
That does not include the Tea Tree oil which cost $34. But all in all, medical cost without insurance is still fairly low. I never needed an appointment; just showed up. I never waited more than 15 minutes in the waiting room; most of the time I only waited a minute or two. In and out of the Salud or Farmacia 5-30 minutes except when I had the IV for an hour. (BADA BING!)
So life goes on in Pedasí. Right now the weather is blue skies with occasional wispy clouds, light balmy warm breezes. And as I am finishing this post, the power goes out. (BADA BING!) Our third life is always full of adventures and challenges, but it is still home for us.