October 10, 2013, 6:30 AM
I awaken to our warm bedroom. The bedroom is upstairs and heat rises. We don’t use the air conditioner up there because it makes noise and we prefer to hear the surf at night through the open window. In the kitchen I fix one cup of coffee — for myself. There will be none for Louise as today is the day she is scheduled for surgery.
In the six years that I have known her, Louise has required two hip replacements (on the same hip) and twice that hip has dislocated. Surgery, in other words, is no stranger to us. This time it’s her shoulder. The shoulder has been pestering her for a couple years now. She has had shots and pills and some physical therapy, but all to no avail. The discomfort — now pain — has been incessant.
Surgery seemed to be the only answer, and she decided to wait and have it in Mexico after everything in our life calmed down. Six months of preparation were required to become nomads; then we traveled to Spain, Greece, and Italy for another six months. Only now have we reached a quiet state. So now, surgery.
In Puerto Vallarta we discover Pamela Thompson. Pamela is a professional medical enabler. She makes arrangements with doctors and hospitals, standing by at all times — day or night — to assist in case of emergency. She even has hospital privileges. Her charge: about $50 US for the two of us, for six months.
For Louise, Pamela arranged for Doctor Marron to do the surgery at AmeriMed Hospital. Louise tells me that Doctor Marron is uncommonly handsome and speaks English with a charming Spanish accent. These things make Louise happy. We are also told that he is highly regarded and competent, but Louise mentions the charm and the hunk when she reports to me, omitting all practical medical matters. In a pre-surgical consult he orders x-rays. The diagnosis is bone spurs. The surgery will require only a small incision, maybe two inches. It will require about 45 minutes, and will be minimally invasive.
We ride the Blue Bus to the hospital. The hospital is on Frogger Road (more about that next week), just a mile or two away from our apartment. We are checked in and taken to a private room. The hospital is remarkable: clean, modern, quiet, and high-tech. Louise’s room has a private bath with tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion on a granite counter, just like an upscale hotel. There is art on the wall — original, mixed media, and exquisite. This may be the nicest hospital I’ve ever visited (and I’ve seen quite a few).
Louise is gowned and connected to an IV. Her feet and ankles are wrapped in Ace bandages to help with circulation. Everybody speaks English. The staff is pleasant and efficient; and at precisely 9:00, they wheel her away. We exchange chaste kisses. I am alone with art on the walls and shampoo in the WC.
Nothing. I’ve read every magazine I can tolerate. I’ve walked a few halls. My (now-Mexican) phone rings twice but the voices are speaking Spanish and don’t respond to my “No hablo Español” so I hang up. I worry that the calls may have had something to do with Louise.
Louise returned a half hour after that last entry, smiling and looking pleased. Her recovery was so complete that she hoisted herself from the OR gurney onto her bed, favoring her shoulder only slightly. She sports a large bandage and a sling, but other than that all’s as it was when we got here.
Of course, she fell asleep soon thereafter and didn’t awaken until just now, when her lunch arrived. Ravioli and cheesecake! I love ravioli and cheesecake! I suddenly realize I’m hungry. I go downstairs to ask the whereabouts of the cafeteria. There is no cafeteria! I am in the most elegant hospital of my life and there is no cafeteria.
It’s just as well. I will not leave Louise alone. The handsome doctor is due for a visit. She is to handsome doctors as honey is to a bear.
Dr. Marron appears. He is handsome, as promised. He says the surgery went well. Louise will wear a sling for a few weeks. He poses for a picture, leaves us with a few instructions, and runs off the way surgeons do.
Neither one of us has considered the matter of the bill, and they’re not about to discharge Louise until she pays. The bill is 45,000 pesos, about $3,350 US. Surgery, a private room, and a handsome doctor — all for little more than a deductible. Calls to banks are made. The bill is paid. We catch a cab back to the apartment.
We’re home. Louise is in bed. It’s over and it was good. If you ever require elective surgery, look up our new friend Pamela (link) and come to Puerto Vallarta. The sunshine and the beaches are free. The hospital is elegant. The doctors are handsome. But remember to bring your own lunch.