She sat by my bedside as the evening thunderstorms rolled by the window of my 5th-floor room at Hospital San José in Celaya, talking to me about her mother’s Michoacán recipes and how one single salsa de mole can have over 30 ingredients in it.
As I faded in and out of that post-surgery twilight zone, Dra. Margarita kept me company and my mind both at ease and engaged after a rather complicated surgery.
Dra. Margarita, Earth Angel
Doctora Margarita 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 serendipitous exchange of a single rose between the two of them on a crowded street.
I learned of her children—all highly accomplished—and that without a doubt, she was a doctor gifted with skills not likely 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 I had ever been through.
While I slept, Dra, Margarita rested, but 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 from the nurse, answering phone calls from the other doctors that were checking on my status–a simple yet powerful comforting in the 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 thoughtful and meaningful.
Doctora Margarita was my right-hand angel who compassionately cared for and supported me over the course of a three-day hospital stay. 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.
Arrival at Hospital
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 with the clerk at the main lobby, showed him the orders from the oncologist, paid a deposit, was assigned a recovery room where Frank could wait for me, signed one piece of paper and then waited for an attendant to come get me.
Simple? Yes. Nerves? Yes, 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 diagnostics and then proceeded to show me about 50 pictures on her phone of her redheaded niece to distract my nerves and ease my tears. Gracias Doctora.
Next in were the anesthesiologist, the specialist 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 this was the point where Frank and I had to say our goodbyes. He accompanied me while they wheeled me down to the entrance of the surgical corridor. 25 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. I told him how very much I loved him and our children and to always take care of each other.
Once in the operating room, I was assisted onto the surgical table and from that point forward, things started moving very fast. Told by the anesthesiologist to curl my knees up to my chest and tuck my chin down far, I knew this meant the spinal was on its way—wait, can’t I be put out first??
“Te vas a sentir un poco mareado” the anesthesiologist told me–“you’re going to feel a bit dizzy”.
“Bring it on” was all that I could think, as I was welcoming an altered state of consciousness to take the edge off of what were now lots of 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 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 is the anesthesiologist holding a large mask up to my face, and I was out.
Two hours later, I heard Doctora Margarita repeating my name over and over as she tried to awake me from my stupor. I remember looking over at the clock in the OR room which read 10:30, 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, there are no guarantees in life, are there…
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. 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.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I was at a 20 for the first several hours after surgery until all 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 standard protocol not effective in my case, but apparently the post-op nurse forgot to give me my 10:30 a.m. 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, she called the anesthesiologist to authorize a more potent cocktail. At last, the writhing pain was reduced to something slightly tolerable.
Was this one of the better parts of my surgery experience? Certainly not. But it happened, and I survived it. If I had to do it all again, would I still have had the surgery here in Mexico? Yes, I would.
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 two days after surgery and returned home to be cared for by my amazing husband, mother, and children.
I am fully aware that for some there might be a TMI (too much information) 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.
And to Doctora Margarita, mil gracias…you will forever be one of my earth angels. Le quiero mucho.
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