Emergency Room Spanish

No cause for alarm, but possibly one doesn’t know the extent of one’s Spanish language ability until it’s put to the test at 2 a.m. in a Mexican emergency room.

 I’m getting better rapidly thanks to a whole army of doctors and meds, but I had a fairly scary descent into being really sick with what turned out to be a kidney infection. The infection elevated my already dicey blood pressure and I’ve been a pretty sick puppy.

salaemergenciaI’d already been to three doctors who couldn’t figure out what was going on before I landed in the Red Cross Hospital emergency room at 2 a.m. Apparently the test for kidney infection is for the doctor to pound you in the back and ask if it hurts HERE or HERE. Yes, it did, a lot.

I was given the choice to be hospitalized for a couple of days with IV antibiotics or get my own syringes and shots twice a day, as the oral antibiotics were2-cruz-rojan’t working fast enough. I opted for shots on my own, which in retrospect – like many things seen in the rear-view mirror of actual logic – might have been just a teeny mistake.

I shouldn’t have tried to save the price of a legit injection in the hospital by finding say, whoever, to give it to me in alternating buttocks. A nurse friend gave it a couple of shots before confessing that she hadn’t actually given shots in 20 years or so and was too nervous to continue. The nut and seed lady from my local market, whose closest claim to nursing was that her daughter was one, came over several times and therein I think the blame might have lain.


She – or let’s just say someone – missed the mark by a fairly long shot and ended up hitting the sciatic nerve, which sort of shut everything down and to make a long story short, either wrote me up in medical journals or gave the doctors back in Dallas something to write on the bathroom walls. My GP’s nice, motherly head nurse suggested in all seriousness that were I continue to get shots in a third-world country, I might want to have little dots tattooed in the correct place on each hip (as in: please inject here, and not in my sciatic nerve).

Hospital Reforma

Hospital Reforma

Maybe too much information, but suffice it to say that I learned my lesson and will in the future pay the $1.60 to get a shot at the nice Hospital Reforma, where the inner open courtyard has a fountain and the nurses still wear crisp white nurse caps. The good things about getting sick in Mexico:

* Each doctor visit cost about $16; an injection $1.60

* Meds are probably half of the cost of what they are in the U.S.

* My weight sounds so much better in kilos (temperature 38.8 C; I can’t do that conversion)

I’m awfully proud of myself for being able to tell three different doctors my symptoms, answer their questions and mostly understand their course of action. By the time I was discussing global warming with the tiny nun in tennis shoes who gave me my shot in the first clinic (before I went renegade on the injections), I was feeling quite OK about my ability to survive in a Spanish-speaking country. I also had quite an interesting conversation with the night emergency room staff about the poisonous snakes and spiders in Texas.

Get well messages from my English students

Get well messages from my English students

Fortunately, things resolved themselves on their own. My best advice here is: do not, when living in a foreign country, hit the internet to see what might be happening to you. Believe me, there are many people much worse off, with too much time on their hands, who need to catalog every symptom, ache and pain of their chronic, unsolvable conditions.

images-2So that’s it for straying too far from the clinic: no more shots from the nut and seed lady. And I’m still thinking seriously about the tattoos.



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