There’s nothing more terrifying for a traveler than to be stricken with illness or injury while abroad. This angst is compounded exponentially when the traveler speaks little or none of the local language.
Though not on our itinerary, we found ourselves at the private hospital Metropolitano on the second day of our trek (which also happened to be Good Friday) after Sue sustained an eye injury.
Mexico’s two-tier healthcare system features state and private hospitals. State hospitals provide free healthcare to all, including foreigners. Comparatively, private hospitals charge fees – although they are relatively low compared to those in the US and Europe. Both state and private hospitals provide the same quality of care (many doctors work at both facilities) but private hospitals boast newer equipment and shorter wait times.
Dr. Tapia was at an Easter celebration when Metropolitano paged him with Sue’s case.
“You left a party to be here?” Sue asked in wonderment when he arrived a mere 20 minutes later.
“Of course. I’m on call 24 hrs per day, seven days per week,” he replied jovially.
“Don’t you ever get time off?” I inquired.
“I recently returned from a two-week vacation overseas. However, when I am in Mexico City, I am always available for emergencies.”
He requested that we follow him the two blocks to his office where he would be able to perform a thorough examination. The security guard did not seem surprised to see the doctor arriving late on a rainy evening with a patient in tow. At first, his prognosis seemed alarming:
“You have a hole in your cornea.”
“A hole?!” Sue and I cried in unison.
Dr. Tapia laughed. “Don’t worry. It’s just a little one.”
He explained the problem and its orign in great detail, then assurred us that the leison wasn’t serious and would heal quickly. He applied an ointment and an eyepatch, provided Sue with antibiotic drops, and asked that she return in two days’ time for a follow-up.
But the care didn’t end at the office door. It was getting late and so we decided to take a taxi back to Hostel 333. Dr. Tapia insisted on escorting us to a reputable taxi stand and requesting our taxi. I remember thinking he is a rather remarkable man; subsequent events proved just how remarkable he truly is.
The following day, Sue removed the eyepatch to find that her eye was even redder and more painful than before. She immediately contacted Dr. Tapia, and we were at his office within an hour. If he was annoyed at being called away from yet another Easter party, there was no indication of it.
He assured us that the hole was indeed healing and gave Sue more powerful drops. We rescheduled the final examination for a day that – the doctor assurred us – he had no party planned.
I am happy to report that Sue made a swift recovery after that. While I sincerely hope that no traveler will be in need of Dr. Tapia’s services, he may be contacted at:
Dr. Tapia y Asociados Oftalmologia Integral S.C.
Tepic No. 139 Piso 3 Cons. 306
Deleg. Cuauhtemoc, Mexico D.F.
Tel: 55 64 08 49 or 55 64 10 63
We attempt to ask those we meet en route to suggest places in their country that travelers should visit. A self-declared foodie, Dr. Tapia recommends Puebla for the local candy, Veracruz for the seafood and the local interpretation of a slushie, and Restaurant Le Amichuela in Cancun.