Sunday, 22 April 2012

the eyes have it

The doctor's office
Speaking of real life while living abroad... The other day, Rick developed some severe pain in both eyes. He is not one to complain right away. When he began grumbling, I began to worry. Being the crew member with a modicum of Spanish, I searched for an ophthalmologist in La Paz and found a doctor who spoke English. I proceeded to call the Spanish-speaking receptionist. One of the biggest challenges when learning a language is speaking it on the phone. I had looked up key words and somehow fumbled my way through. All was set for an appointment later that day.

Our recently arrived friend Karina rallied, and we trouped down to the doctor's office. We waited in the reception area with a television blaring one very dramatic Mexican soap opera. There was even a strait-jacket scene. As Karina and I tried to decipher the unfolding drama, Rick sat with his sunglasses and cap pulled down low. 

The doctor made his entrance. 

Picture a well-to-do, bespectacled man of a certain age. He nodded toward us with an air of importance, and walked into his office. The receptionist gestured Rick in. I was encouraged to follow.  When we abandoned Karina in the waiting room, a nun was kissing her secret lover on the television set.

We got to know this waiting room very well
Dr. F spoke in careful English. He asked Rick questions and listened attentively. He began checking Rick’s eyes with his various eye-doctor tools. Rick found out he was suffering from a severe corneal infection in both eyes, likely triggered by the prolonged use of soft contact lenses. Throughout the examination process, Dr. F addressed me, as if Rick were a petulant 5-year old boy. Or perhaps it was expected that I, the caring wife of a forgetful man, should be responsible for him. To this day I'm trying to figure out if this is cultural, or if it is that particular doctor's take on the wife's role...

A paternal lecture, a contrite Rick, and more eye-machines later, we left with a promise to return two days later for a check-up and lab results. After a stop at the farmacia (drugstore), we hopped in a taxi to head across town to deposit samples with the lab. The pesos were flying out of our pockets and we were exhausted.

That evening, we recovered from our day with lemonade, beer, and a heaping plate of nachos. Karina is getting the real cruising deal. There were no margaritas at sunset this time, but the nachos after a day immersed in the Mexican medical system were just what the doctor ordered. Well, maybe not. But boy, did they taste good.

UPDATE: After two days, Rick was feeling much better. After another time-consuming doctor’s visit (and a different soap opera), we received confirmation that Rick suffered from pseudomonas, not something to laugh at. We are grateful to Dr. F for taking care of Rick. Rick has gone to see him 3 times. Now that we've experienced  the medical systems of both the U.S.A. and Mexico - our eyes better behave themselves. We'd rather be sailing!


  1. That does not sound like fun. I hope Rick is feeling better and that it's nothing too serious. Oh, just out of curiosity, what did you think of the Mexican medical system? You certainly don't get steamy telenovelas in most American doctors' offices.

  2. No, no steamy telenovelas in Canada either...haha. Rick is much much better - the medical system (what we experienced of it) - was pretty good. We don't have health insurance and had to pay out of pocket (inc. lab fees), and this being a specialist I imagine he was more expensive than a family doctor. It helped that he had a good grasp of English, although I imagine we would have managed anyway. The cultural differences were certainly interesting!

  3. Funny (or not funny) but rather ironic that Rick had an eye infection, Another cruising blog I read also dealt recently with eye infections.

    Good thing you could get it fixed now, and you weren't on a long ocean passage.



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