Tag Archives: Going to the doctor in Mexico

Gimping Around

We have two males gimping around the place this week, my husband and Puppy. So here’s what happened.

Puppy barks at everyone as they go by the house, even if they are on the other road. That’s what he does. He’s gotten better about chasing motorcycles since he was run over, but if a motorcyclist kicks out at him or throws rocks, he goes ballistic.

We let the puppies out in the morning for a romp and walk around the block with me. About noon, the shade is gone and it isn’t fun to be out anymore, so we let them in the back. They enjoy the time outdoors but the barking is non-stop unless they find something dead to roll around in. That’s always a treat.

This particular morning, some jerk on a motorcycle decided to go down our road. Our road is the center road and he actually had to go out of his way to come down our road. In fact, the opposite road that is a straight shot to the main road is in much better condition. So it was with evil intent that this guy went down our road.

Anyway, this guy goes down the road, slows down in front of the house and kicks out at Puppy, sure to get a reaction. He then drives further and turns and starts chucking rocks. Rocks that he had already collected and had ready to throw, mind you. Puppy naturally gives chase and the guy runs over his foot, probably with the idea of squashing Puppy.

Now Puppy’s poor little foot is injured. He’ll be fine, but he is sure milking his injury for everything its worth. Maybe he’ll learn not to chase jerks on motorcycles, but probably not. My son had a stern talk with Puppy about chasing motorcycles and he just moaned and sighed with big sad puppy eyes. Then we accidentally got the wrong dog food, the ones with the green pieces, and his day was totally ruined.

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Now for my husband. He is currently working on a remodeling job. The owners are going to put a new floor in. Before that can be done, the old floor needs to have a myriad of holes hammered into it so that the new floor can be installed. My husband figured he’d speed up the process by using a drill with a disc on it.

For two days, this was working well. Then that morning, the disc broke off, flew up and sliced his knee. When he looked down, he could see all the way to the bone, so he decided he needed some medical attention.

He came all the way home for me because it’s mid-week and he didn’t have any money. We went to one of the consultation offices next to Farmacias Similares. We could have gone to CAISES and been covered by Seguro Popular, but you know how long that takes, and the blood from the gash was flowing.

We waiting about 10 minutes until the doctor could attend him. The first thing he said was that to stitch up the wound, the cost was $250. Ok, fine. A little steep, but not impossibly so.

The doctor went next door to the pharmacy for his supplies. As he was cleaning the wound, cutting the pant leg off and then stitching and wrapping the injury, he regaled us with all sorts of medical stories.

First, there was this guy who had gotten hit with a baseball. The area swelled. Someone told the guy to put warm water on it (which goes against everything I ever learned in first aid classes, but what do I know?). Anyway, the guy figured the warmer the better. So he boiled a pot of water and then poured it over the swollen area giving himself third-degree burns in the process. That’s when he decided it would be best to go see a doctor.

Then there was the accident that happened just a few weeks ago during Semana Santa. We have a shrine in a little town called Soledad to the Virgin de Soledad that people make pilgrimages to during Holy Week. So a mother and her three children, ages 3, 6 and 10, were returning home after visiting La Virgin. It was just starting to get dark.

A driver who had been in Huandacareo all day, lounging by the pool and drinking, was also returning home. He didn’t see the family. The mother managed to get her children out of the way but was hit by the car and killed. Our doctor at the clinic was the attending physician.

Then there was the little boy who had to have his fingers amputated. He was playing at Los Areas Verdes, a park with a small zoo. Apparently, there was a slide where one of the metal plates was bent up, fairly common on playgrounds here. The little guy was unattended because his parents were arguing. He was zipping down the slide too fast and tried to stop himself but sliced his hand. There was no way to save two of his fingers.

My husband has a huge fear of needles, so these stories distracted him while the anesthesia was administered and the wound sewn up. He needed 5 stitches. The doctor then wrote out a prescription for an antibiotic, antibiotic topical cream and some ibuprofen. Altogether, the medicines were nearly $200 pesos.

For comparative purposes, my husband makes $250 pesos per day. This minor injury cost us (or rather me since I paid from the grocery money) $450 pesos. He didn’t feel well enough to return to work that day and took the next day off as well. The stitches are right at the bend of his knee and the job he was doing meant he was all day on his knees. So he rested up.

He returned to work on the third day. He says he’s been “taking it easy” but his leg is red and swollen when he gets home every night. He needs to go back en 8 días (next week) to have the stitches removed. That will be another expense. He’ll be fine, but he is sure milking his injury for everything its worth. Maybe he’ll learn to take more safety precautions at work, but probably not. I had a stern talk with him about that while he just moaned and sighed with big sad eyes.

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

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

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Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

I’m the monkey that’s doing the chasing of course. If you don’t remember, I have hypothyroidism which requires a blood test and doctor appointment every 6 months. Sounds relatively simple, but there’s a catch. We have Seguro Popular, (Mexican Health Care Insurance) and as such, must go to the Regional Hospital in Uriangato to have any and all procedures and doctor appointments.

It sounds like it would be a better deal right? After all, you’d expect the hospital staff to have better credentials than any Dr. Jose off the street (No offence meant to those Joses who are doctors). However, I’ve found it to be quite a frustrating experience overall (See Mexico’s Seguro Popular–A model of inefficiency). This time around was no exception.Apparently, there are now only 5 doctors during the week to attend to patients (Hay déficit de médicos en el Hospital Regional) which would explain the long lines and slow service to some extent.

Since my appointment 6 months ago, the rigamarole has been changed. In order to make an appointment to have a blood draw, you must arrive sometime after 6 am to wait for a ficha (number). The sign says that they only give out 30 fichas, but that isn’t true. The first attempt landed me number 43. The second attempt (I arrived a bit earlier) I received number 32. The first attempt was a failure. I was still waiting at 11 am–couldn’t wait any longer, and left the hospital without a blood draw appointment. The second attempt happened to be the day of the monthly teacher meeting (See Mexican Educational Reform and Political Wrangling) so I was determined to wait it out. I really didn’t mind that I’d miss the meeting.

When I arrived in the hospital waiting room, I gave out the customary holler–Quien es el ultimo para sacar citas para el laboratorio? (Who is the last to arrive to make an appointment with the lab?) I took note of the woman who claimed to be the last and her brown rebozo and sat near her. Others arrived asking who was the last for the laboratorio (for the actual blood draw or specimen deposit), who was the last for x-rays (the line was short for that) and for picking up resultados (lab results pickup). So there were several lines we all were trying to keep track of.

The blood draw and specimen deposit line formed at 7 am. A bit of pushing and shoving ensued, however as these people already had their appointment, it wasn’t too desperate. Once the 50 odd people were taken care of, the line for the appointments formed. The second line forming was more desperate since everyone knew there was a limited number of numbers available. I had to shoulder my way into the line and ended up pressed up against the back of the woman with the brown rebozo until the line advanced.

When we reached the window, each person received a laminated number. Real high tech here. Then we sat down again. The lady at the window called the numbers and set up the appointments. This process was slowed down as she attended those who had come to pick up lab results. It was now 9 am. Lab result pick-ups are from 9-10. You don’t need a number for this–you just head to the window and butt in line in front of those with numbers waiting to make their appointments. It’s a nice change to the routine when it comes time to pick up results, but while you are waiting for the appointment, it’s a bit frustrating.

So it wasn’t my turn until a bit after 11 am. As my appointment with the doctor was less than a month away and my blood work results take 2 weeks to come back from the lab in Leon, my blood draw was scheduled for Monday. Halleluiah!

Since my lab appointment was the next working day (no blood draws on Saturday or Sunday) I headed to the caja (payments office) for their approval. Last time around I was given a yellow receipt that verified that I this procedure was covered through Seguro Popular. This process has been streamlined with a rubber stamp instead of the yellow receipt. A bit of paper-saving here that shows an improved concern for the environment possibly?

Once I received the official stamp of approval, I was free to go for the day. It was now nearly noon, and I wasn’t in a hurry to head to the teacher meeting, so I set about my second health quest of the day–new glasses. (See I can see!–Getting glasses in Mexico)

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Mexico’s Seguro Popular—A model of inefficiency–prescription at last!

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So, holding my breath that the lab results would be in, we went back on February 14.  Results were only given from 9-10 in the morning, so there wasn’t any need to arrive at dawn or determine who I needed to form up behind.  The line started forming right about 9 and moved along rapidly.  My paper was marked especial (special) so the clerk had to go to a different file for my results, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes and voila! There they were.

Since Dr. J said I should come and see him after the results were in, I asked the clerk how I should go about it.  She said that I should go to Archivos, but I told her that Dr. J said I should make the appointment without going to Archivos.  She said that his office was down the hall in Consulting Room 5 and that I should go there and ask.  So I did.  I stopped at the nurse’s table and told them I wanted to see Dr. J.  The nurse said he was in today but that he was using Consulting Room 9.  I asked if there was some sort of list I needed to be on and she said no.  So I went there and parked my butt in the seat directly in front of the door.

I waited there maybe 5 minutes, then thought that perhaps I needed to do something else, so I went to Archivos and asked.  The lady there gave me a blue ficha and told me to go to the nurse’s desk.  The nurse at the nurse’s desk sent me back to the nurse’s table.  I handed my blue ficha over and the nurse wrote my name on the list, and then checked my weight, height and blood pressure.  This time, I felt I was on track.  She sent me back to Consulting Room 9 to wait.  I was #4.

I went out to tell my husband how I was progressing.  He didn’t want to stay, but since I was already there, I wanted to see if I could make this my final trip for the permanent prescription and not lose another day of work.  So I went back to the waiting area and spent some time studying my TSH results.  Everything was within normal range with my taking 1 pill a day, so that seemed promising.  The blood samples had been sent to the hospital in Leon and back.

Dr. J began seeing patients at 10 a.m.  I was called at 10:40.  Meanwhile, I spent some time talking with an elderly lady who also wanted to see Dr. J about her family member who was just admitted into urgencias (emergency room).  I told her it might be prudent to get a ficha from Archivos, which she went and did.

I sat down and Dr. J remembered my case.  I expect gringa patients are far and few between, so I stand out a bit. He looked over the results and agreed that I needed to keep taking one pill a day.  He gave me a prescription for 2 boxes of 100 pills each and explained that I would need to come back every 6 months for a new TSH blood workup.  That didn’t surprise me any, but I had to restrain a sigh.  He told me to go to Archivos and make an appointment for 6 months, then go to the lab and make an appointment for 6 months, then go to the pharmacy for the pills.

I thanked him and left the consulting room planning on doing just that to find Archivos were closed.  I went to the lab and found a line out the wazoo.  I went to the pharmacy and got my voucher for the pills.  They didn’t have the pills in stock, of course, but I could get it from another pharmacy with this voucher.

I went back outside and told my husband how things were going.  We agreed that it would be better if he came another day to make the appointments and pick up the medicine.  It was just too much for now.

All’s well that ends well since now I will be able to get the blood test, doctor consultation and medication free for the 3 years we have Seguro Popular.  I can’t imagine going through this process if I were really ill, though. I’d more than likely die in the waiting room, but maybe that’s the point.

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