Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Month in Mexico - Enfermo!

If the number of bathroom visits exceeds the number of hours in a day; if your stomach is distended so the shorts, which were too loose yesterday, cannot be buttoned; if it takes five minutes of sitting on the bed to work up the energy to look for your sandals and another five minutes to gather the stamina to slip into them; and if you feel ravenous but the thought of eating makes you nauseous -- then you probably have amoebic dysentery.

The day before we were to leave for San Miguel de Allende, I decided, after brunch with friends, to lie down for the afternoon.  I didn't feel quite right and thought a mild intestinal problem would be cured by a long siesta. 

That's what I told myself anyway. We had non-refundable bus tickets and a non-refundable accommodation reservation for the next day in San Miguel de Allende, so I needed to buck up and get better. Fast.
Three hours later, when I felt worse, instead of better, David read off the amoebic dysentery symptoms listed on the Internet.  There was no denying that's what I had.    

But it was 5:20 on a Sunday afternoon.  Where could we find help at this hour on the most sacred day of the week in Mexico, the day when most businesses are closed?

A neighbor suggested the Clinica Ajijic.  Within two minutes of arrival, I was explaining my symptoms to the doctor on duty.  She gave me a shot which helped me feel better immediately, prescriptions for two medications, and a list of dietary restrictions.  

The charge for this emergency room visit, the examination, and the shot was 250 pesos or roughly $20 US!  In the United States, my co-pay for an emergency room visit would have been ten times that fee and the wait to be seen would have been several hours, not a couple minutes.  

This is the type of thorough and inexpensive medical care David and I have seen again and again in Mexico.  

In San Diego, the dermatitis rash on my leg persisted even though I was treated by a specialist (a $60 US co-pay) and used a topical cream that would have cost me $300 without my insurance coverage.  

But the rash was still itching like mad and looking worse when we arrived in Ajijic. I saw a doctor in Jocotopec.  She spent 45 minutes with me, prescribed a special soap, and a cream she said was better than the US cream.  She must have been right because the rash is gone for the first time in three months.  Dr. Teresa charged 420 pesos ($34 US) for the visit, and the cream cost roughly $19 US.

When David came down with a sore throat, we both dreaded the usual progression of this "flu" which strikes him a couple times a year.  It keeps him in bed for a week and gives him a cough that lasts for months.  This time, though, with amoxicillin (a penicillin antibiotic) available over-the-counter in Mexico for 200 pesos for 100 pills, he only needed a day's rest and was feeling completely well in less than a week.

No one wants to be sick on vacation, but, if problems arise, we can't imagine a better country for excellent care and fees that delight a frugal traveler's heart than Mexico.   Amoebic dysentery may strike one day, but, with the proper care, you'll be ready for more adventure in 24 hours.  

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