Thursday, August 18, 2016

Medical breakthrough in San Miguel!

It's tough to imagine an upside to the story of a friend from New York who while visiting San Miguel last week fell down in her room and broke her left humerus, the big bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. And it wasn't a hairline fracture you had squint at the X-Ray to notice, but a clear break a layperson could see even after three tequilas.

But indeed there was an upside: The accident led Stew and I to realize how much medical care in San Miguel has improved since our arrival ten years ago, during which we'd worried about all the what-ifs surrounding a sudden illness or other medical emergency here.

Here's looking at your humerus, sweetheart. *

Our friend's first recourse was the woman in charge of the bed-and-breakfast where she was staying, who in turn called a doctor who ordered an X-Ray of the arm. The X-Ray cost a whopping thirty-five dollars. After that, the doctor summoned an orthopedic surgeon from the nearby city of Queretaro.

The surgeon, a bearded, burly guy in his thirties whose first name was Zeus and who spoke enough English to ask all the pertinent questions, arrived later in the day and examined my friend. He put on a temporary cast and without further delay, loaded my friend into his own car and took her to the local private hospital and scheduled surgery at nine the next morning.

The hospital, now called H+ and completely refurbished, used to be called De la Fé or "Faith Hospital," an appropriate name for such an iffy operation.

Iwas a scary-miserable facility, lacking the most rudimentary modern equipment. I had an X-Ray with a machine that looked like surplus equipment from the Korean War. My friend Billie compared the ambiance in the waiting room of the doctors' office suite to a dingy bus depot. After an emergency landed him to De la Fé, the U.S. consul remarked to Stew and me that he wouldn't bring his cat there for treatment.

The most ballyhooed, and ridiculous, feature of the hospital was its hyperbaric chamber, a pressurized-oxygen machine used primarily to counteract decompression sickness resulting from scuba diving, an odd piece of equipment for a hospital several hundred miles from the ocean.

Except it must have been a money-maker: One of the hospital doctors suggested to Stew that he sign up for a series of hyperbaric "treatments."

"Would it help?," Stew asked the doctor, whose gloomy office looked more like a curio shop.

"Well, it couldn't hurt," the doctor replied.

A billboard on the approach to the hospital, since removed, advertised all manner of medical interventions for just about anything short of a brain transplant—plus the hyperbaric chamber, just in case.

Hmm. No thanks.

Despite its dilapidated interior, and refulgent exterior—the squat, two-story building was a shade of electric blue one would expect to find at a midnight paint liquidation at Home Depot—many expats never ceased to extol the miracles that unfolded daily at De la Fé. Given that for years it was the only game in town, perhaps such sanguine denials were the only way to imagine the possibility of one being taken there in an emergency.

But when Stew and I visited our friend following the surgery to install a metal rod to realign her humerus, the hospital we encountered was like a vision. Thanks to multi-million peso investment by an out of town chain, the old hospital had been completely gutted and refurbished. Brand-new equipment anywhere we looked. A hospital elevator installed to replace a steep ramp between the first and second floors that would have sent a patient on a wheelchair flying into the lobby if the attendant lost control.

Gone and best forgotten was a sad altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe, located on the second floor hallway and decorated with flickering votive candles and wilted flowers, that was not reassuring to non-believers like me who'd rather bet on modern medical science.

My friend, who stayed for two days in a private, air-conditioned room, couldn't stop talking about the excellent, first-class care she received, from the surgical team to the nurses. She had been through some serious medical crises and said the care she received here was comparable—and in some respects better, particularly the personal attention—to what she experienced at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

When we went to pick her up, I was afraid what the bill would be. I figured for such major surgery, operating room charges alone would be several thousand dollars. But the itemized statement, for the entire stay at the hospital and all the tests, came to only three thousand dollars—a bargain at three times that.

Now, I'm not encouraging anyone to fall down and break their humerus or a leg. But if you plan to, San Miguel may be the best place to do it.

###

*BTW, what's that faint shadow between the skeleton's legs??




12 comments:

  1. Alfredo, that shadow between the skeleton's legs is your imagination of times past....

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    1. Maybe YOUR imagination bubba, not mine.

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  2. I couldn't agree more as we discussed the other night. I had the dubious pleasure of being wheeled UP that ramp on a gurney about twelve or more years ago. I was convinced that if this was the level of the facilities, I would surely die. Of course, you can tell I did not. On that occasion, although I had no surgery, my bill for three days and nights was less then $300USD........Can you imagine what that would be in the USA? Happy days!

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  3. My theatrical nature looks forward to breaking a leg, rather than an arm. I need to get up your way soon.

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    1. Barbara and the rest of us and waiting for you.

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  4. Oh, I forgot. I just want to ask the doctor "Tibia or not tibia? That is the question."

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    1. Ugh. You ought to be ashamed of that one...

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    2. Ugh. You ought to be ashamed of that one...

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    3. Ugh. You ought to be ashamed of that one...

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  5. I am the friend who broke her humerus. Everything Al wrote is true from Aesthetics to Zeus.
    Al and Stew probably didn't notice some other amenities in my large room: good art, monogrammed slippers and "products" like you expect in good hotels. I took my husband the Shaving Kit and Vanity Kit, pretending I stayed at a luxury spa. Thanks Al and Stew!!!!!! (Don't know about that shadow....I will check in the mirror now. )

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  6. I am the friend who broke her humerus. Al is accurate in all his assessments from Aesthetics to Zeus. A couple details Al and Stew may not have noticed about my large room: good art, embroidered logo slippers, and beauty products usually found in nice hotels. I packed the Shaving Kit and Vanity Kit for my husband who flew down; as if I was at a spa. Thanks Al & Stew! (Not sure what that shadow is between the legs but I will go check the bathroom mirror now!)

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