A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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January 7, 2006 — Let me start out by saying that Kelly is recovering very nicely, here in the motorhome.

I’ll go into considerable detail because I know that people are interested in Mexican health care. If you’re squeamish, it really isn’t too bad…

Two days ago around ten in the morning, Kelly was descending from the roof of a house where he’d been taking photos of the magnificent view, when a cement post which he was using for support toppled over. Luckily there was a retaining wall and earth right there, so he only fell about six feet. The post whacked his chest pretty hard. Kelly was short of breath and in considerable pain.

The Mexican man we were with had a cellphone, and he called an ambulance. It came from the town of Jocotepec, just a few miles from where we were at the time and help got there in less than 15 minutes. Several people arrived, including a woman wearing a white shirt with an insignia and blue slacks. She was a paramedic, I later learned. When she arrived, I immediately sensed her competence and felt immensely relieved.

She and two men left Kelly where he was lying down on the retaining wall, put supports around Kelly’s neck, and took hold of him. Someone called out “uno, dos tres,” and they rolled him in unison, slid a stretcher under him, rolled him back, strapped him down and got him right into the ambulance, putting the stretcher on a gurney.

Our friend offered to take me to the clinic where Kelly was going in his car, but the ambulance people said I could also go with them. I chose to stay with Kelly and rode in the front seat of the ambulance with the driver while the paramedic rode right next to Kelly. I wondered how the several other people had arrived — and then I saw a large fire truck parked nearby, with the others getting into it.

As we went into Jocotepec, the paramedic told Kelly’s blood pressure to the driver, who used some kind of a radio phone to let the clinic know we were coming. I asked the woman how Kelly was doing and she said his signs were good.

The very moment we got there, the doctor saw him. No paperwork –they didn’t even ask his name till later. I was exiled to the waiting room for a while, where I did some praying and stared at a poster that said in Spanish, “STOP! One woman in five experiences marital violence. You deserve a life of respect.” There was also a poster that said that any patient staying in the clinic should have someone with them, preferably a family member.

The clinic was a municipal one, a basic two-story cement-block building, quite clean. The doctor came out and told me that he thought Kelly would be fine, and that he would have some x-rays done, then keep Kelly for observation for a while, and that if all was well, we could go home in a few hours. He had given Kelly some pain medication, and Kelly was on an IV that stayed with him. Both Kelly and I felt he was skilled and caring.

I was a little confused to see Kelly being wheeled towards the street door by the paramedic and driver until they explained that the clinic did not have x-ray facilities and we would be going a few blocks to an x-ray lab. They told me to come along so I could pay separately for the x-rays. So that all happened. The x-ray machine looked a little like something from the 1950s, and the cost was 200 pesos, a bit under $20 US. They gave me the x-ray in an envelope, to carry around and take home.

On the way back to the hospital, we stopped in a busy street somewhere and we were transferred to the other ambulance that Jocotepec has. The one we were in was supposed to go to Guadalajara right then. Our crew, Monica the paramedic and Pedro the driver, took us back to the clinic in the other ambulance.

Once back at the clinic, the doctor showed the x-ray to Kelly and me and explained it. It looked good, no broken bones showing nor anything else serious. He put Kelly in the two-bed room, in one bed, and I was welcome to be in there with him. So I stood by the bed or sometimes sat. There was a three-seat sofa and various other people came and went. A young child, and later a four-month old baby, were held by their mothers while they were put on a respirator as a way of giving them medicine. An old woman was in the other bed for some time, while her middle-aged daughter sat on the sofa. I tended to stay off it when others were on it, to minimize exposure to the contagious diseases they all had.

Kelly asked me to see if I could get him some water to drink. When I asked, I was directed to a little grocery shop across the street, where I got us each a bottle of purified water.

Within about an hour, the doctor said we could go home. He said we could take a taxi but he’d recommend the ambulance, though there would be a charge if we used it. We opted for the ambulance. But first I went upstairs and paid the bill: 600 pesos, or just under $60 US. 300 pesos was for the ambulance ride back home, and the other 300 was for meds, supplies, and the doctor. He had given Kelly a prescription for a painkiller, an anti-inflammatory, and something else. I later had these filled near where we’re staying for 470 pesos, about $47 US. So we were charged a total of $127 US for all this.

There was no fee for the ambulance from the site of the accident to the clinic. When I expressed surprise, the woman I was paying said that many people had no money and the goverment pays for it.

Then it was back in the ambulance with Monica and Pedro for a drive of maybe 10 or 15 miles, from Jocotepec to the town we’re staying in, San Antonio Tlayacapan. Pedro drove the ambulance with aplomb, spending far more time than I was comfortable with in the opposite lane of the busy two-lane highway as he passed slower vehicles.

I turned and talked with Monica. I asked her how she could deal with all sorts of accidents. She said that she had gotten used to it and that she loved her work. She’s been doing it 17 years and likes being able to help. I asked if there were many women paramedics and she said not in the lake area.

When we stopped at our place, several of the neighbor women who hang out in the street stared at us , so I told them briefly what had happened, and then Kelly and I collapsed in exhaustion in the motorhome, two very happy campers that it hadn’t been worse.

—————————-

Both Kelly and I were very pleased with the quality and speed of the care he received. It was a very Mexican experience, and certainly quite basic, but it did the job. Nobody spoke any English, but our Spanish was adequate. Knowing what I know now, in an emergency, I would ask to go to a private clinic that had emergency facilities. The public Mexican health care system has sure come a long way over the decades I’ve been coming to Mexico, but the private system is generally way better.

——————————

Yesterday Kelly rested, his healing coming along. We decided to go to a highly-recommended private clinic a couple of miles away, Clinica MasKaras in Riberas del Pilar, for a follow-up visit. When I called, I actually asked for a house call, which is common in Mexico, but the receptionist had me talk to the doctor and he said he would prefer that Kelly come in, and so we did this morning.

The clinic has a number of doctors, and the internist Dr. Garcia (who is the head doctor there) saw Kelly this morning, Saturday. He was fine with my sitting in on everything. Everyone spoke good English. The internist did a thorough interview of Kelly’s medical history, entering everything in a computer. Then he ordered more x-rays, and not surprisingly these occurred in the same building. There was a short wait while the radiologist came from Chapala, not far away.

Kelly did turn out to have one broken rib, so he was given a brace. The broken rib was just a little higher up than the original x-ray had shown. There were some other things that the doctor wants to monitor closely, though nothing likely to be serious, and we will be going back tomorrow morning. That’s a Sunday. Kelly will be examined tomorrow by another doctor, and so Dr. Garcia asked the other doctor to examine Kelly today so he’d know how to compare Kelly’s reactions to being poked and prodded (my phrase, not his) on the two days.

Again, we were impressed with the skill. We had been warned that this clinic sees a lot of the local foreign population from Ajijic and other town along Lake Chapala, and so prices would be higher. The cost today was $35 US for the doctor, $90 US for several x-rays, and about $20 US for the brace Kelly was given.

Update to follow. We will be staying here for at least another month, for Kelly to heal.

4 Comments from the old blog:

  • At January 08, 2006 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a saga – I’m really glad Kelly is OK – sort of. Not too long ago I cracked a rib. It is a long healing process that includes a considerable amount of pain. Please take it easy my friend – we aren’t getting any younger and falling off buildings is more of a kid’s game ;-)
    Rest easy-
    John & Anita

  • At January 08, 2006 9:18 AM, Blogger BillieS said…

    Rosana, I’m so glad that Kelly wasn’t hurt any worse than this. It could have been much worse. We have a friend here who fell about six feet and had a crushed wrist and broken leg. He was sent to Queretaro for treatment and he too, has had excellent care. He was in the Angeles hospital in Queretaro for several days after surgery.
    The lesson is, for all of us who are getting a little older….stay off roofs!
    Take care.
    Billie

  • At January 09, 2006 9:32 AM, Blogger Rosana Hart said…

    Thanks, both of you! Kelly continues to heal quickly. He won’t stay off roofs, I’m sure, but he’ll be more careful.

    Rosana

  • At January 10, 2006 3:23 PM, Blogger Vence said…

    I’m very glad Kelly is on the mend and thanks for a very interesting insight in the Mexican health care system. I had a motorcycle accident in the US ten years ago when I didn’t have insurance and the ambulance ride alone cost me over $200.

    Take care,
    Vence

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