Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would end up having a hysterectomy in Mexico, let alone 5 months after major spinal surgery. But life had different plans for me and there I was in the Central Mexico town of Celaya, preparing for a surgery that would ultimately save my life and allow me to continue to be a Mom to my kids in this earthly realm.
Doctora Margarita, My Earth Angel
Doctora Margarita sat by my hospital bedside as the evening thunderstorms rolled past the window of my 5th-floor room, talking to me about her mother’s Michoacán recipes and how one single salsa de mole can have over 30 ingredients in it.
She shared with me how she and her husband of 25 years had met—a beautiful love story laced with an almost perceptible description of the aroma and taste of her mother’s pozole at a family meal and a gift of a single rose from her beloved on a crowded street in the city in which they both lived.
As I faded in and out of that post-surgery haze, Dra. Margarita kept me company and my mind both at ease and engaged after a rather complicated hysterectomy that involved the removal of a large tumor and extensive endometriosis throughout my abdominal cavity. I give thanks to this day that I was not sent home with a colostomy bag.
I learned of Dra. Margarita’s children—all highly accomplished—and that without a doubt, she was a doctor gifted with skills not taught in medical school. Doctora Margarita was an earth angel put on my path to support me through one of the more physically painful experiences of my life.
While I tried to sleep, Dra. Margarita sat upright in the chair next to my bed and did not once miss the moment my eyes would open and I was in need of something…anything…water, the bedside tray pulled closer, a repositioning of my very pained body, medication, answering phone calls from the other doctors that were checking in on my status and a simple yet comforting holding of my hand.
On the second morning of my recovery, Dra. Margarita came to visit me bright-eyed and with a gift of an exquisite, handmade, traditional Michoacan dress. I was beyond moved and it took every ounce of strength to express to her my gratitude upon receiving something so very thoughtful and meaningful.
Doctora Margarita was my right-hand angel throughout my hysterectomy in Mexico who compassionately cared for and supported me over the course of a three-day hospital stay and even beyond by keeping in touch via WhatsApp. She oversaw my pain management, made sure that all of the multiple entities were coordinated and that I was being tended to properly by the nursing staff.
I will forever be grateful that God, Serendipity, the Universe and my due diligence put her and the entire five doctor team of Unidim on my path.
Check In at Hospital San José, Celaya
With all of my medical records in hand (in Mexico the patient is responsible for their safekeeping—logical, simple, less overhead), we arrived at 6:30 a.m. at Hospital San José on the morning of May 19th. I checked in at the main lobby, showed the clerk the orders from the oncologist, paid a deposit, was assigned a recovery room where Frank would wait for me, signed one piece of paper and then waited for an attendant to come get me.
Simple? Yes. Nerves? For sure.
Moments later, an O.R. staff member called my name and took me back to the surgical area of the hospital. I was relieved to know that Frank could be with me all the way up until going into the actual operating room itself. I got out of my street clothes and into the ever-so-fashionable hospital robe.
Within 10 minutes, a nurse came in to start my IV, take my health history, and place an ID wristband on. From that point forward, several other hospital staff members came in to ask me general health history questions, interestingly enough including whether or not I had insomnia and/or bad dreams. Even the security guards came to verify that all was in order!
Dra. Margarita made her first appearance in this pre-op room, went over all of my paperwork and pre-surgery diagnostics and then proceeded to show me nothing less than 50 pictures on her phone of her redheaded niece to distract my obvious nerves and to ease my tears. Gracias Doctora.
Next in were the anesthesiologist, the OB/GYN in charge of the surgery and the oncologist. They each went over all of my paperwork and diagnostics and then told me they would see me in the OR…oh boy–fun, fun, party time!
Two nurses came to get me with a wheelchair and Frank accompanied me to the entrance of the surgical corridor. Twenty five years as a veteran firefighter did not inoculate my husband against great emotion when we said our goodbyes. Neither of us could fight back the tears as I told him how very much I loved him and our children and to always take care of each other. There are no guarantees in life.
Spinal Tap Time
Once in the operating room, I was assisted up onto the surgical table and from that point forward, things started to move very fast. Told by the anesthesiologist to curl my knees up to my chest and tuck my chin down, I knew this meant that the spinal was on its way—wait, can’t I be put out first??
“Te vas a sentir un poco mareado” he told me–you’re going to feel a bit dizzy.
Bring it on was all that I could think, as I was beyond ready to take the edge off of what were now lots of nerves, emotions and fear. Doctora Margarita didn’t miss a beat and immediately came to my side to hold my hand and talk me through it. The spinal was no treat, but clearly numbing me from the waist down was imperative for the surgery that was about to take place.
Once the spinal was in place, I was rolled over onto my back and Doctora Margarita proceeded to disinfect my abdomen and prepare me–wait, I’m still awake for all of this? A few other necessary procedures took place with lots of controlled commotion and many people in and out of the surgery room.
At this point I asked if I was going to be put fully under…apparently it was an option? Um, yes, please! The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist holding a large mask up to my face, and out I was.
Two hours later, I heard Doctora Margarita repeating my name over and over as she tried to wake me from my stupor. I remember looking over at the clock in the OR room which read 10:30 a.m., feeling so grateful and relieved that I was in fact, alive!
No surgery is without risk, and while I have always taken good care of myself and went into this surgery in the best health possible, we all know there are no guarantees in life.
Recovery & Pain
Once I was transferred to the recovery room and the anesthesia began to wear off, therein began about five hours of the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. For those that have followed my blog and this medical journey specifically you might know that the post-operative pain management was of significant concern to me. I discussed this extensively with all of the doctors and was assured that while narcotic-type pain management would not be available, that “something similar” would be used and that my pain would be “controlled”. Le sigh.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I was at a 20 for the first several hours after the surgery until all medical entities coordinated and were able to knock it back down to about a 7. Doctora Margarita was instrumental in this, and for that, amongst many other ways she supported and helped me, I will be forever grateful.
Not only was the “something similar” protocol not effective in my case, but apparently the recovery room nurse forgot to give me my 10:30 a.m. post-surgery loading dose of prescribed pain meds. How this happened, I’m not sure, other than to say it was the human error factor. Additionally, I must have the metabolism of a racehorse because the oncologist said they “dumped the whole pharmacy in me”, and yet, it did not produce adequate relief.
When Dra. Margarita saw that I was not responding to the pain meds (IV Ketorolac), she called the anesthesiologist to authorize two to three injections spread out over time of what I believe was morphine. At last, the writhing pain was reduced to something slightly tolerable.
Was this one of the better parts of my hysterectomy in Mexico experience? Certainly not. But it happened, and I survived it. If I had to do it all over again, would I still have had the surgery here in Mexico? Yes, but I would go into it better prepared on the pain management front by consulting first with a pain specialist who is legally authorized to prescribe higher-level pain medication such as morphine. There is simply a time and a place when that might be needed. This was one of them.
Everybody’s pain threshold is different, and while narcotics (i.e. a morphine drip) would likely be the standard of pain management in the States (and an initially more effective means of pain control), along with take-home narcotics at discharge, anybody who has had major surgery knows the many downsides to narcotics. I’d like to think that not having them ultimately led to a quicker recovery. Wine glass half full.
I was discharged three days after surgery and returned home to be cared for by my amazing husband, my Mom who had come to be with us from the States, and my adorable and adoring children.
I am fully aware that for some there might be a TMI factor to this post, but I stand firmly and confidently that if I can turn a challenge into something informative or of service to others (and myself!), then it has served a purpose.
To all of the doctors and staff at UNIDIM and Hospital San José in Celaya, Mexico, I am eternally grateful for the level of care, compassion and professionalism you have shown me and my family.
And to Doctora Margarita, mi angel de tierra, mil gracias…you will forever be one of my angels. La quiero mucho.
*If you have found this article Hysterectomy in Mexico~Gift of Life & Story of Survival because you are looking at options for yourself or a loved one, I am happy to provide you with the contact information of all of the various doctors that were part of this team. Feel free to send me a private message on my Facebook Page or an email to email@example.com
For more articles and information about healthcare, pain management and surgery in Mexico:
Post-Surgery Pain Management in Mexico
From Wheelchair to Walking…I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico
Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico
Emergency Medical Care in Mexico! A Halloween Story
Spinal Surgery Recovery in Mexico: The Other Side of Strong
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*Protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety.
tough little…….glad you’re coming out of it well……
Thank you Joe…
Got good genes on my side! 😉
Thank you for sharing this, Katie. I hope you’re feeling better soon!
You are welcome Lori…
And thank you for the well wishes!
Wow! Quite the surgery. I’m glad to hear everything, literally, came out ok. I wish you a speedy recovery. Thanks for sharing your story.
Nice to see you here on my blog!
Yes, indeed it was quite the experience.
One week ago today, my life was very different.
Today, I am feeling that recovery is well on its way and I am so grateful.
Thank you for the well wishes.
Katie, as always, your post provides us an intimate view into both your life, and the spirit of Mexico. Thank you so much for sharing <3
Thank you for sharing that. I humbly accept and appreciate the feedback! 😉
Now to answer your other questions…
Katie, glad all went well, thank you for sharing this with all of us, including those of us considering the “big move” to Mexico. First hand sharing, such as you have done, gives everyone such a better understanding of the realities of life in such a special place. It would be interesting to hear, as time goes on, how the follow up process and supports were for you during the recovery phase.
All the best to you for a speedy recovery!
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my most recent post and for your kind wishes for a speedy recovery!
So far, all is going very well and in my favor, thankfully.
The post-op care has been wonderful…Dr. Margarita checks in with me every couple of days, I have seen the main surgeon Dr. Oscar twice now and will be going back in again in 2 weeks for another post-op check.
So far, so good.
This experience has definitely cemented even more our full time/long term connection to and stance in our new country.
I am forever grateful for the care, kindness and professionalism that has been shown to me and my whole family.
Hi Katie, that is great to hear! It’s one thing to read in various books etc about what services are offered in terms of healthcare, but your first hand account really provides a much better idea of the actual “experience” of healthcare in Mexico. Thanks for sharing all of this information, and best wishes for your continued recovery.
All the best, Ryan
I know that healthcare issues are at the top of people’s “want to know lists”, and understandably so…thus one of my reasons for sharing, so candidly, what my experiences have been to date.
Are there bad experiences and stories that recount them? Yes, of course, but we all know those exist in every country of this world.
Research, community, networking, due diligence, double checking referrals…putting all the pieces together like a puzzle…pay huge dividends…in my case, my health and my life.
I have many reasons for which I love Mexico, not the least of which being the incredible healthcare I and my family have received.
Best to you and yours…
I’m having surgery in Tijuana in the next month and I am full of anxiety about the differing answers I’m receiving about post op pain management. If there are any recommendations you can provide for the Tijuana area would be forever grateful. I fear waking up in surgery without adequate pain relief
Best of luck in your upcoming surgery!
I know how unnerving it can be regardless of the country you are in.
My suggestion would be to have very clear conversations (take notes) with every single doctor that will be involved in your procedure, to ask them your specific questions relative to kinds/types/amounts of meds that will be used for your pain control. Leave no question unasked. And to consult with a pain specialist as a separate and crucial arm in your team.