Those who know me, know I don’t get sick often. When I do, I am a whiney b*tch, which is why I work really hard to stay well.
Unfortunately, I can’t always keep the bugs away. Last Saturday, they caught up with me. Whether it is my schedule, my poor eating habits down here, lack of exercise, or the stormy weather conditions that have settled in, my immune system just wasn’t up to fighting off La Gripe.
Once I recognized I was getting sick, I went straight into defensive action — lots of sleep, lots of fluids, and lots more sleep. The first few days I suffered were largely fatigue, fever and a sore throat. On day five, my symptoms morphed into the upper respiratory range, with a hacking cough, tremendous headaches, facial pain and more. Although by afternoon I would start to feel better, every morning I would feel worse.
Ah, I said to myself. My first sinus infection in more than 10 years, and it has to be in Mexico.
Once again, I loaded up on symptom relievers — cold tablets, cough syrup, Vick’s VapoRub, cough drops, and more tea than they fought over in Boston. In the US, I would have added in lots of hot baths, but bathtubs down here are nearly nonexistent. Hot showers had to do.
I missed an entire week of work, everyday thinking that I would be better soon. However, when Saturday rolled around again (today, that is), I felt even worse. The congestion was spreading. I hadn’t been able to sleep for days, and when I did finally get a few winks, I woke up to a pain that felt like someone was using my ear drum as a gong.
After checking with my dear friend, Karen — the best doctor in the world — I headed to the pharmacy to see what relief they could offer. Some of the over the counter remedies I like most are just not available here. So, on Karen’s recommendation, I asked about how to get an antibiotic. Turns out, your US doc can’t just phone it in. You have to see someone here.
A little background
A few months back, my husband, Lyn had been looking for some medical advice. I can’t even remember what was wrong with him, but it was something relatively minor. He went to a pharmacy just outside of our community, called Pharmacia Bienavides. They have a medical consultation office right there. For 65 pesos (about $3.50 US), you can see a doctor right away.
This morning, after being turned away with a few more over-the-counter meds from the first pharmacy we went to, we headed over for a consult. I have to admit, I was not really excited about doing it. I have a long-standing fear of doctors and dentists that extends while and deep. I won’t even go to an ophthalmologist without having Lyn check it out first to be sure I won’t freak out. You can imagine how I get about someone who may have to see me naked!
That’s why, when I find someone I like, I keep them close. Thank you, Karen! I only wish I could have brought you down here with us. Of course, it was only the other day you reminded me that it was me who left you. I’m so sorry.
Anyway, I paid my 65-pesos and Lyn accompanied me in to see the doctor. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. He was a very nice young man with radiant skin and beautiful piano hands. He also spoke English, which was a real plus.
I shared with him my symptoms and Karen’s recommendations. After he checked a few things — throat, lungs, neck, blood pressure and temp — he informed me I had an infection and needed antibiotics. He prescribed exactly what Karen had recommended, plus a cough syrup and something to break up the phlegm.
Being the chatty Kathy that I am, I had to ask him annoying questions, like, “are you really a doctor?” I thought maybe he was an EMT or PA, but no, he is a real doctor. He looked to be about 13, but was probably closer to 30.
Within a few minutes, we were on our way. The medications were the most expensive part of the visit — 650-pesos, or about $30 US. Because of our visit, we can go to any of the medical consultarios within the pharmacy chain and our medical record will be there. So for a total of less than $35, I saw a doctor and got prescriptions filled. There is no insurance to file, and no additional medical bills forthcoming. Wow.
A system the US should adopt
While I was sitting there, I realized that this system of having a physician work out of a pharmacy is brilliant. It avoids all of those unwanted emergency room visits by people who have no insurance, and provides an affordable alternative in a community setting.
Imagine what being able to see a doctor on a moment’s notice would do? Even more so, to be able to see a doctor for under $100. Of course, in the US, it would be more expensive, but then again, it couldn’t possibly by as much as it is now. With insurance, you typically have a co-pay of anywhere from $25 to $50. The cost of lab work is insane. Here I spent $28 US for a thyroid blood panel. I just walked into the hospital and they did it right then and sent the results to Karen later that afternoon.
Insurance companies would still have opportunities to sell insurance to those who prefer our private physicians, although it would ultimate cut into their control over the medical field, but so what! People would be healthier. The pharmaceutical companies would still make money, and doctors would also make money and not have to be so crazy about how many patients they handle a day. They would have more employment options than private practice or hospital, and would actually be serving the people that need the service most.
I think its brilliant.
An interesting side story
Last Saturday, as I was getting sick, one of my students had come back following a medical emergency. Apparently, he had appendicitis and had to have surgery, after which he had some complications and took a month’s leave.
When he started not feeling well, he, too, went to one of the pharmacy medical consultorios. When they told him he needed surgery, he left, thinking they must be wrong. He went to another doctor, who confirmed the first one’s diagnosis. Still not wanting to believe it, he left again. Only this time, the pain was so severe, he drove himself to the hospital, where he did indeed have surgery to remove his appendix.