Having been told by Dr. (Oh let’s call him) Meanie at the Jocotepec IMSS clinic that he would not/could not even refer me to the IMSS hospital where I could get my surgery done for breast cancer without a blood test, I felt that I needed to get one done right away.
Now this may not seem like a big deal to the rest of you so-called grownups, but I am absolutely terrified of needles and getting one shoved into a vein for an IV or a blood test has, in the past, scared me more than surgery. Crazy, I know, but true. So you can tell that I was desperate to get this tumor out of me by the fact that I agreed to go immediately to one of the many local little laboratories here and get the blood work done.
You might think that they could/would do that at the IMSS clinic here in Joco, but apparently not. Clinics here in Mexico, at least around Jocotepec, are not the same as they are in the United States. There are lots of things they just don’t do. The IMSS clinic here in Joco seems primarily to exist to get you referred to the IMSS hospital in Tlajomulco, dispense medicine with a prescription, and maybe change dressings on wounds.
If you want laboratory work done in Joco, then you need to visit (and pay for) one of the many store-front labs that exist in town. And that’s what I opted to do. I figured that if I could get the blood work done and the results back by Friday (the day after I first visited Dr. Meanie), then I could get a referral to the hospital a lot faster.
So off Jonnie and I went to find a lab to do the CBC (the complete blood work up thing, you know). And our criteria? Well, okay, MY criteria? A parking space near the lab and a tech who looked like she would be very, very gentle. (I wanted a “she” because it has been my experience that women are much more understanding about the whole freaking out over needles things than guys, who have a tendency … albeit subtle … to imply that you just need to suck it up, baby….play through the pain. Just my experience, you understand. I cast no aspersions on any male blood-drawing lab techs.)
I’d never actually noticed how many of these little labs there are in Jocotepec! It’s amazing how many more things you see when you’re actually looking for them, on purpose or unconsciously! I know that seems obvious, but what I mean is that until I was pregnant, I never noticed pregnant women. Or until I bought a white Nissan pickup, I never noticed how many of them there are on the road. You know what I’m talking about….I know you do.
Because unfortunately I could not actually see into the labs to see if a woman was working there, I settled for reducing my choice of labs to “where can we park right in front?”. Hey, it’s just as good a way as any to choose; right? Oh, sure, maybe if I’d had a few days, I could have emailed some friends or posted the question on a local webboard, but I wanted this blood test done NOW. So no time for that.
Jonnie drove a couple of blocks and I saw a lab sign with a parking place right across the street. ”That’s it!,” I hollered. ”That’s the one!” And since no parallel parking was involved, Jonnie agreed. (Neither Jonnie nor I are particular aficionados of parallel parking, so this was important.) Jonnie got us parked and into the lab we went to find, lo and behold, a friendly, gentle-looking young woman who could suck out some of my blood. Whoohoo! Two for two!
In my Spanglish, I explained to her what I needed and that I needed the results back as soon as possible. By this time, it was about 11am on Thursday and I really, really wanted the results back in time to see Dr. Meanie again on Friday morning. ”Si, si,” she replied. ”I can take the blood now and have the results back to you by 3:30 this afternoon.” (Except, you know, she said all that in Spanish….which, because I was no longer totally freaked out, I understood.)
The cost (500 pesos, as I recall) was much more than I expected, but I was willing to pay it because it would save me having to drive up to the IMSS hospital in Tlajomulco (wherever the hell that was), wait forever (like I actually knew what that meant then!), and get the results back some day way in the future. So, as tight-fisted as I am, I agreed. (Now I don’t know what such tests cost in the U.S. or Canada, but looking back on it, I’m guessing that paying about $42US for a CBC with same day results report really isn’t that much.)
But you know the absolutely best thing of all? Even better than getting it done so rapidly? The lab tech didn’t even hurt me!!! Of course, I never look when the needle is about to go in, but in this case, I didn’t even feel it when it did. She took two or three vials of blood (however many they take) and I didn’t even know she had the needle in, much less that she was snapping on new tubes! That in itself was worth the 42 bucks, my friends!!! And my friend Jonnie will vouch for me….not a scream was heard from me, not even an “OMG!”, and Jonnie was sitting only five feet away!
So the blood was sucked out, the tests had begun, and I hadn’t even had to leave Joco yet. But all that was soon to change. However, on this Thursday, when I returned to the lab at 3pm, I only had to wait about 10 minutes and the clerk handed me my full report which showed that everything was pretty much normal. (Semi-interesting aside, high LDL cholesterol levels here in Mexico are different than they are in the U.S. Too high is anything over 240, not anything over 200 as I recall it being up there.)
So I had jumped my first hurdle and was, I figured, ready to be sent to the IMSS hospital for my surgery. I was so naive that day in early December that I actually thought the doctor at the IMSS clinic in Joco would send me immediately to the IMSS hospital to have my operation once he had my blood work report in hand. Heck, I thought that Thursday morning that he’d send me up THAT day and so I really hadn’t brought any money with me.
I had a packed suitcase in Jonnie’s trunk, but very little in the way of cash since I wouldn’t need it while in the hospital. Jonnie actually had to pay for the blood test and I had to repay her when we got back to my house after the blood test. At this point, I made Radar O’Reilly look like a total sophisticate with street cred as regards IMSS!
Next time on “As the barb Turns,” you’ll hear about my first visit to the IMSS hospital in Tlajomulco. And, oh, what a day it was!!