We’ve suffered a pretty severe change to our plans.
During our time in Oaxaca, Vicki started suffering from stomach pains. Fortunately, Mexico has a health system that gives free access, without appointment, to everybody and next door to a lot of pharmacies there is a separate entrance that leads to a waiting room for the doctor on duty.
We went to the doctor’s on the block next to our house and he prescribed some over-the-counter medicines for Vicki. These didn’t have much effect and, by the time we had arrived at our next rental in Puebla, Vicki was feeling increasingly poorly, so much so that we phoned the insurance company and went to the Urgencias at Christus Muguerza Hospital on their advice.
By now Vicki was in excruciating pain. She spent a horrible night and morning in Urgencias with me trying to interpret between her and the doctors, as well as trying to contact the insurance company so that Vicki could be admitted, which finally happened at about five o’clock in the morning. At this time, one consultant had been and given a tentative diagnosis of kidney stones.
The following day the hospital put Vicki through further tests, bloods, an X-Ray or three and a CT scan, after which the diagnosis changed from kidney stones to diverticulitis with suspected peritonitis on the side.
This changed everything.
Instead of (hopefully) non-invasive treatment for kidney stones, what Vicki actually needed was emergency surgery to repair the rupture in her diverticula, a temporary colostomy, a ten days in-patient stay post-op and six weeks recovery in total before she could get a plane home to the UK.
On top of this, Vicki had to deal with the language barrier between us and the hospital. Some of the younger doctors had pretty good English and helped us a lot, but it was difficult for them. We’d started at a language school in Oaxaca while we were there, and our plans had included a month in a language school later during the trip, but our Spanish really wasn’t up to having a detailed discussion of Vicki’s options, including the risks involved and the implications for her in the short and medium terms.
It was horrible to see her in such pain and not be able to help, nor to be able to help her understand what was going on.
Fortunately, Vicki’s sister and brother-in-law – Kate and Iain – were able to drop everything and come to Puebla. By the time Vicki was out of the operating theatre they had arrived and they immediately started helping out with everything that needed to be done. They very quickly found a house rental that we could have for two months and moved us in there.
While Vicki was an in patient, we set up an ad hoc rota so that she always had at least one of us in the hospital with her. Kate and Iain helped a lot with the discussions that we needed to have with the medical staff. It was a huge relief to have them with us.
Everything didn’t go completely smoothly. There were complications after the operation and Mexican post-op care seems to largely consist of providing families with medicine, bandages etc. and letting them get on with things. That was difficult for us, but Vicki was soon on the road to recovery and she found some good advice on Internet forums (oh, and some truly appalling advice too, naturally).
On Wednesday, 14th October – six weeks to the day after her operation – Vicki flew back home, and I flew on to Guatemala, continuing the trip as we had planned it.
I find it really difficult to describe how this makes me feel. The two of us have spent a long time planning and preparing for our adventure, and it seems so unfair that Vicki can’t continue it. I know how much both of us had invested in this and it hurts so much to know that Vicki’s trip was scuppered so early on.
At the same time, I’m really pleased that she is back in the UK, stopping with her friend Eleanor and being looked after by the NHS. She’s definitely in the best place right now. Vicki’s friends have been fantastic on her return and I’m so pleased that she is surrounded by people that she knows and that love and care for her.
For now, Vicki really can’t plan anything past early next year, when she will have her next operation to have her colostomy reversed. I hope that goes well, and maybe, just maybe, she will come back out when she feels ready.