In the last episode of “As the barb Turns,” we found ourselves with blood test results in hand and a wish in our hearts that I would finally get to the Emerald City….or, in this case, the fabled IMSS hospital in Tlajomulco, Jalisco, Mexico. Oh, sure, lots of us had heard about it, but I only knew personally of one person who had actually visited the place. This because the hospital is fairly new (having only opened in October of 2011) and also because you can see that getting a referral to the place is inordinately difficult.
But it is the hospital to which patients from Jocotepec are referred, so I hoped to see it myself within a very short period of time….ideally having traveled through some poppy fields to get there and getting loaded on the way. All I needed were the ruby slippers! So on the morning of Friday, 7 December 2012, I returned bright and early to the IMSS clinic in Joco with my paperwork to try to get this party started.
While I was not the first person to have arrived at the Joco clinic, I was the first person that Dr. Meanie waved into his office. I’m sure I’ll never know why. Perhaps just so he could take the tiniest edge off his basically nasty disposition by again snapping out questions and then sneering at my answers in Spanish. (As an optimist, I need to believe that somewhere under that vile veneer was, at least once upon a time, the heart of a healer.)
Surely he remembered me from the day before. I mean, there aren’t that many gringos in Jocotepec and there certainly aren’t that many that go to the IMSS clinic here. At least not that many with long, blond hair and breast cancer. But it was as if he had never seen me before. The questions on Friday were exactly the same as they had been on Thursday. How old are you? How much do you weigh? How tall are you? Do you have high blood pressure?
And, you know what? The answers were exactly the same as the day before. It was, as Yogi Berra once said, deja vu all over again, except that Friday morning I was doling out not only my mammogram and ultrasound film and the radiologist’s report, but my blood work results as well. But this day, miracle of miracles, he actually LOOKED at them. Didn’t study them. Didn’t spend much time with them at all, but he actually did type things into the computer with much under-his-breath muttering and then send me scurrying up to the front of the clinic where medicines are dispersed to pick up the printout of what he had typed in.
When I returned to his office with the paperwork, he scribbled his name on it, stamped it, and told me to go back up to the pharmacy window to get the referral to Tlajomulco set up. OMG! It was really happening! I was finally going to get to see an oncologist at the hospital. Surgery couldn’t be more than a few days away. I didn’t even need to unpack my suitcase. I was on my way to Oz.
Well, sort of. When I got back up to the pharmacy window to talk to Jorge and have him set up the appointment with the oncologist, Jorge said it would take some time and that I should return about 1pm that afternoon to pick up my official referral paperwork.
Okay, fine. That’s fine. Just a few more hours. Or not.
When I returned at 1pm, I had to wait for 30 minutes or so to pick up the paperwork. I was told to report to the emergency room at the hospital in Tlajomulco on Monday, 10 December, at 8am. Holy cow, that meant I had to leave Joco by 6:30am to get there in time. My night vision, as far as driving goes, disappeared years ago, but it was just barely light at 6:30am and I know the first part of the road pretty well, so I figured it was okay.
Besides, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” I had companions to accompany me. In this case, it was Jonnie who yet again volunteered to go with me to the hospital. Aside from being such a good friend, Jonnie was also a nurse in the U.S. and her Spanish is better than mine and she has the patience of a saint, so who better to accompany me?
At 6:30am on Monday, she turned up on my doorstep, bright and cheerful and ready to go. A quick stop at our local equivalent of a 7-11 for a large coffee for her and off we went with the great instructions provided by my friend Mike, the only person that I knew who had ever been to the hospital in Tlajomulco. Over the weekend, he had emailed me detailed directions and even included some photos. Mike said that the hospital really was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but that his directions and mileages were spot-on so we should find it easily. (And if you live in Mexico, you’ll appreciate this: his directions were pretty much based on how many Pemex (gas) stations you passed.)
And we would have easily found it if I hadn’t been half out of my mind with fear and excitement. That’s my only excuse for totally missing the turn into Tlajomulco centro that would put us on the road to the hospital. Jonnie kept trying to tell me that I’d missed a turn somewhere, but I was deaf to her pleas to just turn around and go back and try to find it. But, folks, I was in that poppy field on the way to Oz. I’m still not sure what brought me to my senses and made me listen to her finally. But thankfully, I did.
And shortly before 8am, we saw it in the distance. There it was. Perched on the top of a hill. A very large building with the sun shining directly on it. The home of the great and powerful wizard who would take this tumor out of me and send me home, healthy again.
So I parked the truck and off Jonnie and I went on the yellow brick road that would lead me to health. It was 8am. We were there on time, even with my insistence on going the wrong way, and within a couple of hours, I’d be hospitalized and be being taken care of!
Or so we thought at the time. Many, many hours later, still in the hospital, waiting to see the oncology surgeon, neither of us was so sure. But, like Dorothy and Toto, we met some great folks that day and I’ll tell you all about them in my next post.