By Joanne Rogers as told to Linda McFarlin
(Ed Note: The rehabilitation clinic is no longer called Sol-De-Vida. It is still open in the same location near the football stadium on 10 de Agosto, but it has fewer services and shorter hours. July, 2012)
Going to a rehabilitation clinic for fibromyalgia pain relief was not on my mind when I came to Cotacachi, Ecuador. After years of wintering in Arizona, my husband Ed and I just wanted something different. A little adventure. After researching, thanks to the internet, Ecuador sounded exotic.
We certainly don’t speak Spanish, but signed up for a week-long business seminar in a little town called Cotacachi. We liked it there so much we rented a house and spent the winter.
Toward the end of our stay, someone suggested that I go to a rehabilitation clinic named Sol de Vida for my constant leg and low back pain. After just 20 treatments I had one full month with complete pain relief for the first time in 10 years! I ended the treatments and went back to Canada. The pain started up again, but while I was in Ecuador, it was gone.
I paid for all 20 treatments up front and then used them whenever I felt the need. The clinic lets you set up your own schedule.
Sol de Vida Rehabilitation Clinic has a multi-disciplinary approach to healing, which offers multiple treatments all in one place. This differs from those you get in North America where, if you need multiple treatments, you have to go to different clinics.
Although the rehabilitation clinic may seem a bit primitive to North Americans—no fancy lobby or clean towels laid out for each patient---these things aren’t really necessary. The doctors at Sol de Vida get the job done and that is what is really important!
(Ed Note: Dr. Andrade no longer works at the clinic which is no longer called Sol De Vida. He now has a private office located on 10 de Agosto below the market, just around the corner from the pharmacy. He still makes house calls.)
One of my doctors last year was Dr. Luis Andrade, a naturopath with a practice in nearby Ibarra. He’s a small man, quiet and reserved, with a very gentle manner. His excellent care and attention was a big part of my reason for coming back to Ecuador this year.
His charge for a one to two hour session is $10-$15, depending upon whether or not you go to his office or he comes to your home. In Canada the initial visit with a naturopath would cost me $125-150 and $60-70 after that! Furthermore, naturopaths are only partially covered by Canada’s national health care program. His methods include the use of iridology, pendulums, homeopathics, natural herbs and magnets.
Although his methods are unusual, he is amazingly accurate. He goes out of his way to make you feel comfortable and he is very, very caring. Why would I not come back for that kind of care? Imagine, a doctor who still makes house calls!
I was thrilled to find that Dr. Luis is now also working at Sol de Vida, and so is his son, Santiago.
Within one month of my return to Canada, the crippling pain in my body came back and I also gained back a lot of weight. To continue the same kinds of treatments I had in Ecuador would have been very expensive, so I didn't have them.
In Ecuador I did a lot more walking. The lifestyle encourages more exercise, especially since we don’t have a car.
By the time I returned to Ecuador this time I couldn’t climb stairs. It was just too painful. I had to put one foot up on a step and then bring the other foot up, like an old lady. I had no spring, couldn’t trust the muscles in my knees and legs to bend so I could go up and down.
I have now had fifteen treatments with five different modalities at Sol de Vida Rehabilitation Clinic. I am already confident and strong enough to walk up and down stairs normally, even though I still hold on to the rails. The pain is dissipating again.
The electrical stimulation at Sol de Vida Rehabilitation Clinic wakes up my nerves and they react more normally. Next, I will have ten different treatments with Dr. Luis.
He told me I was also eating too many eggs. I love them, but will do as he says.
My diet is better here in Cotacachi as well. Fresh produce is plentiful and inexpensive.
Back in Canada, 5 pounds of potatoes cost $5.95. A friend told me that potatoes raised in Minnesota typically are grown in useless sandy soil that requires 800-1000 pounds of chemical fertilizer PER ACRE!
In Cotacachi I can buy organic or nearly organic potatoes, about 6-7 pounds for around $1.25.
The varieties of potatoes are amazing! Big yellow-fleshed potatoes for baking and mashing, small new potatoes, either red or brown-skinned, tiny little ones that boil up soft and tasty. And big purple sweet potatoes.
We have rented a two-story, fully-furnished house in town for $460 a month. It has 3 bedrooms and 1½ baths, a wood-burning fireplace and a nice back yard full of flowers, herbs and fruit trees.Most of the comforts of home, including a washing machine, television, telephone and high-speed internet. We have apples, peaches, lemons and several varieties of oranges, plus some fruits I don’t know.
Back in Canada, in Alberta, the cost of living is very high. Many people came to Alberta to work. As they reach retirement age, they are returning to the provinces where they were born, where prices are much lower.
People can sell a house in Calgary for $400,000 and then buy a nice farm back in Saskatchewan for about $200,000. The prairie town of Saskatoon is the fastest growing town in Canada, but the population is older. Saskatchewan has had zero population growth, but has started to grow again.
There are properties for sale in this area that are perfect for retiring in Ecuador. They offer most of the amenities you would expect and are far less costly, priced from $40,000 up.
The low cost of retiring in Ecuador allows for assistance from caring people—housekeepers, cooks, gardeners, drivers, guardians and, if necessary, nurses. We have a maid once a week for five hours and she only charges us $5.
Can you survive in a Spanish-speaking country without knowing the language? Yes, you can! It may mean you have to depend upon friends who speak the language. It also requires a bit of pioneering spirit.
I use sticky notes with addresses to show taxi drivers and bus drivers where I want to go. I have become expert at using charades, facial expressions, hand gestures and other creative ways to communicate.
There is a fabulous bus system in Ecuador. The bus drivers and their assistants/fee collectors are always unfailingly helpful.
For me, coming to Ecuador is a little like life in earlier times. Ecuador is a place where I can relax and heal my body at the Sol de Vida Health and Rehabilitation Clinic. I can enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables, healthy food of all kinds, and warmer weather. I can take it easy and enjoy the good life!