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My Experience with Health Care in Mexico

We’d only been planning, packing and dreaming of our time in Merida for 5 months when we finally got here. We immediately tossed our bags in the perfectly tiled rooms and jumped in the pool. That was a moment I’d been dreaming about for months. I stole the photo from Airbnb and used it as my phone background all through the DC winter – some days it’s all that could get me through my desk job. Everything about the move was blissfully perfect… for about a week. Until I was forced into my first experience with Health Care in Mexico. 

I started getting pains in my back and my side. I shrugged it off to a mixture of dehydration from the heat and pulled a muscle from one too many cannon balls. Unfortunately, the pain only worsened even as I consumed literal gallons of water hoping to avoid a doctor. As an American, something in me was trained to not seek out medical help unless it was an absolute emergency.

I eventually got to the point where I was huddled on our bathroom floor with tears in my eyes from the pain. With some Google searches and Meg’s previous experience we realized it was probably kidney stones.

It couldn’t wait anymore – I had to make a visit to the emergency room. We spent our first week exploring all the colorful street surrounding our house. Meg was an absolute rock star per usual. I quietly mumbled and complained behind her while she navigated hospital bureaucracy and medical terminology with Google translate and hand gestures.

These are the moments that make me realize how much our travel has forced our growth as a couple. We ended up meeting with multiple English-speaking doctors that took great care of me. They each explained every step on the process carefully making sure I understood what was going on. As I’m sure you’re expecting, there were also a couple frustrating moments.

Enjoying the break in the heat after some rain.

Some of the small things were funnier than actual problems. Like the nurse kept telling me I needed to drink a lot of water for my ultrasounds but we did not realize we needed to go to the hospital gift shop to purchase the water.

The other issue was a bit more frustrating. Even though we had filled out all of my paperwork properly indicating “Female” the staff seemed very confused by it. Half of the doctors and nurses were referring to me as male and the other half female. In a particularly uncomfortable moment I was having my ultrasound done and the doctor kept referring to me as “He” despite Meg’s repeated corrections.

At the end of the day, I ended up with an ultrasound, a CT Scan, a few IVs and 5 medications. There were only two major differences that were both financial.  One being we paid for each item as we went. Before each procedure, they’d tell us how much it cost and we’d pay before moving forward. Thankfully we were in a position to pay that amount but it was eye opening to think that had we not had the money I would not have been treated without having health insurance (any international health insurance tips welcome). At times they even gave us treatment options and costs leaving the decision up to us.The other difference that can not be skipped over was the total cost of the visit. When all was said and done without health insurance we paid less than $600 total, I won’t even try to guess would it would have cost in the US. I left the hospital with 5 days worth of medication to help pass the stone at home and was lucky enough to have it happen within 12hrs.  

I was initially very apprehensive about visiting a doctor let alone the ER here in Mexico. However, my biggest take away from the experience was how little of a story I have to tell. The wait to be seen was under 15 minutes, the doctors kept us well informed, they checked on me frequently and they followed up after I left. There were far more familiar things about the visit than unfamiliar.


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