Saturday, May 30, 2015

Well That Was An Eye Opener!

I have clearly led a privileged life. When I was growing up our family was far from wealthy, but we always had the necessities. We never wanted for anything essential and my life, until very recently, has continued in the same vein. Even now as we struggle to build a business, pay bills and put food on the table, there are always people far worse off than I. This story is a view from a far less privileged vantage point.

Image result for seguro popular guanajuato
Free Mexican Health Care

Seguro Popular is a government organization that provides health care to those Mexicans who cannot afford medical care or insurance. This is where my odyssey to obtain cancer treatment began. When I discovered that I had cancer and was going to need surgery I was overwhelmed. First by the cancer itself, since there is absolutely no history of such in my family, and secondly by the price the doctor quoted me for the surgery that I would need. While medical care is much less expensive here in Mexico than in the USA or Canada, it is not cheap. Particularly if you have no money.

Much to my surprise and relief Seguro Popular accepted me with no problems. Being a gringa with existing medical issues I had had grave doubts as to the possibility of qualifying. From the Seguro Popular office I was off to Central de Salud, a long narrow building lined on both sides with doors to “consultorios”, little doctor’s offices. The colonia, or neighbourhood in which you live decides to which doctor you will be assigned. Admittedly the doctor’s attitude towards me was less than warm. I can understand this as it is difficult for most Mexicans to believe that a gringa REALLY needs the benefits of a system for the very poor here in Mexico. I tried to be as humble and grateful as possible while explaining my situation and received a grudging acceptance which is the best I could hope for.

Image result for seguro popular guanajuato
A nurse gets all the vital statistics before you see the doctor. Very organized.

We were told to arrive at the Central de Salud at 8:00 AM when they open only to discover that the smart folk arrive at 7:00 AM. The huge, long room was wall to wall people. Some 5 hours later we had seen the doctor and were sent to the other end of the room to find the office of Trabajo Social, the social worker, who would give me an appointment to have a biopsy. Yes, of course, there was another lineup to see the social worker.

The social worker assessed my needs, checked an appointment book and told me to come back the next day and she would have an appointment for me. Yes, of course there was another lineup the next day. The appointment for the biopsy was to be a few days hence at the Hospital General Dr. Felipe Garcia Dobarganes here in San Miguel. That was when I discovered that when you get these appointments they don’t just give YOU the appointment, there could be anywhere from 10 to 150 other people who also have the same appointment depending on what you are there for.

Image result for general hospital san miguel de allende
Tip of the iceberg, the rest of the lineup is around the corner and out the door, LOL

In the case of the biopsy, luckily there were only 10 or 12 other people waiting to see that doctor. After explaining once again what a gringa was doing there, Seguro Popular papers in hand, the doctor, much more kindly than the last, directed me behind a screen and explained that he could do the biopsy then but if I wanted anesthetic I would have to wait 2 more weeks. I elected to forego the anesthetic, which in hind sight I really don’t recommend, and was then told that I could take the sample to a local lab and pay for it myself or I would have to wait up to 2 months for the results as they would have to go to Querétaro or Leon. Needless to say I waddled from the office, sample in hand.

A few days later I was again in the waiting room with the biopsy results, thank goodness for my Kindle. The doctor confirmed that I did indeed, have cancer and sent me off to another waiting area for the Trabajo Social office in the San Miguel hospital where I eventually met a beautiful young social worker named Tania, who was to become my best friend. She explained that they would send me to Leon to consult with an oncologist who was a specialists in this type of cancer and that the hospital here in San Miguel was a level 2 and I would require a level 3 facility to deal with my problems. First, however I had to have some tests.

Please stay tuned for the continuation of my foray into the Mexican medical system and my budding understanding of how lucky I have been in my life.