Saturday, June 6, 2015

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



Image result for operating room hospital Mexico


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.


  1. I can't even find the words.........we'll have to talk.........when I've gotten over reading all this! It won't be for a while.........I'm glad YOU have the feelings that you have - mine are different!

  2. We all see things differently Barbara, I guess depending on our life experiences. But let me know when you are ready to talk and I'll meet you for coffee.

  3. I SO admire you!! I can't begin to tell you. I'm a two-time survivor (both times I was told I had months to maybe a year) and the last time was ten years ago. I had state-of-the-art care and still parts were wretched and now I read of your ordeal and am brought front and center with just how privileged I am and have been, and what all I take for granted - don't even give a thought to. How humbling. However survival is primal and when we're up against something that threatens it we do what we must do. Bravo for your grace and grit. You're a wonderful example to all. As I always say don't mistake the wrapping for the gift. Bless you and thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much Barbara, and congratulations on being a two time survivor. It takes bravery and determination to face cancer to such a degree. I don't know yet what my ongoing treatment will be but I was never told that my condition was life threatening. That is a whole different ball game, and I admire you for the strength it must have taken to beat that!

  4. Splendid write-up. All of it. I wish you a speedy return to normality.

    1. Thank you Felipe, much appreciated!

  5. Dearest Shannon,

    When I commented the other day, you said you were happy I "enjoyed" your posts about the Seguro Popular. At first I thought: "Enjoy? No Shannon I am horrified for you!" But then I thought some more... from a different angle...

    I am not glad you had to undergo this procedure, as I am not glad you had had to endure all the other surgeries for you leg. It seemed to me that this was MORE than unfair. You have already dealt with so much... as has Todd.

    But you have more than proven yourself up to the test, and I am reminded of a "joke" I heard...

    A little girl who lost her parents in a car accident was raised for several years by an older sister. But then the sister died of cancer, As there was no one else to take in the child, she ended up in a Convent, to be cared for by the Sisters of Charity. She did her best, but one day the weight of her troubles came over her like a huge wave and it sucked her into the depths of despair. Mother Superior tried to comfort the girl by saying, "God never gives us crosses heavier than we can carry." Hearing that platitude, the little girl looked at the nun with fire in her eyes. "Well, I wish that God didn't have such a good opinion of me!" she said.

    That's you Shannon, the little girl with fire in her eyes and if there is a God... He certainly must have a very good opinion of you... as do I.

    My love and prayers for you and for Todd... Joanna

  6. LOL, that was great Joanna! Sometimes I do identify with that little girl, but then I think that life is just a crap shoot and all we can do is deal with whatever crap is handed to us get on with it. Really, what are the alternatives?

    Thank you for your friendship and your prayers and I look forward to seeing you in September!

    1. When I was having chemo, there was this lady from Campeche who apparently will be having courses of chemo for the rest of her life.Once every three weeks either one of her friends or a relative would drive her from Campeche the night before her treatment and they would stay in a hotel room. This was in a private hospital not Seguro Popular btw.

      We got to know each other, she is very friendly and outgoing. Anyway, we were chatting, and I asked her how she stayed so cheerful with the prospect of perpetual chemo. She said that she used to pray and ask God, "Why me?" then one day she had an epiphany, the answer she received was, "Why not me?". From then on she starting praying in gratitude for being alive. She also confided that sometimes it was harder to be grateful than at other times. I found it deeply profound, life just is, and the only thing we can control is how we approach it.

      My best wishes to you,

    2. Wonderful and profound words to live by Theresa! I agree with her a hundred percent. I am grateful every day when I wake up that I am alive and and if I have to deal with some nausea etc. so be it. You are very right, life just is.

  7. " is just a crap shoot and all we can do is deal with whatever crap is handed to us get on with it. Really, what are the alternatives?"

    The gospel if ever it was written.