The one-eyed Mexican

Photo taken yesterday shortly after returning home.

We must stop meeting like this. Bandaged up, I mean. Just last November I posted this photo from a hospital bed with much of my nose covered in bandages, which was mostly unnecessary, I later learned. And now it’s the eye.

But this was necessary. At least I hope so. Yesterday morning at 9:30 I arrived at the Clínica David in the nearby capital city for laser cataract surgery, not knowing exactly what to expect, but from what I had heard and read it didn’t seem to be a very big deal, procedure-wise. I did hope the outcome would be a very big deal, however, because I had developed serious problems with night vision, which is perilous for night driving.

Right on time I was taken near the operating room where I doffed all my duds minus my skivvies and socks and donned one of those hospital gowns. In the operating room I lay down on the surgical table, and I was covered with a warm blanket. It was chilly.

There were six other people there, including the anestheologist and my ophthamologist, Dr. Adolfo Chacón Lara, whose photo you can see on their website. Dr. Chacón has been my eye doctor for years.

The actual procedure lasted less than 10 minutes and was not uncomfortable in the slightest. I don’t know what sort of anesthesia I was given, but it did not seem to put me to sleep, but I think it did. Dr. Chacón told me to close my eyes, which I did, and I had the impression my eyes were closed during the entire procedure, which is impossible, of course.

I could lightly feel the work being done and the bandage being put in place. He then said everything had gone fine. The next thing I remember I opened my other eye, and a nurse helped me stand up. The doctor was nowhere in sight, pun intended.

I have another appointment today at noon to have the bandage removed. This is being written yesterday a couple of hours after we got home. When I return home today, with both eyes working, I’ll have a better idea of the results. If all goes well, and I imagine it will, I’ll repeat the procedure as soon as possible because I suspect my eyes won’t be in sync.

The work yesterday cost the peso equivalent of $1,400 U.S., as will the other eye. I imagine alterations will be needed for my glasses, both those I use daily and my prescription sunglasses, so the jury is still out cost-wise.


MEDICAL INSURANCE AT LAST

Related to this is my decision, after two decades in Mexico, to purchase medical coverage before my luck runs out. At age 76, I have long passed the point of any insurance company wanting to roll the dice on me, so I am enrolling in IMSS, one of the government plans, and my child bride, at the tender age of just 60, is signing up with MetLife.

The Metlife policy will cost the peso equivalent of $800 U.S. for the first year and will, I am told, go up every year. There is a deductible of about $5,000 U.S. and after that a copay of 10 percent. The policy pays up to approximately $568,000 U.S. or over 11 million pesos. You’d have to be very unlucky to reach that limit in Mexico.

In the United States, of course, it would be easy.

The IMSS coverage, on the other hand, has no deductible or peak. You’re in the caring arms of Uncle José. The annual cost at my age and up to 80 is about 14,000 pesos or $700 U.S. After age 80, it goes up somewhat but not much, and you’re at the last payment level.

Why don’t we both enroll in IMSS, which seems the far better deal? Because IMSS clinics and hospitals can be dicey, to put it mildly. It’s the government, for Pete’s sake. You might get great service, and you might get lousy service. With MetLife, you get private hospitals, many of which are excellent, and you get to choose where you go.

You get what you pay for. Were I under age 70, I would go with MetLife too. I do not anticipate using my IMSS coverage except in the most dire circumstances, finance-wise. I’ll continue with private physicians, paying out of my own pocket. But it’s good to have a safety net.

The two of us have completed the enrollment process, and my coverage starts on March 1. Her coverage does not have a specific date, but it’s about a month from now. Her application is in the paperwork pipeline.

Take note, Obama and Biden: Mexico does not force everyone into the government system. It is an option, nothing more, and it exists alongside an excellent private system.


(Note: Any typos you spot in this post are due to my writing it with just one eye.)

My medical trifecta

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, bam, bam, bam! First it was a visit to my dermatologist, second came my ophthalmologist and lastly I saw my dentist.

My dermatologist checked a mole I spotted on my back via a mirror. I’ve had skin cancers over the decades, 40 or 50 eruptions. Yes, really. With one exception, a slightly more serious squamous cell carcinoma, they’ve all been basal cell carcinomas, a manageable form of cancer. You slice it out, and that’s the end of it.

Why do I have this problem so often? It started decades ago, and I imagine my youthful life as an unofficial sun worshiper in the sunny southeast of the United States played a role. If it wasn’t my bareback days on Florida beaches, it was my bareback motorcycle rides in Louisiana. Oh, the lovely suntans I sported. I could have passed for a “person of color” most summers, perhaps gotten into Harvard due to affirmative action. And a scholarship.

If Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren can do it, why not me?

I speak cracker dialect!

I have a good dermatologist here on the mountaintop, a young woman. She took me on time, no wait, concurred with my diagnosis, laid me flat on my stomach, and sliced it off. She asked if I wanted a biopsy, and I said no.

She left me with two stitches. The consultation and minor surgery cost about $90 U.S. I paid cash.


Tuesday afternoon, during our weekly shopping jaunt to the nearby state capital, I visited my ophthalmologist to ask about special glasses for night driving. I have mentioned here previously my failing night vision.

Turns out my problem is cataracts, especially in the right eye. The cataracts are not extreme. It only affects driving at night. I still see fairly well during the day though I have noticed it’s not like the olden days. So Tuesday next week, I’ll get laser surgery on the one eye. The one-eye cost, including an anesthesiologist, is the peso equivalent of $1,400 U.S., and I’ll pay cash.

An internet search reveals that the cost above the Rio Bravo runs about $5,000 to $6,000 and even up to $10,00 per eye. Another example of how Mexico is superior. I’ll report back next week after it’s done. I should see the keyboard better.

I’ll almost certainly do the other eye soon.


And lastly, today was the dental visit. I have a hygienist in the state capital who does the best cleanings I’ve received in my life, and during a visit recently she pointed out a cavity that needed excavating.

Instead of returning another day to the dentist she works with, I opted for my dentist here where I live, both for convenience and cost. Last week, she repaired the cavity, and set another appointment for today when she replaced two aging fillings with new resin, making me look fine because they were on my front teeth.

Price for the complete filling and the two replacements: the peso equivalent of $85 U.S., so again I paid cash. I am considering buying health insurance now, but who knows? I’ve been sailing fine without it for two decades. Maybe I should buy some before I die.

Healthcare options

This video from PragerU offers good advice on at least beginning to get the American healthcare system in order. I offer it to you as a public service.

The Unseen Moon is all about caring.

PragerU videos, usually about five minutes long, are often blocked by leftist YouTube censors because, one supposes, they are a danger to Western Civilization even though Dennis Prager is a practicing, conservative Jew. One video that YouTube banned was on the Ten Commandments. Go figger. If you are a practicing Christian or Jew, and you vote for the Democrat Socialist Party, it’s time for serious introspection.


When I worked on the Houston Chronicle, I had health insurance supplied through the job. It was no big deal. When I made a doctor or dental visit, I supplied my info to the receptionist and, at times, paid a small deductible, and that was the end of it.

Simpler times from over two decades ago.

When I retired on December 19, 1999, the coverage continued for the four weeks I remained in the United States before it faded away. It was a grace period that gave me time to find other coverage, but I did not bother.

When I landed in Mexico, I had no health insurance, and I gave it little thought because I was busy with other things, a new life. I lived in the state capital for eight months before moving up the mountainside. I had been brainwashed in the United States into thinking living without medical coverage was nuts, so I enrolled in government healthcare, a system known by its initials IMSS. I paid for one year. It was dirt cheap by U.S. standards.

But you have to use IMSS facilities, and I noticed in that year that the mountaintop IMSS clinic was neither a place I would want to be hospitalized nor a facility I would visit for doctor appointments. There were lines.*

For the rare doctor visit during that first year, I utilized the private sector and was very pleased. When the IMSS coverage expired, I did not renew. I never used IMSS even once. Oddly, I used it just last month for a free flu shot because my regular source at Star Medica in the state capital did not have the vaccine this year, a first.

Blame the Kung Flu hysteria.

I have been without health insurance for the past 20 years if you don’t count our enrolling in a free government plan for about three years, something I did just to provide my wife with peace of mind. We never used it either, and our doofus Mexican president has ended it, promising to replace it with something better, but that hasn’t happened.

Shortly after taking office two years ago, he promised a great government healthcare system “like Canada’s.” Thank God, like so many of his promises, he never followed through. Doofuses are like that, you know.

If I have a medical problem, I make a next-day, or even the same day, appointment at one of a number of excellent options here on the mountaintop or at the nearby state capital. I pay out of pocket. Most excellent doctors, dentists and even specialists here charge the peso equivalent of about $35 for a consult that can include minor procedures.

You need an X-ray? Just walk into a laboratory, get it done on the spot, and pay about $12. The privately owned labs also do blood work and similar stuff.

The video demonstrates well the problem with healthcare coverage above the border. I am so glad I don’t live up there anymore for that and plenty of other reasons.


* Our mountaintop IMSS clinic was given a major upgrade three or four years ago, and it’s far better now.

My night in a hospital

Not since I was 19 years old have I spent a night in a hospital. That was 57 years ago when I was in the Air Force with mononeucleosis, which is normally not an affliction that requires hospitalization, but in the Air Force you either work or you’re hospitalized. There is no staying in your barracks bed till you feel better.

And it was my first-ever hospital stay in Mexico. I would rate it C-minus at best, and if I had it to do over again I would go to a different facility here on the mountaintop.

Yesterday morning, I blew my nose. It was a normal nose-blowing, not that strong but sufficient to clear the nasal passages. That was when the problem started.

My nose began to bleed, and I don’t mean what you normally get with a nosebleed. Oh, no! It was a gusher. Think of those movies when Freddy Krueger slices someone in the jugular vein, and the blood starts spewing. Mine was not spewing, thank the Goddess, but it was flowing like Niagara. It was blood galore! A bloodbath.

I jumped up and stuffed a wad of toilet paper up the hole. The paper rapidly turned red. Half an hour later, thinking I had staunched the flow, I tried to change the toilet paper. It started again. Blood all over the place. It was a sight to behold.

This was not my first rodeo. About two years ago the same thing happened. I stuffed toilet paper tightly in my nose and went to a local clinic/hospital called Clinica de Pátzcuaro, which is a very good place, but they have no emergency room as such, which is almost the sole reason I did not go there Monday, an error.

At that facility, two years ago, a doctor stuffed a string of gauze about a mile long up my nose and sent me home. He neglected to tell me anything about removing it. I waited a week and pulled it out, and all was well.

Last week, I had the same problem. I shoved toilet paper up my nose, and within a couple of hours, the geyser ended, and all was well … I thought. Till yesterday.

I went to this other clinic/hospital, which is relatively new here on the mountaintop. It appears to be a modern facility, and it has a 24-hour emergency room. Once again, a mile of gauze was crammed up my nose. I was told to return in three days to have it removed. Within two hours at home, the blood overwhelmed the gauze and started to flow again.

I returned to that emergency room. A different doctor was on call. She pulled out the bloody gauze, sprayed something to inhibit the bleeding, which the first doctor had not done, and shoved another mile of gauze up my nose. I went home.

A couple of hours later, the bleeding began to overwhelm the plug yet again. We drove back to the same place, having decided that staying overnight in the hospital was the wisest move at that time, so that’s what happened. What I needed, I was told, was a ear-nose-throat specialist who could cauterize the raging vein in my nose.

There is a ear-nose-throat man at the other clinic, but not at where I had chosen to stay. They had one on call in the nearby state capital, but she wouldn’t come till the next day.

I was installed in a decent-enough room. It had a single hospital bed, and a recliner for the family member to use, which is standard in Mexico where relatives normally spend nights with patients. It’s often a recliner, but it can also be a second bed for the family member.

Immediately, I was connected with a machine that recorded my heart rate. It made a loud BOING, BOING, BOING when my heart rate was above average, which it was fairly often because I was not a happy camper. After about an hour of the damn racket, I told the nurse to disconnect it, which she did with no argument.

I was charged for that gizmo.

I was also immediately given a serum drip, which was stuck into my arm. I saw no need for that, but they said it was to replenish what I had lost through my nose, or something like that. Those things really restrict your movements. After about an hour, I was fed up, and I told the nurse to disconnect it, which she did with no argument.

I was charged for the drip.


The mystery pill

I received a supper which strictly adhered to the famous hospital-boring-fare reputation. Around 8 p.m. I asked the nurse if I could have a pill to help me sleep that night since I knew I would not sleep well due to the circumstances. I asked if my wife could have one too. No problem. Around 10 we got the pills, which began the most bizarre element of the entire experience.

We slept like the dead, both of us. At 7:30 I woke up, needing to pee. My child bride was still out cold in the recliner next to me. I had difficulty standing. I was reeling like Dean Martin on a bender. I could barely walk in a straight line. Peeing was a challenge, and I stumbled back to bed. My wife was not in much better condition, walking-wise.

What on earth was that tiny “sleeping pill” they gave us both?

I asked three or four times, but I never got a straight answer.


At last, a solution

Finally, as promised, the ear-nose-throat specialist arrived at 4 p.m. from the state capital. She seemed quite competent, explained the issue well, and cauterized the offending vein in my nose, which was not as unpleasant as you might expect. My nostril was cleared of gauze and bandages.

I’ll be doing a follow-up with her in a week or so at her office in the state capital. Interestingly, she is also a plastic surgeon. We finally escaped around 6 p.m., drove to a street taco stand for a late lunch, and then drove home in my child-bride’s Nissan.

She took over my evening salad-making duties because I still had trouble walking in a straight line. Same for her but less. We turned on a Netflix movie, which neither of us recall watching because we were still bonkers from the sleeping pills. Finally, we stumbled off to bed. This morning, we both felt normal.

Next time we have a health emergency we’ll be heading to the other clinic, a really nice, privately run facility popularly known as the Clinca de Pátzcuaro. It’s a modern clinic run by a family of doctors of different specialties. We’ve been going there for the five or so years since it opened. Should have gone yesterday, but hindsight is 20-20, an accurate axiom.


P.S. I was the sole patient in the entire hospital during my overnight stay. Total cost for the overnight was 15,000 pesos, about $700 U.S., and that did not count the two previous emergency-room visits which were about $35 U.S. each. To give them their credit, I was given a chest X-ray, blood work, urine analysis, etc., all of which indicated I’m in better-than-average condition for my age. But none of that stuff had squat to do with my nosebleed. They also said Sunday night they were going to give me an electrocardiogram yesterday, but it seems it was forgotten, missing another opportunity to pad the bill.