Having surgery in Mexico can be quite an experience if you are not familiar with certain administrative procedures and treatment options. If you are on vacation or staying for any length of time, hearing our experience below can offer you some valuable insight.
It was another typical day in paradise where the clouds were streaming across the light blue skies above. The cool morning breeze coming from the Caribbean Sea was swaying the palms. Birds were filling the air with serenading whistles that echoed from tree to bush. The gardener was performing his daily rituals which included tending to the landscapes’ thirst for moisture.
I was in the dining room pounding away on my laptop when all of a sudden I heard smack – bam – boom followed by, “Oh shit, I just broke my knee”! I pulled away from the table and went running into the bedroom. Sure enough, the water soaked marble floor from the gardener created an immediate disaster.
We called a doctor who did house calls and he confirmed that the kneecap was broken in possibly several parts. That little bit of information and a shot for pain cost us $65 USD. From there we took a taxi to Playa del Carmen’s General Hospital. After 7 hours we accomplished a few X-rays (shown right exhibits broken knee cap), a leg wrap and $68 US dollars lighter. After a consultation, we decided to relocate to a private hospital where they have a fulltime orthopedic surgeon. Playa General was more of a public/municipal hospital and seemed overcrowded and understaffed. It would have been days before a surgeon would get to her.
We took another taxi to Playa’s Hospiten – a private hospital. Here is where we got right in, a full set of X-rays taken, and had a consultation with an English speaking orthopedic surgeon. Doctor Corona – like the beer, explained the severity of the break and made his recommendations. He gave us a choice to have the operation here in Playa del Carmen or go back to the states and have the procedure done there.
In the last 9 months we have experienced bits and pieces of the medical and dental environment here in Playa del Carmen with no mishaps. The facility was very modern and the doctor presented himself in a very professional manner. My wife felt very comfortable having the operation done at Hospiten. The cost was also considerably less than back in the states. We did all the pre-check in, put down a deposit of $3,000.00 Pesos – approximately $163.00 USD, and scheduled the surgery for the following afternoon.
We woke up Wednesday morning and made the short drive, which was provided by good friends – pictured right, to the Hospiten. We checked in and the staff went immediately to work. They did all the pre-surgical protocols and then took my wife up to her “private” room. The room was very spacious with a large bathroom, a sofa & recliner chair, and cable TV – thank god!. The Anesthesiologist made a visit to the room and explained her part of the operation. Then the Orthopedic Surgeon came in and outlined his procedure and gave us time frames. The nurse and her assistant came in right on time and wheeled her to the OR.
After the operation, the doctor came to review and explained how the overall procedure turned out and his foreseeable prognosis. Which by the way was a 100 percent recovery. He also informed me of her current condition and that after the general anesthesia wears off, she will be returned to the room for an overnight stay. After approximately an hour in recovery, they wheeled her back to the room and made sure she was comfortable and the proper medications were flowing through her IV.
She was still pretty drowsy and faded in and out of a light sleep. I could have stayed the night with her, but I felt confident that the night staff was capable of making sure she was taken care of. The sofa didn’t look that comfortable and it had been a very trying day with all the waiting, worrying, and keeping family members abreast of what was going on. With all that said, I started to make my way back home. The Hospiten was only a 15 minute walk from our condo. So I decided to sleep in my own bed and wake up the next morning refreshed and ready for what was to come.
I got to her room that morning to find that she had already eaten breakfast, medications taken and was unbelievably sitting up and very alert. The nurses came in to check on her throughout the morning. The doctor returned to discuss how to care for my wife’s situation, answered the many questions we had for him, and then began the discharge paperwork.
The X- ray – pictured right, shows where the two pins were placed in bone. Then a figure ‘8’ with surgical wire was used to bring all three pieces together. The procedure took approximately ninety minutes.
The proficiency, professionalism and the on time accuracy was far better than what I had normally experienced in the United States. I went downstairs to settle up the bill. I wasn’t quite sure what this whole ordeal was going to cost us. See the line items below:
- The initial exam, X- Rays and consultation
- The pre-op testing and lab work
- Surgery – Orthopedic Surgeon charges
- Anesthesiologist charges
- The overnight stay – hospital charges
- Medicines, crutches and brace.
- Misc. supplies and other charges
The whole procedure came to right at $49,000.00 pesos or just under $4,000.00 USD.
I did some online research and just for the knee operation it would have cost over $16,000.00 USD. This does not include any pre-op consultation, post-op follow up, and any other miscellaneous charges for such items like brace and/or crutches. Can you now see why Medical Tourism is growing so fast?
After several weeks of tissue healing, we began scheduling physical therapy under the doctor’s recommendation. He gave us a referral right after the staples were removed. The hour long sessions included electronic stimulation, massage, exercises that increased mobility, and consultation. The cost was under $20.00 USD per visit. When we get back to the states, we are anticipating $150 to $200 a session.
If you are in a foreign country for any length of time, the first thing you need to do is research medical facilities and local doctor’s reputations and specialties. If an incident happens like the one I have been describing, you need to know you options. If you are in Mexico, the likelihood of care given is up – to – date and westernized medicine is practiced widely. Try not to be reactive, but proactive in an emergency situation. Just like the Boy Scouts model and that is, “Always be prepared”!
Try to hook up with an expat community or one of their social media channels like Facebook or Twitter and ask for past experiences and/or references. Take time to visit the local hospitals and look around, ask questions and get the feel for things. Find a local doctor and set an appointment to discuss what facilities are available in your area regarding possible situations that could occur or pop up.
The information provided could and will save you time, money, and possibly your life.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Contributing Author: Maureen Scopel
Photography: Anthony Scopel
Article Formatting: Anthony Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Web Support: Matt Kemper
Publisher: You, Me and The Dock in association with Travel Farther Smarter
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