Category Archives: Health

Surviving a Pandemic in La Yacata

A pandemic is defined as an epidemic of infectious disease that has spread through large regions of human populations.

smallpox aztec

But, is a pandemic a real possibility? Well, yes. Everyone knows that the smallpox pandemic killed millions of indigenous people in Mexico after its introduction in Veracruz with the arrival of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1520. The population of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan was decimated and Cortes and his men (having that European immunity) took possession in 1521.

Ahh, but smallpox has been eradicated right? So no worries. Well, that doesn’t mean Mexico hasn’t been affected by other pandemics.

flu 1918

In 1918-1920, the population of Mexico was again dramatically reduced by an influenza pandemic. That particular pandemic was responsible for 20-50 million deaths worldwide.

swine flu map

More recently, Mexico was again hit with a pandemic this time with the “swine flu” in March and April of 2009 with somewhere between 113,000 to 375,000 people having been infected.

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Another pandemic waiting to happen was reported in 2016. Cases of the Zika virus have been reported as far north as Mexico. Although it seems the large-scale pesticide preventative measures are causing far more damage than the actual virus.

So what’s the best way to survive a pandemic?

Isolation.

La Yacata is sparsely populated and we are, for the most part, self-sufficient. We already have quite a few of the things that are recommended by survivalists–food, washboard, clothesline, water collection storage containers and so on. We also are fully capable of growing our own food when needed. Thus making La Yacata a great place to ride out the next pandemic in Mexico.

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Surviving a Nuclear disaster in La Yacata

reactors

Mexico has 2 nuclear reactors and both are contained within the complex called Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant (LVNPP) in Alto Lucero, Veracruz. The complex is owned and regulated by Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), the government-owned electric company. The amount of electricity these reactors provide the Mexican people seems to vary, but most sources agree it is less than 4%. Mexico has said that it plans on adding two more reactors to the Laguna Verde complex, but those have yet to materialize.

According to Wiki, LVNPP has been presented with numerous awards–from breaking the world record for reaching 250 days of continuous operation during the first generation cycle in 1991 to the Nuclear Excellence Recognition Manager’s Award by WANO in 2010. It was even given the Socially Responsible Enterprise award by the Mexican Centre for Philanthropy in 2009. Upon further investigation, I found some disturbing information.

In 1999, the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) reported that the Laguna Verde complex has had a high number of shutdowns which have weakened the operating systems, personnel with inadequate training, lack of proper management and organization and obsolete equipment, all of which pose potential safety hazards. WANO completed a second evaluation in 2009, however, those results were never made public. Greenpeace somehow got a hold of some of the paperwork and surprise, surprise–serious safety concerns.

In the event of a major nuclear accident, 80 percent of Mexico would be affected. According to geologists, Laguna Verde is an accident waiting to happen. In addition to the substandard operating procedures and faulty equipment, the very location of Laguna Verde is a risk.

The Laguna Verde complex is situated on the Zacamboxo fault line along the Mexican Volcanic Belt with an active volcano five miles away. This location is prone to seismic activity, not limited to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis.

On April 6, 2011, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 did hit the area. Yet CFE denied any damage was done to the power plant.

wind current

Veracruz is also subject to frequent hurricanes due to its location. The wind current at Laguna Verde blows in from the Gulf of Mexico over central Mexico–right over Mexico City with a population of 20 million.

On September 10, 2010, Hurricane Karl forced the suspension of operations at the Laguna Verde facility, but CFE reported no damage.

A former employee of the Laguna Verde facility reported several serious incidents while he was employed at the complex. On November 25, 1989, and Abril 27, 1990, radioactive vapor escaped from the main line. CFE denied it. In December 1989, 130 thousand liters of radioactive water was released into the lake. CFE said no such thing occurred. In 2005, there was a fire on the roof of the building that houses the reactors. CFE doesn’t know anything about that one either.  In 2006 and 2013, the power plant was in a state of emergency shut-down, but no information was ever released to the public.

How is it that the facility is given award after award for quality control, non-contamination, and preservation of natural resources?

cartoon reactor

There are no publicly accessible radiation monitoring networks in Mexico which would give some warning about high radiation level. Nor is there any policy in Mexico for the disposal of radioactive waste. CFE can say what it pleases, the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant is a health hazard.

The best thing that La Yacata has going for it in the event of a nuclear disaster is that it is far away from the Laguna Verde facility.

That doesn’t mean no radioactive exposure could ever occur. In 1984, the lack of disposal regulations and detection strategies in Mexico permitted radioactive material from scrap metal to expose at least 4,000 individuals over the period of a month and throughout 4 states to harmful levels of radiation.

In 2013, 2015, and 2016, radioactive materials were stolen from transport vehicles. Thieves, drivers, bystanders, police officers, cleanup crews were exposed to high doses of harmful radiation. Those were just 3 that were recovered–how many more incidents have their been that have been covered up?

Well, we will just have to hope for the best on this one then!

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I can see!–Getting prescription glasses in Mexico

new glasses

A few weeks ago I realized I couldn’t see a thing. My transition lens had snapped, crackled and well, not quite popped, but you get the picture. They were more than 6 years old and I use them every day, riding the moto in sun, rain, wind and occasional hail, so I guess I certainly got my money’s worth.

I really didn’t want to bother with new glasses. I dug out the pair circa 1990. Voila! Well, of course, I look like an owl, but I’m too old to worry about fashion, right? I started calling them my night-vision goggles because they were so clear I could practically see in the dark. And that was a problem. Yep, I can’t see to drive with them as they MAGNIFY the sun’s rays to the extent that I’m nearly driving with my eyes closed. Not safe.

So I started researching if I could repair my crackled glasses myself–maybe if I took the protective covering off? I tried fingernail polish remover. It didn’t work. The wonderful world of internet suggested Armour Glass Etching Cream.

Only I couldn’t find Armour Etch in any of our local stores. Amazon had some, but a bottle was more than 600 pesos. I only needed a little bit! My sister found some at a craft store and picked up a bottle for me. I’m waiting for it to arrive and do its magic.

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Meanwhile, I decided that a pair of prescription sunglasses was what I needed. I stopped at one optometrist the afternoon of the teacher meeting (See Mexican Educational Reform and Political Wrangling) that I missed so that I could make my lab appointment. (See All Around the Health Care Bush) I went in, looked around and knocked on the glass display case. There was no one there. I waited a bit while I perused the frame options.  Finally, the clerk dashed into the store with a bit of donut on her cheek. She had stepped out for a quick snack apparently.

I asked if it were possible to repair the glasses I already had. She hemmed and hawed and basically said no. I could replace the lenses if I like, but she couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t break the frames when they put the new ones in. Did I know what the prescription was for these lenses? No, well, then I would need an eye exam too. The exam would be 400 pesos and the two lenses would be 700 pesos, plus new frames because hey, the new lens insertion process might just break them. Ok, well, I’d think about it.

So I went to another place. The eye exam would be 250 pesos and I could go right in. The optometrist was about 70. His diploma (with picture) showed him at about age 20 and from the looks of the wood paneled office, that’s about the last time the office was remodeled. I swear his eye checker machine was used as a prop for the series Little House on the Prairie when Mary was going blind, but I suppose it was in working order.

He called out for his secretary to check the prescription of my glasses. That little procedure seemed to be top-secret, but there must have been a machine in the outer office that would determine the prescription of my lenses because less than 2 minutes later she was back with the prescription. Must be something the girl at the first place knew nothing about. The comparison of my eye exam and my lens prescription showed that my eyes had changed very little in the last 6 years. I didn’t need an eye exam after all. At least, it was only 250 pesos.

The elderly optometrist said that I would be a good candidate for a surgery that was not LASIK surgery to correct my eyesight. I certainly wasn’t interested in that! What if something went wrong and I ended up blind—that’s sorta permanent you know. Glasses would be fine.

The elderly optometrist also gave me a list of vitamins he said I should take–Resvit (a vitamin capsule), Blefa-ir for blefaritis (burning of the eyes), Luvit (couldn’t find any information on that), and Lagrilub (which is a company that specializes in pharmaceuticals).

I don’t know about you, but I have never had an eye exam that ended with a list of vitamins in the US. I was suspicious of this snake oil salesman tactic. Besides, my eyes only started burning when the optometrist put in the yellow burny drops to check who knows what in my eyes. I told the secretary (who was probably the wife) that I didn’t get paid until Monday (which was true) and that I only wanted to pay for the exam today. I picked out frames but didn’t pay for them–remember payday was still 3 days away. I made sure it would be ok to pay part on Monday and pay the other half on the next payday and it was. My glasses would be more than I make during one quincena (2 week pay period) That just made my day!

I went back on Monday afternoon, having already successfully had a blood draw in the morning (see All Around the Health Care Bush), and put down a deposit. The office girl (probably the daughter of the secretary and optometrist as she very clearly resembled them both) wrote me out a receipt and said the glasses would be there “en 8 dias” (one week) but that there was no problem in picking it up on the 15th. Yippee!!

Well, the place is only open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the 15th fell on a Tuesday this year, so I had to wait until the 16th to pick up my glasses. They were there all right and everything was hunky dory. I let her clean the lenses but didn’t wait for much else before snatching them up and putting them on. Oh HAPPY Day! I could see! I placed my magnifying night-vision goggles in the glass case and skipped back to my moto.

So, since I opted for the sunglasses rather than the transition lenses, I do have to change my glasses when I go inside, or when I’m outside and it’s dark, but overall, I’m pleased with this particular health care transaction.

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My new shades–because the future is so bright you know!

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All Around the Health Care Bush–the weasel chased the monkey

regional

Hospital Regional in Uriangato, Guanajuato

Monday found me up at the crack of dawn to make the 30-minute commute to the Regional. I arrived just after 6 am again and the waiting room was full–again. I asked the place check question and took my seat. Everyone queued up when directed and handed in our appointment slip (stamped of course) or the specimen sample. Then we waited. It was after 8 when finally my name was called. The blood draw took less than a minute. All in all, I had waited 12 hours for that blood draw. It doesn’t do any good to complain. That’s just the way it is–this time. Who knows what the procedure will be in 6 months when I come back?

I had no problem picking up the lab results a day before the actual doctor’s appointment. I just butted in line and handed the clerk my paper and she gave me the results. My TSH numbers were looking pretty good–so that dose modification Dr. J gave me last time around seems to have done the trick.

And the actual doctor appointment process has changed. I no longer had to arrive at the crack of dawn to get a ficha (number), but a mere 30 minutes before the scheduled appointment. I didn’t even have to check in at Archivos (archives) for them to pull my file. It was already waiting for me at the nurses desk where I checked in and had my blood pressure checked and weight recorded. The nurses sent me along to Consultorio 5–Medicina Internal (Internal Medicine Consulting Office 5) and I sat down. It was only a 2-hour wait from there–record time actually.

The new doctor seemed to be about 25 years old. I’m not sure he was a doctor, maybe just a body to fill the chair.  I was a little put off that Dr. J wasn’t there, but those with Seguro Popular (Beggars) can’t be choosers I suppose. Anyway, he verified that my TSH levels were good. He asked for my previous prescription sheet from Dr. J. Unfortunately, I had left that at home. He seemed put out. He asked what medication I had been taking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember. He seemed even more put out. I asked if that information wasn’t recorded in my file there in front of him. That seemed to bother him too. He asked me what I would do if my file were lost. My Spanish failed me here and I understood that my file had actually been lost. Confused, I pointed out that my file was in front of him on the table. So he repeated his hypothetical sentence in the conditional tense. Oh, ok. I said that I still had my previous prescription page only had left it at home. Then the name of the medication hit me–Levothyroxine–and I garbled out what I thought might be the Mexican Spanish name. He understood enough to write it down and give me a new prescription.

He didn’t check for goiters, or any other thyroid like symptoms just sent me on my way. My appointment lasted a little less than 8 minutes. I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m so familiar with my condition because this dude didn’t seem to be.

So then, I headed to Archivos (Archives) to make an appointment for 4 months from now. Four months? Well, as our Seguro Popular policy is up for renewal in 6 months, I suppose that will get me, at least, one more prescription in case we are rejected. Then I went to the Farmacia (pharmacy) to pick up my 4 month supply of medication.

Apparently it was Hypothyroid day at the old Regional.  The two ladies in front of me were there for their own supply of Levothyroxine boxes.  One of the women, an older woman carefully dressed and made-up, was asking the pharmacist about the pills.  The pharmacist didn’t know anything.  The second woman jumped in the conversation and told woman #1 that she shouldn’t take the medicine with coffee or juice or food.  Well, I knew the coffee bit. (See 11 ways coffee can impact your thyroid) Apparently it interferes with the pill’s absorption.  So I chimed in too.  The older woman said that would explain why she still didn’t feel better.  I betcha that kid in the doctor’s seat didn’t mention any of that, the weasel.

Well, I suppose it’s like anything else in Mexico–you need to be your own advocate.

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