It is January 2014 and living in a vacuum, I’m a patient-passenger in an ambulance under lights, making it’s way to a private hospital in Mexico? My husband is in the front seat next to the driver and the paramedic is next to me texting. (Texting the ER) “”Wait! It’s an injured ankle, guys!” Slow down time….
It’s 1993, a cardiac care intensive care nurse, I’m riding in the back of an ambulance going to Miami Mount Sinai, with a middle-aged male patient experiencing unrelieved angina. We are trying to meet the odds and get this gentleman to a cardiac catheterization lab before time runs out. An EMT, a paramedic, and myself from a little tourist island in the Florida Keys, are exceeding the speed limit, passing cars on the 18 mile stretch, and blowing through toll booths to do our job, and see to it that this man has a chance to see more beautiful days. Our little hospital has done all that it can and now a cardiac catheterization suite at Mount Sinai awaits his arrival. Despite doing what I’ve been trained to do and doing it well, it doesn’t seem to be enough. I see fear in his eyes. I hold his hand and ask our driver to please drive with a little less gusto and a little more smoothness. If only I could command the wind to do the same.
Cordial, professional, and timely we arrive at the hospital in Guaymas. I’m taken through a very small but crowded waiting room into a dimly lit room. A nun (nurse) and gentleman in jeans (X ray technician) are waiting for me, an elderly gentleman sachets over and touches my knees, abrasions, and swollen ankle and then I’m whisked next door for an X-ray of my left ankle. Just like that. No name stickers, no waiting in a cold room, no blinding lights, no interpreter.
During the X-ray the technician asks my name, for which I give him my driver’s license. This seems to make his day. We smile, he apologizes for not knowing English and I apologize for not knowing Spanish. The grapefruit size lesion on my ankle communicates for the both of us.
As the doctor is explaining to Captain Chameleon, through Google translate, that I have “fissure” of the bone, the doctor’s daughter from medical school arrives. Bubbly, and eager to translate, she does a history and physical, explains I have a small fracture, will need to have a split cast, stay off my foot…and shows me her 9 day post-appendectomy scar. A nurse in a foreign county, I so appreciated seeing her scar because it looks similar to the appendectomy incision I had in 1985. My confidence in foreign medical care escalated. Captain Chameleon’s head starts spinning, but it doesn’t take much for his head to spin. He was reaching his limit. It had been only 30 minutes since he had invited me to lunch at McDonalds, then I fell, and now without warning, he was looking at a fresh abdominal scar on a 20-something female.
Patched up by “Papa”, daughter, and the nun, I was wheeled out of the hospital and told not to walk for 2 weeks. Captain Chameleon settled the bill for a mere $90 US dollars. What timing: within an hour I broke my ankle, road in an ambulance, was X-rayed, received treatment, and paid the bill. This could not have happened in the States.
No walking for two weeks, and a script for a non FDA approved drug for 7 days, were my instructions. I didn’t fill the script, by the way.
“Hmmm, how do I get back to the boat, 10 miles away?” Embark on another adventure: we hailed a tax; I held onto Captain Chameleon and the taxi driver and made it to the front seat of the taxi; we whizzed through traffic as I prayed that we didn’t have an accident causing a frontal head injury; we stopped at a building that looked out of business and purchased a pair of crutches; hailed another taxi to a municipal bus stop; was consoled by an elderly gentleman in Spanish; waited for a bus to San Carlos; crawled up the steps on my hands and knees because the steps were too steep to use the crutches; sat next to a very old lady who had more difficulty than I did getting around; watched her disembark the bus with a cane onto a remote rocky road; and “enjoying the adventure” we were dropped off a few hundred feet from the marina. Not long after hobbling toward the marina, a dock friend driving by, noticed our new accessories of cast, crutches, and exhaustion and gave us a ride to the boat.
It wasn’t long before the word spread that the matey on Seamore Pacific is a klutz on land. Fellow boaters came from far and wide to offer assistance, rides into town for groceries, and alcohol. Donna, on Magic Carpet, dropped by with an appointment card. “I hope you don’t mind, but I made you an appointment to see my doctor on Monday at 2:30.” Little did I know at the time, that I would need to see a doctor before Monday.
To be continued…