Monday, June 8, 2015

Good To Be Home…..Mostly


I awoke this morning to the sound of the phone ringing. I knew Todd wasn’t going to get it as he is currently driving a friend to Texas and returning with her car, as she is going on to Canada from there. So I dragged my broken carcass out of bed and of course the phone stopped ringing just as I picked it up.

My first inclination was to crawl back into bed. That was before I noticed the trail of vomit leading across the bedspread, across the bedroom floor and out into the living room. Crap. I had had some stale dated fish in the freezer and decided last night to cook some of it for the cats. I was pretty sure Kashmere, who has a very sensitive stomach, was the vomit culprit.


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Is that a guilty look?


When I went into the kitchen to get some paper towels to clean up the mess I opened the door to the service patio to let in some fresh air and discovered that some animal had managed to get into the service patio and chewed open two garbage bags, strewing the garbage from one end of the patio to the other. Crap again.

I thought I had better work on that mess first as it was garbage day today. After picking up all the garbage, dumping it in a heavy duty black garbage bag and sweeping up the service patio, I dragged the garbage to the street in front of the house, only to have some workers across the street tell me that I had just missed the garbage truck. Crap, yet again.

I dragged the garbage back inside the gate and stuffed it in a large garbage container that we keep there for just such occasions and I noticed that all the plants in front of the house desperately needed water. The hose was already there, so I figured what the heck, might as well do it now. By the time I had finished dragging the hose around behind my walker there was water and a decent amount of mud pretty much everywhere. In order to turn off the water I had to track through the mud and water to turn off the hose.


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Now of course the wheels on my walker were covered in mud and I had nothing with which to clean them off so I just had to track through the entry way and dining room into the kitchen leaving a trail of mud. Well the vomit had lasted this long, it could wait until I put on a pot of coffee and cleaned up the mud. After accomplishing both those chores I wadded up a bunch of paper towels and set off to clean up the vomit and put the bedspread in the washing machine.

By then the coffee was ready and I was ready to drink it! I toasted myself a bagel to go along with the coffee. It was only about 10:00 AM and I was already exhausted, as I have not fully recovered from the surgery. I guess that’s why, on my way back to the bedroom with my bagel and coffee, that I sort of ran up against the wall and spilled hot coffee all over me and all over the dining room floor which I had just finished washing. Crap. In my defense it is sort of difficult to steer a walker when you are sitting on it, and both your hands are full.

Back to the kitchen to get more paper towels to clean the floor again. And more coffee. This time I made it back to the bedroom, all the coffee still in the cup, and was about to get on the bed and read while I ate my breakfast when I noticed that I was bleeding fairly profusely. A couple of days ago I had somehow managed to pop a couple of stitches in my lower abdomen and now I had to go and wash and redo the dressing.

With a clean bed and a clean dressing over the remaining stitches I settled in with my Kindle only to discover that my coffee and bagel were cold. Finally resting, eating my cold breakfast and looking out at the plants blooming in the sunshine in the back yard, listening to the birds singing, I thought to myself “well that morning could have gone better but, still…….it’s good to be home.


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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Well That Was An Eye Opener! ….continued for the last time!



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Between 3:00 and 5:00 AM I actually did get some sleep, probably as a defense mechanism. The lights came on only once during that time when one of the cleaning crew came in to wash the floor. The floor in our room had been washed four times, with a horribly strong smelling disinfectant, between 9:00 PM and 4:00 AM. Would that they had paid as much attention to the bathroom!

At 5:00 AM the day in the Maternity Ward begins. The lights come on for good. The nurses arrive to check IVs and give pain medication and ask the usual questions that the night shift had all asked before. When I was asked what I was there for (what I was there for????) I explained that I was scheduled to have my uterus removed at 8:00 AM. Checking my chart, the nurse said “ah yes, however it is more likely to be 10:00 AM than 8:00 Am.”

Lovely. I had not been able to eat or drink anything since 9:30 the previous evening and I would have killed for a sip of water after a night in that 30 plus degree room. However,  now that was not to be forthcoming until sometime that afternoon. A night attached to an IV produced another trip to the bathroom, which I approached with a certain amount of dread, but found it to be currently free of blood, pads, bandages and overflowing waste baskets.

When I arrived back at the room Curly and Larry were waiting for me. Another round of questions, mostly in unrecognizable English ensued, and then they informed me that they would be back to get me shortly to take me for a chest ex-ray. I was ready for that! I whipped out the chest ex-ray from my bag and said “See, I’ve already had a chest ex-ray”. Again the response was “Yes, but that was two months ago”.  Good grief.

Sometime around 11:00 AM an orderly with a gurney arrived to take me to the prep/recovery room for surgery. There I met the anesthesiologist. He was handsome and charming and even though he asked me all the same questions again, I loved him. He told me that I had two choices. I could have general anesthetic or a spinal block. I asked him which he thought was the better way to go and he said that if it were him he would take the spinal block. Sold.

All my leg operations had been done with a spinal block and it occurred to me that I had not had to have any of the multitude of tests prior to those surgeries. Then I realized that La Doctora, had assumed that I would be having general anesthetic and to be safe insisted on all the tests. Twice, as it turned out! The three weeks waiting in lineups and undergoing endless poking and prodding, not to mention a very long night in which most of the tests had all be redone, had all been for naught. Holy crap!

The operation went well, and La Doctora even came to visit me for about 30 seconds the next morning. I won’t bore you with the details of the next couple of days in the sweat lodge with the multitude of crying infants and an impressive set of stitches from the navel on down……

On the morning I was to leave a cheerful young lady from Seguro Popular visited the room and stopped to tell me that my surgery might not be covered. “But don’t worry”, she giggled, “it will only be a small payment”. Todd was not allowed in the Maternity Ward but I figured he was probably in the hospital so I phoned him in a bit of a panic and he told me that he had just been chatting with a man from Seguro Popular who did the paperwork for the hospital check-outs.

He was also told that my surgery would not be covered and that Seguro Popular did not cover non-Mexicans. Todd explained that everything up to that moment had been covered but the administrator remained adamant, and I was afraid I was going to be held  hostage as I had no money.

Todd being the resourceful type went off to find a computer and contacted Seguro Popular. He printed out all our rights as stated by the website and returned to the officious administrator, whose response was “ Oh I didn’t realize that you HAD Seguro Popular!  You won’t have to pay anything!”  Huh???? Shakedown attempt or misunderstanding? We will never know, and I prefer to think it was a misunderstanding.

This experience has taught me a great deal. About myself, about the Mexican class system and about humility and appreciation. I have had more than my share of medical treatment since moving to Mexico and all of it has been exemplary. Excellent doctors and medical facilities. But I was paying for the care, the doctors, the nurses, the medications and the facilities.

Now I am on the side of those who are unable to afford that kind of care. I have met doctors, doctors in training, nurses, orderlies and cleaning staff who are all over worked and underpaid. I have met the patients who are happy to have this care and appreciate that it is available to them for free. As am I. I have been lucky, I have led a privileged life.

In that sweltering little hospital room I was offered the humour and camaraderie of the other patients and their family members who attended them (all women), and I felt privileged in a different way. I have come out the other side of what, for me was an ordeal, but for the others was a way of life, with a different outlook.

This experience is quite profound for me and it is difficult to put into words, but the real reason that I wanted to write about it is to share this information with the other ex-pats here, who like me, may not have seen this side life here. For me it is at once sad and joyful. The sadness comes from the underprivileged lifestyle of so many struggling families here, but the joy comes from the way that they embrace their lives, with love and humour.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Well That Was An Eye Opener!….continued…again…and again



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Back in Leon


I had to check in to the hospital in Leon at 1:00 PM the day before the operation, which was scheduled for 8:00 AM the following morning. We arrived about 12:30 PM and as directed, we went to the second floor and explained our situation at the security desk. No one seemed to be expecting us so a nurse was asked to go and find out what was up. When she returned she told us that we were supposed to be on the third floor. I was pleased about this because, even though beggars can’t be choosers, the idea of a staying in the maternity ward did not seem very appealing.

On the third floor we showed our papers to the security guard and were ushered to the nurses station in the surgical ward. After taking my name and checking on my scheduled surgery the nurse asked me to wait outside in the hall until my name was called. Five hours later that had still not happened. Finally about 6:00 PM I was asked to return to the second floor where they would have a bed for me. In the maternity ward.



So many babies……all crying


Once we reached the Maternity Ward Todd had to leave, no men allowed, and I was taken to a small examination room where I was asked about a million questions. The answers to all these questions should have been in my file as I had gone over all of them with La Doctora, but I patiently answered them all again while thinking to myself, “don’t these people talk to each other?”.

After the barrage of questions ended I was given a hospital robe and relieved of all my clothes, toiletries and jewelry. Well all but my wedding ring, which they had to cut off as the knuckle on my left hand is swollen due to arthritis. Much to my relief I was taken to a small room with four beds and not one of the ones like in the photo above.

The room was small, low ceilinged, with four uncovered florescent lights, one above each bed. There was no fan in the room and the temperature had to be above 30 degrees Centigrade. The other three occupants of the room were laying there sweating and trying to fan themselves with what ever they could find. Luckily I had the forethought to bring a hand fan, which was returned to me with all my other belongings in a big plastic bag which I immediately upended into the bag I had brought with me. ????

Now began the longest night of my life. Although I had slept very little the previous two nights I suspected that sleep would elude me again since I was in the midst of about a hundred crying babies. I asked a nurse if it would be possible to have something to help me sleep. Her response was “ no hay”, “we don’t have anything”. Lovely. By now it was about 8:00 PM and I read (thank goodness for my Kindle) for about an hour until the first of a long line of interns came to chat with me.

There were two of them, a young man and woman. He wanted to practice his English, which was so bad that I couldn’t understand him and I had to have the young woman ask all the questions in Spanish as well. They were ALL the same questions AGAIN. Now I had my answer, these people did not talk to each other. As they left they turned out the lights, leaving us all with white spots floating in front of our eyes. About 15 minutes later, on went the lights and a nurse came in to hook me up to an IV. On the ceiling were two metal tracks, like you would use for lighting, but with chains hanging from them. The chains would slide along the metal track so the IV could be hung near the bed. Unfortunately it did not actually reach the bed so movement became very limited. She also took the time to ask me all the same questions again, before she left.

The lights went out again with the nurse. After about a half hour respite on came the lights. A new intern had arrived to take blood samples. I told him I had already had MANY blood tests but he said “yes but that was two months ago”. Fine. He had great difficulty finding a vein and by the time he did he was clearly nervous. Rather than change the vials one after the other he just filled up a very large syringe which he then used to fill the vials. However as he turned away to get a vial, he bumped the syringe in my arm jamming it in to the hilt. Ouch. Now he was REALLY nervous and while filling the vials with the larger syringe he managed to splash blood all over the bed. At least he turned out the lights again when he left.

By now it was about 11:00 PM. The lights were off and even most of the babies were quiet. I lay there reading for about an hour and was actually feeling like I might drift off to sleep when on went the lights and another nurse arrived. It was midnight and time for an enema. I kid you not! I was unceremoniously filled up with water and left to waddle down the hall to the bathroom with my butt cheeks clamped together, carrying an IV bag and using a walker.

Of course there were no seats on the toilets and it was the maternity ward, and midnight, so the toilet bowls were all covered in blood. So now I also had to add wet paper towels to my juggling act in order to clean myself up a spot where I could unload all the unwanted water. When I returned to the room, it was relatively quiet and the lights were out. But not for long. Enter the most obnoxious, cocky little twerp I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. I don’t know if he was an intern or a nurse but he wanted one more blood sample (the other arm this time), and although he seemed much more sure of himself than the last one, he left me with an enormous bruise that I still have as a keepsake. Before he left he picked up his clipboard and asked me all the same questions…again.

2:00 AM. On come the lights. The “English speaking” intern is back and he has a friend. The friend had the ubiquitous clipboard and asked all the usual questions. Then they rolled in an ancient machine that looked like something Dr. Frankenstein might have used, with wires hanging all over it, and informed me that they were gong to give me an EKG. I explained that I had already had an EKG and was told “yes, but that was two months ago”. The two interns, who I was now calling Larry and Curly in my head, wired me up to the machine only to discover that there were only three suction adapters and six connectors. They suctioned three to my chest and proceeded to attach the other three to my left breast with about a half a roll of masking tape.

Then after about ten minutes of consulting with each other about how the machine actually worked they got it turned on. It was feeding out the paper but it was blank. Now what? Aha! More masking tape! All we were missing Moe, for a full set of stooges. I had no idea that masking tape sticks so well to skin. Ouch. As they folded up all the wires and connectors  it was approaching 3:00 AM.

This post has turned out to be much longer than I had anticipated so I am going to leave you here and continue one more time.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Well That Was An Eye Opener…continued… again


As I sat in the waiting area for Trabajo Social, back again in the San Miguel General Hospital, I was feeling a little daunted by my experience with la Dra. Hernandez Narango in Leon and what lay before me. I felt very grateful however, to have Tania to help me through it all. As she set up appointments for the long list of tests required by la doctora, she explained that Seguro Popular may not cover everything.

First I had to visit a new lineup, at the administration desk in Emergency, to find out if the CAT scan and EKG would be covered. I guess Tania could tell that I was a little unnerved by the idea that I might not be able to have these tests (OMG what would La Doctora say!), and she told me not to worry and to just come back to see her if this was the case, and she would deal with it if necessary. Thankfully there was no problem as the nice lady at the emergency room desk told me that everything would be covered.

The next three weeks were spent in the hospital, Monday to Friday for anywhere from three to five hours a day, undergoing tests and then returning to retrieve the results. Tania had made another appointment for me in Leon when all the information required by La Doctora, had been amassed. After all she didn’t want me “dying on the operating table”!

Back in La Doctora’s office in Leon the test results were examined and La Doctora deemed me healthy enough to undergo surgery. However that would not happen for another two months. Since I had already had the symptoms of my condition for eight months at this point I was devastated by the long wait. But then Dra. Hernandez Naranjo explained that there are only so many beds available for recipients of Seguro Popular and that it can sometimes take six months to a year to get surgery. Suddenly two months was looking pretty good to me.

She also explained that there is always the possibility that someone might have a life-threatening situation at the time that my surgery is due, in which case I would be sent home and we would have to reschedule. Fair enough, I could understand that. And so we now had a date to return to the hospital in Leon in two months. The doctor told us that I would be located on either the second or third floor, depending on where a bed was available, and that they would tell me where to go when the day arrived. The third floor is surgery, traumatology and internal medicine and the second floor is the maternity ward.

There will be one last installment in what is becoming a tome, but I will make it brief, I promise.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Well That Was An Eye Opener! continued



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Hospital General Dr. Felipe Garcia Dobarganes, San Miguel de Allende


Tania, the darling little social worker made an appointment for me to meet with an oncologist in Leon in about 3 weeks. She also arranged for several blood tests and a chest ex-ray to be done here in the San Miguel general hospital. As I mentioned before, when you are given an appointment you are likely to share it with a lot of other people. Bearing this in mind I arrived at about 7:30 AM for my 8:00 AM appointment for blood tests.

The people having ex-rays, sonograms, CAT scans etc, donating blood, having blood tests or other types of lab work are all driven, like cattle, past one administrative nurse at a desk between the two departments. By 7:30 AM the waiting room for blood testing was full and the lineup to the administration desk went all the way past the ex-ray waiting room and around the corner almost to the front door of the hospital, and the nurse had left the desk as the waiting room was full.

She returned about 8:15 AM when some space in the waiting room had opened up and the lineup began to slowly move forward. I reached the desk at about 9:00 AM. The nurse took my request for blood tests and told me to wait until my name was called. By then the waiting room seats were full again and there was a lineup running the entire length of the waiting room along one windowed wall. Some time between 10:00 and 10:30 AM my name was called and I entered the little room where they take blood for testing, which took about a minute and a half, and I was told that I could pick up my test results the following day between 2:00 and 2:30 PM.

And so, of course, could the other 200 or so people who had just given blood for testing. Considering the amount of people that they deal with every day the hospital is really amazingly efficient and organized, but because of the huge numbers, getting anything done it is still very time consuming.


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Hospital General Regional de León


So the day of my appointment in Leon finally arrived and we set out about 6:00 AM for my 8:00 AM appointment knowing that I would not be alone. There were several doctor’s offices surrounding the waiting room in the oncology department but it was still 11:00 AM before I actually got in to see the doctor. The following was my discussion with Dra. Hernandez Naranjo……

Dra. “ Well I sure hope you speak Spanish, because I don’t speak a word of English!”

Me  “ That’s alright I think I can manage”

Dra. “ Do you have test results, let’s see them”

I gave her my test results and she quickly leafed through them.

Dra. “ Why haven’t you had a CAT scan?  Why haven’t you had an EKG? Why haven’t you had this, this, this, this and this blood test? I mean really, what are you doing here?”

Me “ummmm”

Dra, (writing furiously) “Here is a list of all the tests that I need you to have before I can operate. Now go back to San Miguel de Allende and I’ll see you in three weeks!”

Me (meekly) “Yes Dra.”

Dra. “ Well I don’t want you dying on the operating table!”

And so I went, tail between my legs, back to Tania with a list of tests that took every day of the three weeks I had before I had to see Dra. Hernandez Naranjo again.

To be continued……again.