I have written before about “the flaw in the design”… AKA the knees! My friend Reg recently had his torn meniscus repaired here in Merida. In hopes that his notes will be of help to others who also suffer from worn-out knees (or any other malady) he has offered to share his experience with the medical establishment in Merida.
Just thought I would take the time to give you all some idea of my recent experience with the medical system here in MX, as a result of my recent experience.
To start with, I injured my knee last August through some unrecalled effort. Now if this were Canada, I would have tried to make an appointment with my GP and take it from there or go to the Emergency Ward and wait to have it looked after. Here, I simply sent a txt message to an orthopedist in Merida at Star Medica (a private facility for those who can afford to pay or have expensive private health insurance…I could have chosen to go through the Mexican national health plan (IMSS) but chose not to as it too can work like the Canadian system at times). Within one hour I had a text message back from the specialist who apologized that he was out of the city but would see me on Monday (two days later) in his office at 930 a.m.
His office is in a ten storey modern facility which also includes the hospital. It was built in early 2000. Upon arrival I was quickly brought into his office where he introduced himself and asked about my knee. In the adjoining room, he asked me to get up on the table so he could examine my knee further. He quickly diagnosed that it was likely a torn meniscus and prescribed an anti-inflammatory and pain killers. Wanting further confirmation, he suggested an MRI. Knowing that in Canada getting an MRI can be a challenge and expensive, I inquired as to when? “Now,” came the reply. I took the elevator back to the main floor and approached the desk for the MRI. They apologized because I would have to wait two hours! Payment was upfront – a little under 300 CDN, which had been reduced as we have Seniors’ cards here. As the doctor was not in his office when I was finished with the MRI, I was instructed to return the next day when he would be working in Emerg and he would read the results. The bill for the doctor was 500 pesos – 38 CDN!
When we returned the next day he promptly came out of Emerg and confirmed that it was a grade three tear and in all likelihood would not repair itself without surgery. When? He could do it in a couple of days! Since we were heading off on an extended vacation, I thought it best to delay the surgery lest the recovery screw up our vacation.
And so, in December I made another appointment to schedule the surgery and a date was set. It would have been within two days, but I deferred as I had some previous commitments. I was given the forms to have the necessary blood tests prior to the surgery. I walked in on the Monday before the surgery, waited about 10 minutes and had the blood tests – 119 CDN. Here is where it gets interesting…I had the results at 5 pm in my email that SAME DAY!
Three days later we went to the hospital for the procedure….
Entering the hospital we were directed to Admissions, where I showed my identification and was given a wrist band. Next came the usual questions about medications, etc. I was asked to fill out a form in English and Spanish about dietary issues, if I had any. Next came a copy of the Patient Bill of Rights (in English). This was followed with a parking pass for my spouse, allowing him to come and go as needed from the hospital parking lot at no charge! The clerk called the OR floor to see if my room was ready…my room? Indeed, I was assigned a private room on the second floor where I would wait until the operation. The same clerk who signed me in accompanied us to the second floor where she introduced my nurse for the day. The room came equipped with a color TV (cable in English and Spanish) and AC which I controlled, one bed for me and a daybed for my spouse should I remain overnight, a bath with shower and a wonderful view of the city. Lunch would be delayed until after the surgery obviously. Did I mention the laminated wood flooring, no cold tile!
Shortly thereafter the nurse returned to take my vitals and we sat back watching TV until the appointed hour. Returning shortly after, she announced that the surgery had been delayed as there was another emergency involving a newborn baby that took precedence. Understood. My spouse decided to return to home as he was dog-sitting and he did not want to leave the dog alone that long. When he returned at 3 pm, I had still not gone down for the surgery, but did so within the hour.
The gurney arrived and I was taken to Emerg. There I was pulled up to a large, bed-length window where I was transferred from my gurney to another one (I presume so as not to contaminate the OR) after which the window was closed. Inside, the pre-op was conducted and I was hooked up to an IV. At some point I recall a doctor writing on my left leg…for a good time…just kidding. A curtain was pulled up in front of my face and I dozed off briefly. During that time I must have had an epidural, as both legs felt frozen when I came to. I was able to watch the last minutes of the surgery on the TV monitor over my head…scraping and vacuuming out the tear I guess. The curtain was lowered and I could see my leg covered by iodine or something similar. At that point I was moved to post op, but as I was conscious, it was a very short period of time. Once again I was passed through the glass doors and sent on a fresh gurney back to my room where my spouse waited. All in all it had taken about one hour and a half. I was kept in the room for about two hours and was then brought some juice, two cups of lime jello (minus tequila), a few pieces of apple and….three tortillas with cheese inside. I was starving and made the mistake of wolfing down the tortillas and jello…bad mistake! They didn’t sit well…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
An hour or so later my nurse returned and said I was able to go as soon as I had ‘pee peed’ (her words). There was absolutely no way I could be discharged until this was done! My spouse returned to the Admissions but they were steadfast…hospital rules….when the nurse was not looking, we resolved that problem! Et voila…we were on our way out of the hospital at 1030 p.m.
Of course, before we left we had to pay the bill. We had discussed this and decided to use my spouse’s AMEX card (he gets Air Miles). The total cost for the surgeon, the OR, the anesthetist and the room (fully itemized) was 35000 pesos – 2700 CDN. By the way, the cost of the room was 885 pesos – 68 CDN. Not sure how many Air Miles the spouse gets….
I have a knee with two small holes in it and absolutely no pain yet. I am taking anti-inflammatories for five days. Yesterday we undid the bandages and I am keeping it elevated as much as possible for one week. This morning I was able to shower using a plastic chair and am learning to use my crutches. Slowly I am putting some weight on it, but am not overdoing it until I see the specialist. I mm not sure to what extent I will need physiotherapy just yet…
And that is how the medical system works at the upper tier in our part of Mexico….
Thursday I have a follow up appointment.
I can only imagine how all of this would have gone down in Canada…
Photos: The images of the Star Medica building, Admissions area and Waiting Room are from the hospital website. The picture of Reg’s knee and him recuperating at home with Larry were taken today by “Yours Truly”