First impressions are incredibly important, especially when you’re meeting the individual that you will be traveling with for the next twelve months, and especially-especially when that individual is also your boss. Which is why, when I sensed a scratching in my left eyeball each time I blinked, I didn’t mention it to my producer, Len. We’d only just met and if he thought I was going to whine over every grain of sand that alighted upon me, then I would be on the first flight back to Toronto. Therefore, I kept quiet that first day and cowered behind my sunglasses so that my involuntary winking wouldn’t send somebody the wrong idea. By the end of the second day, however, the situation had escalated. My eye was searing and bloodshot, and the winking had intensified to a mild face spasm. I sheepishly confessed my problem to Len, explaining that I needed to see a doctor. To my surprise, he wasn’t upset by the interruption to our schedule.
“Ooooooh, we get to experience the Mexican health system!” He gleefully rubbed his hands. “This is going to make for excellent content. Uh, and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
After a quick phone-call to my health insurance provider, we trekked to the private hospital Metropolitano, pausing to inquire directions from the only English speaker we could find: the drug dealer lurking in the shadows by the stairs leading from the metro station.
“You want some grass?” he hissed.
“No thanks, but do you know the way to the hospital?” I asked brightly.
“Oh, ah, sure. Go straight three blocks and then hang a left.”
“Thanks!” I chirped, and Len smacked his forehead.
Metropolitano was clean and modern, and comparable to any major hospital back home. I was immediately whisked into the office of an English-speaking doctor, who examined my eye and instructed me to sit tight while they called the ophthalmologist. Dr. Tapia arrived twenty minutes later.
“Sorry about the wait,” he said as he shook the rainwater from his hair. “I was at a party.”
“You left a party to be here?” I gaped incredulously. “And you came in the rain? On Good Friday?”
Dr. Tapia shrugged. “I am on-call twenty-four hours per day, three hundred and sixty-five days per year. Now, I would like to take a proper look at that eye with my equipment. Follow me to my office—it’s only a few blocks from here.”
Inside his office, the doctor inspected my eye for foreign bodies and then administered ink that rendered the translucent tissues visible. Peering through a magnifier, Dr. Tapia announced his prognosis. “You have a hole in your cornea.”
“A hole?” Len and I exclaimed in unison.
The doctor laughed. “Don’t worry, it’s just a little hole.”
Fortuitously, there was no sign of infection, and Dr. Tapia swabbed my eye with Ciprofloxin ointment before applying a patch. As I stumbled about like Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the doctor chatted amicably with Len, asking after our project and recommending his favorite spots in Mexico. When it came time to pay, however, the credit card machine wasn’t operating properly.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Dr. Tapia with a dismissive wave. “You can pay when you come for a check-up in two days. In the meantime, here’s my mobile number. Call me if you feel any worse tomorrow.”
He gave me a handful of Ciprofloxin eye-drop sample packs before walking us to a reputable taxi stand and arranging for our cab.
The next morning, I peeled off the patch (and a considerable amount of eyebrow), and recoiled in horror. My eye did feel worse, and I was beginning to resemble a lab rat. Still, I was determined not to freak out. It’s probably not as bad as it looks, I reassured myself.
Len was less optimistic. “Do you think they’ll fly you home for the surgery?”
I telephoned Dr. Tapia and he met me within the hour.
“Thank you so much for agreeing to see me,” I gushed. “I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything important.”
He smiled tightly. “Just another party.”
After examining my eye for a second time, Dr. Tapia assured me that it was only reacting to the irritation, and that the ulcer was actually healing well. Nevertheless, he gave me new antibiotic drops with steroids and recommended over-the-counter painkillers.
“Take two pills and two tequila shots,” he ordered. “It’s what my dentist tells me to do.”
That was yesterday; I have a follow-up appointment tomorrow, although my eye is already so much better that I have cast off my ubiquitous sunglasses. Which is a positive development, as I’ve grown weary of everybody singing that Cory Hart song at me. As for my experience with Dr. Tapia, I have never been treated with such attentiveness and compassion by a member of the medical community in any country. Of course, it must be noted that this was a private hospital. According to Dr. Tapia the care in public hospitals, which is free, is of the same standard. In fact, he himself works in a state run hospital on occasion. The only difference is that state facilities are not as attractive, and the doctors are much busier.
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