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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Guanajuato, January 2005 — I had a very interesting experience today. I went to the doctor.

I wasn’t sick, but I had a prescription that I wanted to refill. Most prescriptions can be refilled at any Mexican pharmacy, but not mine, as it was for the generic version of Valium, and that requires a doctor’s prescription. Sometimes I get freaked out by a lot of wild traffic, and I had discovered last year that a little tranquilizer helped. I don’t use it when I’m driving, just when Kelly is driving our motorhome in heavy traffic or winding mountain roads.

So when I was told that I’d need to go to a doctor, I thought, fine. It seemed like a worthwhile adventure, and better when not sick than if actually feeling bad. A Mexican friend of mine here in Guanajuato recommended a doctor and showed me last Sunday where the doctora’s office was. (Doctora means she’s a woman doctor.)

We went to a shop that seemed to sell bootlegged CDs and a few other things, on the main street near a major bus stop beyond the market. We walked through the shop, which was a kind of hallway, veered left, went up a few stairs, and were in another hallway with some office doors opening off one side. These were the offices of two doctors. On the other side of the hall were some 15 or 20 attached chairs. My friend told me that the thing to do was to ask who was last when I arrived. I noted that the doctora my friend knew worked Monday through Saturday from 3PM to 9PM. The other doctor worked mornings, and they took turns working Sunday mornings.

So this afternoon I arrived at the hallway around 3:30 and asked who was last. A friendly woman said she was, and waved at a seat next to her. So I sat down. There were over a dozen people sitting, but soon I realized that I was probably only about 6th in line as most were groups. And the line moved fast… a mother and her daughter took 7 minutes, an elderly couple took about 15 minutes, another mother-daughter combo took 8 minutes, and so on.

I began chatting with the woman next to me, who was holding a sleeping seven-year-old boy. He had come home from school not feeling well. I asked if the doctora was a pediatrician and the woman said yes, but she sees patients of all ages. I explained that normally in the U.S., you had to call up and make an appointment, and the woman said that for specialists in Mexico you do that. She added that both this doctora and the man who worked mornings were very good.

Soon it was her turn, and then my turn. As I walked in, I saw a white-clad woman of perhaps 35 or 40, sitting at a desk in a small office which had an examining table, a scale, some cabinets, and a few other things. It did not contain a telephone.

If the doctora spoke any English, she did not try it out on me. She asked my name, and neatly wrote it down on a notepad where each patient got one line for their name and any notes she made. I pulled out my old prescription from the U.S. and explained in a slightly embarrassed manner that I was sometimes afraid of traffic. We exchanged a few words about the situation, and she wrote me a prescription for one box of 5mg Valium. She added that she was only allowed to prescribe one box at a time. I thanked her, paid her my fee in cash, and left. I had noticed a sign in the hallway asking people to pay with exact change.

My fee for an office visit with an MD? 50 pesos, just over $4.50 U.S.

I went to the Farmacia Similares next door, but they didn’t have it and pointed me to the Farmacia San Francis de Asis we could see across the street. They didn’t have it either, and phoned their other store, which was also out. I tried another pharmacy next door to the Saint Francis and the man said they had it only in 10 mg, but not in 5mg. There were a lot of pharmacies in the area because it’s close to the Red Cross hospital. There are also several funeral homes in the area, presumbly for the same reason.

Just beyond the hospital there is a big chain grocery store, the Comercial Mexicana. I went to their pharmacy, and the woman who helped me there was a treasure. When she didn’t have my prescription in 5mg, she looked it up and said it was no longer available in that size in Mexico.

She suggested that I go back to the doctora and get a prescription for 10mg, which is widely available. I explained that I was really only taking 2 or 2.5 mg, and cutting 10mg 4 ways might not be very accurate. She grasped that before I had finished stumbling around in Spanish to say it, and pulled out a much newer version of a book the doctora had looked something up in — probably a Mexican equivalent to our PDR — and found that there was another brand which came in 5mg and was the same thing. She was out of stock, but expected to get more tomorrow after 11.

I asked her advice on a matter of etiquette. Did I need to wait in line all over again in the hallway for the doctora, or could I ask the next person in line if I could pop in for a minute? She said I could. I was glad, because when I got back there, the line was a good bit longer. The next person in line did say it was okay, so I popped in and the doctora exchanged my useless prescription for a new one. She commented that it would actually be better because there were twice as many pills in the box for the other brand.

So I have my prescription. And one of these days, I’m sure it will get filled.

[Update: I went back to the pharmacy, encountered a woman as curt as the other had been helpful, and had my prescription in hand in three minutes for a price of about $16 US.]

I must say I am impressed with how efficiently this system provides basic and affordable health care. My price for the visit was 50 pesos, but there was a sign in the hall that the cost of a consultation was 20 pesos. I think that the doctora said that I was paying more because it was required for a controlled substance prescription — this was one of those times when I would have had to question her more to be sure that I had understood her Spanish, and it didn’t matter enough to me to do so. If Mexico has many more simple doctor’s offices with inexpensive visits, we could sure learn something! If I had had anything more complicated to explain, I would have sought out a doctor who spoke English.

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