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Back to Oaxaca, back in the Hospital

Written on: Thursday May 1st, 2008

A journal entry from: North America in our Camper Van!


Michelle and I drove back into Oaxaca to get the lab tests performed that Dr. Fernando had requested. I had been feeling fine and the blood in my stool had disappeared and so we felt confident that I would get a clean bill of health and would be on our way. We had to be in Villahermosa in less than three days to pick up Michelle?s mother, and that was more that 15 hours away. We found the lab, waited around a couple of hours for the results and then headed back to the Clinic to see Dr. Fernando. To our surprise, the doctor was not happy with the results. ?Have you lost any weight recently??, he asked. Michelle and I both responded no, although my brother had commented that I was looking thin. I stepped on the scale and was shocked to learn that I was 7 kilos (almost 17 lbs) lighter. ?On second thought, you do look really skinny?, Michelle commented. The doctor then indicated that he wanted to hospitalize Rob. Needless to say, trying to understand the Spanish medical terms, the general confusion regarding what was going on and then dealing with our travel insurance agency made the next day and a half a little stressful. When I was not worrying about what medical condition I might have I was trying to come up with a way that I could tell this story on our blog without going into some of the bodily details. The good news is, I came up with a great analogy to tell the story? oh ya, and I am going to be okay!

Michelle and I left the hospital with instructions to return by 6 pm that evening so that they could monitor me and prepare me for the examination. Luckily we had found a spot near the hospital that we could ?borrow? wireless internet with our laptop and we skyped the insurance company. Compared to the ease of dealing with them last week, we suddenly hit a brick wall. ?There?s a chance the procedure won?t be covered?, they told us as they requested that we send them a report from the doctor and complete a Medical Release form. We spent the rest of the day tracking down the contact information for the last three doctors that Rob had seen in Canada (required for the Release Form), then we had to find an internet place to print and sign the form, then we headed back to the clinic to get a doctors report and then back to the internet place to fax?. it was a very hectic day. We then decided that this was too important to wait around for the insurance company to make up their mind and made it back to the hospital at 6:05 pm.

I was checked into my hospital room, threw on the smock and made myself comfortable. This one did not tie up properly in the back so all the Mexican nurses had a great view of my tushe!

Here is where my brilliant analogy begins. I?ve chosen none other than to use vocabulary from my past career, in the Oil and Gas Industry. First off, the supply pipeline was shut off and I was not allowed to eat anything for nearly 24 hours. From 6:30 to 10:30 pm I had to take 4 litres of pipeline cleaning solution, or perform some ?hot oiling?. The only other time that I have drank 4 litres of fluid in 4 hours was at Oktoberfest; that was easy. Beer does not taste like salty sweet lime juice with the consistency of saliva. It was hard and disgusting (Michelle has some disturbing video footage), but I got ?er done.

The cleaning fluid did not go to deep well injection until about 11 pm. I think that the fourth litre of fluid was jealous of the first because once the first got out it all wanted to come at the same time. After about 1 in the morning I got some sleep and dreamt sweet permaculture dreams. Michelle slept on the hospital bench in my room.

In the morning I was awoken by the nurse who took my temperature, blood pressure and weight. It turns out that my friends are right, I really am full of shit as I had lost another 2 kilos. The nurse told me that I would be having my pipeline logged around noon and to not drink any water or eat any food. Seeing as how I could not sleep anymore I started crafting this blog in my head. Michelle spent the morning running between the internet café and the hospital trying to resolve issues with the insurance company. The insurance company now had a letter from our doctor (in Spanish) copies of all the lab results, the medical release form but they now wanted to speak directly to the doctor. He was gone for much of the morning and so this was difficult to arrange; nevermind the language barrier. She also had to make new arrangements with her mother who was due to arrive in Villahermosa, 15 hours away, tomorrow. We had originally planned on picking her up at the airport but now would likely not make it on time.

Mid-morning an IV was painfully inserted into my arm. We were starting to get worried that the insurance company was procrastinating so that the procedure would occur before receiving permission. Under that scenario we knew they had an ?out-clause? to not cover the costs. When the doctor arrived for the examination Michelle first dragged him away to make the phone call to the insurance company. It turned out that they didn?t need to talk to Dr. Fernando, and after answering a few more questions, their doctor gave the okay to Michelle to proceed. Michelle later checked her email and found an email from them explaining this, but was rather frustrated and embarrassed after dragging the doctor away for no reason.

I was then transported down to the line logging room. Into my IV bag they injected a wonderful serum and I felt fantastic. As usual my ass was completely barren and when two cute Mexican nurses showed up to help with the inspection, instead of blushing I tried to make a joke in broken Spanish. I told them that my mother-in-law was flying in tomorrow and that they needed to ?Undele, Undele? (Hurry up). They laughed a lot but I think it was at the silly ass gown and hiking boots that I had on. Before I knew it I began sweet dreams and the line logging was underway. I awoke back in my room with a Depends diaper on with Michelle besides me.

?Rob, the doctors want to operate, tonight?!


?Ya, well, there are some defects in your pipeline?

The doctor had a free time slot at 10 pm this evening and he was willing to pencil me in, but first he wanted to bring in a Specialist Pipeline Inspector to review the results. In the meantime, Michelle headed back to the internet café (again) to do some research on pipeline defects and, of course, call the insurance company.

She returned an hour later with a pile of information. Before the Pipeline Inspector arrived we had pretty much decided that considering Rob was not in any pain, and considering that there seemed to be a plethora of natural ways to deal with this type of internal flaw, we would much rather pursue this again back in Canada. In addition, the insurance company had indicated that the surgery would not be covered.

And so, after discussing this over with the Specialist, I was discharged from the hospital at 6 pm. Everything is going to be okay, I feel great and I will deal with the issue when I return home. In the meantime I have increased my fiber intake tenfold, and Michelle?s mother had time to stop at a homeopathic store in Calgary before getting on the plane.

Having gone through this ordeal, Michelle and I appreciate even more now our health system in Canada. Some days it feels that there is a lot to complain about, but we cannot imagine living in a country with no health safety net and where we were required to deal with an insurance company for every medical requirement. When I broke my knee several years back, we did not even have to consider the possibility that the medical costs would not be covered. The additional stress and concern that we had to deal with here in Mexico because of insurance concerns was immense; nevermind that we have the financial resources to pay, if necessary. Although the $1700 hospital bill was not cheap for our insurance company this bill could have been an order of magnitude higher had this happened in the US. And so, we?ve decided that if it comes to choosing between (i) fast, privatized but expensive with uncertainty regarding coverage or (ii) long wait times for non-urgent conditions but 100% coverage, we would chose definitely chose the latter and are grateful for the existing Canadian system.

I know it?s already quite long but there?s a tad more story to end this last day. Michelle and I finally left the hospital just past 6 pm, exhausted, hungry and headed to the nearby campground. Annette was arriving tomorrow evening, and we decided that we would try and make it to Villahermosa in one long day of driving tomorrow. As we headed out, the van radiator indicator light started flashing. ?Stupid light? I said to Michelle, ?Either there is no fluid in the tank or Wilson is just messing with us?. We both agreed that it must be a false alarm. However, when we stopped to grab a few groceries I heard a hissing sound and saw that our van was bleeding out coolant from underneath. ?Ah Shit! What a day!?. One of the veg oil coolant hoses was rubbing on the axle and resulted in a pinhole leak. It seems that Wilson was feeling a little sympathy pain. I completed the surgery on the side of the road, solving the leak but filling our system with even more air. We made it to the campground and then had to spend another hour using our sketchy hose/jug system to bleed the system of air (again) and preparing for the long journey tomorrow up into the Sierra Madre Mountains and down the other side towards the East coast of Mexico.


From Gilles on May 14th, 2008

You know, your analogy could work the other way too.. next time you're trying to explain pipelines to someone, try giving an example about proctologists!