By Freda Rumfordfrom the November 2010 Edition
So we are back from 12 days in Colima! Not a pleasure trip but one which in some circumstances became pleasurable. We went a little fearfully because Nigel (my husband of 54 years) had been sick on and off for the past almost two years and was not gaining any ground, quite the opposite in fact.
I do not intend to have an expose of health problems in this narrative but wish to tell only of the treatment we had whilst in the Colima IMSS hospital. IMSS is the National Health Care system of Mexico, similar in fashion to the British National Health care and Canada’s Health Care system. Others may have had different experiences but this is ours.
There had been initial problems in getting in to see Dr Morales, possibly because I did not follow all of the prescribed steps. As is well known to any person having to deal with “the system” here, there are prescribed steps necessary to visit each and all of the various offices and have all of the different pieces of paper, signed, sealed and stamped!! Because I had decided that we didn’t want the free bus pass as we were going by car, I hadn’t had a vital stamp which meant that our original visit to the Oncologist was negated. It was only by a little (?) foot stamping and a kindly passing Mexican gentleman who objected to the office clerks tone in dealing with me that got us in to see the doctor. But at last we were in the stream. Arriving at the hospital after having had our operation and admittance date confirmed two days prior, we had to wait for four hours for a bed to become vacant, but eventually he was in the hospital and in the ward. To our surprise, he was placed in the gynaecological unit which had another couple of gentlemen in the same ward along with three ladies and mothers with babies in two of the other three wards. The only toilet was for ladies and absolutely he was not permitted to use that. Good grief, he had a very short warning time so I had to scope out the area to which he had to dash when occasion arose. The Gents toilet was two wards over! Good luck!!
As fortune had it, a friendly nurse fashioned a makeshift out of an empty drip bottle and all was well. It was two days before the scheduled operation and he was prepared for a boring time. Not a bit of it, there was a constant stream of nurses, doctors and technicians, pulling, poking, jabbing and stabbing all parts normally in view and those usually remaining undercover. Every two hours throughout the night and day, they were there, collecting all of the pertinent data required before Dr. Heriberto Morales Blake could begin to get rid of the pesky cancer intrusion. All of a sudden, on Monday afternoon, without more ado, conversations were cut off midstream and the team were there to cart him away. No time to say “goodbye, good luck”, he was gone. What now??
Time for Chinese!
Many hours later and with still no news, we were advised that the hospital was closing for the night, visitors hours were over and we would have to wait outside. Not knowing that as spouse I was entitled to wage a lonely vigil at the still empty bedside, I decided I was not sitting outside a hospital in the middle of the night and in the middle of a strange city and went back to the hotel to bed.
This was just the beginning of several days of highs and lows and of being scolded for leaving my poor husband unattended. He must have someone with him at all times. If I couldn’t do it myself, then I would have to pay someone else to do so. Thank goodness it was easy to convince our son, to do the other shift, by promising him buffet breakfasts to die for at our hotel. We were saved.
This is customary in Mexican Hospitals; the family is fully expected to be in the hospital at all times and quite unlike our northern practice of having to adhere to definite visiting hours, so as to allow doctors and nurses to work without interference. Other friends and family not in the rota are time limited but the favoured few have round the clock duty.
They are the Florence Nightingales. They feed their loved ones, assist with bed baths and alert the constantly busy nurses (who spend hours on medications and IV’s) of any problems surrounding the patient. They fetch and carry bed pans, act as escort when the patient is able to go to the shower and pace the halls of the hospital on exercise duty.
Every person visiting has to leave a piece of acceptable picture ID (a driver’s licence or Security card is OK) with security at the door and retrieve it upon leaving. No more than 2 patients allowed at any time. Occasionally we saw that last rule broken but security personnel are constantly checking who is there and offenders required to leave immediately. There seemed to be no exceptions.
On one occasion we saw a young couple with their newborn baby refused permission to leave the hospital with the infant because the mother had removed her security tag in her excitement to go home with the new baby. They had to go back and get the nurses to rectify that situation as no baby was leaving with the wrong people. It seemed hard and the young folk were a little dismayed but it was a good thing for us to see in this land where kidnapping is frequent.
I don’t know what all of the checking was for, but continually, people were walking around and checking names of people in beds against those on sheets of paper. Security, social workers, administrators, nursing staff, dieticians, all had their list.
Meals in Colima Hospital seemed to be much advanced over the meals produced in Guadalajara. I say seemed because with a five day IV diet and then jello & juice for three, it was hard to form a correct opinion of the culinary expertise but very little seemed to go back. I did happen to see the kitchens on one occasion when on the hunt for a jug of water. They were very reminiscent of the kitchen on a Carnival Cruise line ship that we were on once, absolutely spotless and gleaming with stainless steel.
Too our great surprise, three of the nurses from the first ward came to visit after he was moved to a different ward (because they missed him) as well as another specialist whom we had been seeing for a different problem and his nurse. In a foreign land and with a foreign tongue, it was nice to be treated as a friend. As Nigel said, “This shows the power of a please, a thank you and a smile.” No language necessary.
The nursing staff were very professional, in pristine white uniforms with caps denoting their seniority, like days of yore back home. Beds were changed frequently, as often as required and bed baths given several times whilst there. For some reason a beard is just calling out to the Mexican nurses to be taken off and it was only strong warnings of displeasure that allowed it to stay. The cleaners were around constantly, mopping, swabbing, wiping down surfaces and emptying buckets. The place was extremely clean, certainly in comparison to our only other guide of Centro Medico in Guadalajara, where, we were not surprised to hear after we left that fair city, there were rumblings of a potential major bacterial problem.
Come time to leave, to our astonishment (as I had been fearing and dreading the homeward journey) we were advised that we would be transported back to
Manzanillo, by ambulance!! . That is indeed what happened. The fact that we did not arrive home until after 1 a.m. is neither here nor there. We are now home, recuperation is underway and we look forward to our next episode to be played out, where else but in Guadalajara.
Most knew her as Freda Rumford. Freda Anne Vickery was a founder, editor, and contributor of the Manzanillo Sun magazine. She was one of the founders and, took over being President of the Manzamigos, when her husband Nigel, died. When she first came to Manzanillo, she got a job writing for the Guadalajara Reporter and used that as a foundation for her later humanities work. Freda was born in the East side of London in 1934 but grew up in Norwich. Freda’s early life was one of overcoming things. As an example, she was born with a lisp but one of her first jobs was being a telephone operator after some extensive elocution lessons. She met and married a young military man and, like so many others, they and their children moved to Canada for his employment opportunities and she ended up working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in cosmetic sales in Calgary. They moved to BC and then to Manzanillo, for her health, which flourished in the tropical weather. After Nigel died, she later married Kirby Vickery. She later became ill and finally lost the battle with cancer on the 27th of February 2016.