The following are Notes I posted on Facebook, but I find that many of our friends and neighbors can’t access that information. I’ve decided to post this on my public website as our personal experience may be of help to others going through similar situations. The writing is raw, unedited, and often comes straight from being cut and pasted out of correspondence to a particular individual or group.
April 16, 2011 — Update on Larry
This isn’t exactly blog material, so I thought I would post this update I wrote to my family here on FB in a note where those who are interested could read it. Too tired to edit….
Dear Siblings, et.al.
I now have a little thumb drive thingy that gives me internet where ever there is a cell phone signal — like the Virgin Mobile one you introduced me to, Amy, only this one only required sheaves of paperwork, a four hour long session in a TelCel Customer “Service” Center, and I’m on the hook for $399 pesos a month for the next year and a half. I signed my name twenty-four times and answered every question imaginable – including what color my house was. But at least I’m now connected. I’ve missed being able to keep you up to date.
Larry and I got here a week ago Tuesday, April 5. Since last January we’ve been going up to Tepic at least once and sometimes twice a week for a series of appointments at the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social. That’s the Mexican national health insurance that practically everyone in Mexico has. As employers, we paid for it for our workers when we were building the trailer park, and two years ago we became members ourselves, paying at the top bracket, because we are both over 60. It cost us MN$3,200 each a year. That’s pesos, which are worth about 8 cents a piece. About last December, after Larry had recovered from his back surgery of just a year ago, he found he wasn’t able to exercise with the vigor he was used to. It got to the point that he could take an early morning walk, very slowly around the neighborhood park with his friend Danny and the dogs. But by the time he got back around 7:30, he would have to take a nap until about 10. That’s when Danny would pick him up and drive him around for several hours. Then they’d eat lunch out, and Larry would come back and nap for several hours. He’d get up and have dinner, and then go to bed around 8, sleeping hard until 6 the next morning.
So he’s been going through a battery of tests, and we ended up here. We’ve had a friend, Lulu, at the IMSS clinic in Tepic. She is head of making appointments, and has accordioned the whole process up for us, rather than dragging it out over half a year. So, at last, he had an angiogram here in Guadalajara last Monday afternoon. That’s where they shoot you full of dye to be able to see where there might be blockages. And if the blockages are fixable at that time, they do it with little stents, or “cateters.” The blockage was too extensive to do that. So they approved him for what I guess is a triple by-pass. All of this is fully covered by the IMSS insurance, but there are a few little requirements in this community of insureds. Everyone who is to have an operation must line up 8 to 10 blood donors, and one local (Guadalajara) “plaqueta” donor. I believe that term is platelet. That person has to be ready to give the day right before the surgery. When we first got this news it was “no problem,” and we had plenty of potential donors. Danny rented a van and took four happy campers to Puerto Vallarta Thursday. And our friend Alejandro, a student in Tepic, got two of his friends and went down and gave. We were well on our way to having enough donors.
Then things started going haywire. Cheesh, I don’t want to go into all the details. Things just got complicated. It has to do with making appointments in order to give blood, and limiting the number of donors per patient to just so many a day, and it being the beginning of Semana Santa here — which is the BIGGEST holiday time of the year, and faxing proof of donations to me and my not having a fax machine in my suitcase, and every thing in Mexico closing up for this next week. And to top it off, the blood bank here asked me what type blood Larry had. O Negative. Oh. The blood bank people are insisting now that all donors must be O Negative. But there are others (nurses, some of the doctors) who are saying otherwise. We are working our way through all this. We have friends in some good places, but just about everyone is on vacation.
In the meantime, Jim and Forrest are getting their blood typed on Monday. Theo is O Negative, so there’s a good probability those guys are, too, though they’ve never had a blood test before. But Forrest is in the last few weeks of his first semester back in school. We don’t want to screw that up. In the meantime it turns out that Marta, our angel friend Lulu’s sister who came along with us to help out (and who gave a first impression of being a strumpet and a total flake) is O Negative. Larry burst out laughing when he heard that. Marta is willing to be the platelet donor, and has quit smoking and eating Cheetos in preparation for her task. She’s taking it very seriously, and says she has found a purpose in life — helping others. I must admit, she’s been a VERY big help to us. She sleeps on the floor in the hospital room through the night, so I can sleep in the hotel and be with Larry in the day. But during the day she also does laundry and shops — like finding a portable fan for Larry and one of those egg carton mattress pads. Lulu had to go back to work, but left Marta an IMSS jacket and ID badge, so she is able to go in and out and poke around and ask questions and look official. She’s really got the attitude down. It helps that she is also wearing much higher necklines.
There’s so much to be grateful for. So many good friends knocking themselves out for us. So many NEW friends we’ve met going through similar circumstances. “Héchale ganas,” the son of the man who was in the bed next to us said as he left. He’s 22 years old and looks sixteen — Umberto Junior. Umberto Senior had a picture of his grand daughter in a pumpkin costume taped to the head of his bed, along with a picture of the Pope and a likeness of the Virgin of Zapopan. Umberto Junior lost half his hand in an industrial accident several months ago, and told us he knew some of his donors were O Negative. He’s going to look them up for us. I spent several hours over the last week reading the Bible Lesson in Spanish aloud to Umberto Senior, who was very frightened. He said what I read “filled him.” So his family is returning the kindness. And they also left us the pictures of the Pope and the V of Z.
We’re going to get through this, and it will all be good. Keep us in your prayer and caring. We love you all.
April 17, 2011 More Update on Larry
I am absolutely overwhelmed with the loving response from friends far and near. I would write each one individually if I had the time, but know how my heart is uplifted with each kind word. I’m going to carry my TelCel stick up to Larry’s room tomorrow and let him log onto my FB page and read through everything. I know it will do him good.
He’s doing fine. Getting a LOT of rest. I’m not particularly, even though technically today was the official day of rest. Sundays everything closes down, even the front gates of the hospital. You have to come around here to the back at the emergency entrance. That’s where my little hotel is. At last I have a decent room, sort of like a little European pension. There are twin beds, so I have a nice big work space where I can spread out papers and clothing — since there’s not a closet, cabinet, chair or desk. But the iron bed steads are painted white and the bedspreads are in good conditions and actually match the color on the walls — which isn’t awful. Marilyn included some clothes pins in the suitcase of clothing that Eddie and Roberto brought today, so I can pin the curtains together. That way the breeze doesn’t expose me to the taqueria across the street.
There’s even a tiny little elevator, but since it’s Sunday it wasn’t running. Oh, well, neither were the elevators in the hospital tower where Larry is. He’s on the sixth floor, and remember, they start counting “one” after the ground floor. One hundred and fifty steps. I finally counted them after the second trip.
I really hesitated to write that last paragraph, because it makes the hospital sound backward and third world. It’s not. There was just a transformer that blew up, and they have prioritized use of the power available. There was ONE visitors elevator available, but on a Sunday afternoon it was unbelievably crowded with a really long line waiting for it. This hospital complex is really more like a large university campus, and is pretty impressive. It goes for blocks with massive concrete buildings (hence the lousy cell phone coverage inside), park like areas, huge trees, lots of walkways, etc. And a big bronze statue of the IMSS logo — an eagle, its beak extended, with broad wings overa nursing mother and child. I find the image comforting on many levels. Both the U.S. and Mexico have an eagle as their emblem. The one on the Mexican flag has the snake in its mouth, and the one on our currency has arrows and an olive branch, but I particularly like this IMSS bird. It represents a national priority of a different nature then we usually associate with eagles.
We continue getting donors, even though they aren’t O negative. So grateful for every one of them. It is the blood bank that told me we must have all donors with O negative. Nurses here, the doctors, and the surgeon in charge all are willing to go forward. They are pumping anti-biotics into Larry (at least that’s what it says on the drippy thing they keep sticking in him), and giving him a special drink before each meal to “fatten him up” before surgery. I’m trusting this thing is going forward on Tuesday, blood bank or no.
This morning Larry and I had a little reading time together, and came to the Bible passage where Jesus prays, “Father, that they may be one.” I laughed out loud. Looked like O-ne(gativo) to me! OK, so that’s the way my mind’s going these days. It’s surely a corruption of what the passage REALLY means, but other verses talked about there being neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, because we’re all “one blood in Christ.” Well, I’m figuring that “Christ” stands for love, and there’s ample evidence of Love with a capital L all around us. I’m not going to go sorting it out into A’s and B’s and O’s, negative or positive. It’s just One big Oneness, and the question is not how much or how many or what type, but how big is our sense of that Oneness. It’s got to be Infinite. And that’s enough. Amen.
That sounds like a good place to stop. I will for now. I feel downright cozy being with you. thanks for being there.
April 18, 2011 Standing by the bed waiting
I’m taking the easy way out and copying the body of an email I just sent to my sister….
Just got your voice mail, but it cut off before you said the second thing. But the first thing was dear enough. Wow, I think we have more O- blood bearers in our immediate family then there are in all of Mexico! All three of you, huh! Well, JP is too young, John too old, and you, sweet sister, are a little far-removed from Mexico. Hah! But thanks so much for the offer. We love you all so much. We have one valiant O- donor who spent the whole day up in Tepic being interviewed, rejected, accepted, and finally drained. Lulu referred to him as the “guerote grandote.” That means great big white man. If she could only see our family! “GG” is Colin Kearns, Larry’s surfing buddy from Vancouver Island, whose house we stayed in when we first visited here.
But good things are going on. It’s been a roller coaster day of highs and lows, but I won’t go into them. I INSIST that good things are going on. I just got off the phone with Mom, telling her the latest development: There is a woman on the other side of this floor who was scheduled for surgery tomorrow. For over a week she has been gathering donors because she, too, is O-. Today the doctors said they were NOT going to operate on her. A young woman doctor here on the floor put me on to her. I went and talked to her and her husband. They were slightly suspicious and reticent, but after a while they said that their son would be here this evening and they would decide whether to release their “comprobantes” to us — and on what terms.
“Hay que dejarlo en las manos de Dios,” everyone keeps telling me. Especially a little round angel-faced lady who has kept popping up at my elbow, giving me hugs and encouragement all day long. For the life of me I can’t remember meeting her among all the people I HAVE met up here. But she just came into the room and said she’s going home now. I finally just asked her flat out what her name was. She smiled up at me. “Guadalupe,” she said, and then waved good bye. Too sweet. (I leave you to the strains of either The Twilight Zone or the Hallelujah Chorus. You choose.)
besos to all three of you,
April 19, 2011
Roller Coaster or Learning Curve? You get bugs in your teeth either way
And tears in your eyes. I admit it. I totally lost it today. I boo-hoo-ed into the ears of anyone who happened to answer their cell phone. My apologies. I am now post melt down and my grip is much firmer. I also finally had lunch around 3:30, which improved my outlook no end. Life looks much more rosy with a couple of quesadillas — they’re LITTLE — in your tummy.
Some time this morning, in the midst of all the back and forth of telling us what we could do, what we couldn’t do, what someone else was going to do — and not do, my lights went out. I saw mouths moving and Spanish words flying around, but I couldn’t grasp anything any more. I just went blank, and Larry rolled over and went to sleep. There was no rousing him. It was his way of shutting out the chaos, and I wanted to kick his butt out of the bed. Or at least move him over and crawl in with him, pull the cover over our heads and make it all go away.
It seemed so perfect, those five O Negative donor comprobantes that the woman wasn’t going to use. The family was so sweet this morning, eager to let us have them. But alas, they were not theirs to give. The blood in the bank belongs to the blood bank, and just because it was given in your name, doesn’t mean you get to say where it goes. In retrospect, a very honest set up. I was ready to pull out piles of pesos (thank you, Mommy) to express my appreciation. But I’m/we’re learning a whole different way of operating that doesn’t involve waving a checkbook and moving to the front of the line. Is this a constant lesson for me, this process of engaging with total strangers, meekly asking for help from friends and family, opening my life so others can become involved? Thought I’d learned that once. But maybe once is not enough. Maybe you just can’t get enough of being involved.
I joked when we started this process that now I see why Mexicans have large families. I also see why the vast majority of their young people are conscientious about staying healthy, don’t take drugs, and don’t get tattooed. All of those things exempt you from the blood donor pool, and being able to “be there” for your family and friends is a high priority for this population. The lines at the blood banks are long, and the waiting rooms always filled. Those who go to donate get there at 6:30 in the morning to get a place in those lines. The patient in question may not use all that blood — usually doesn’t — but having all those donors in your corner, I suppose is a way of indicating that there is a group of people who think you deserve to stick around — tangible evidence that you would be missed. That has to have an effect on the morale of an “infermito,” as those in the beds around here are usually called.
A good friend posted our plight on the web board at www.chapala.com, and in response someone gave a list of o- blood donors registered at the Red Cross. I called all eight on the list and got one who was able to give. Hooray for Eric from Canada! I’ll look for him and his wife tomorrow morning.
And then I got a call from Nena, my good friend Marielena Lozano, who has been in Turkey for the last two weeks. She came sailing up the staircase to meet me in the main plaza in front of the hospital, gorgeous, poised, absolutely in command — and I collapsed in her arms. She called her cousin who works in another IMSS clinic to get the straight scoop on how things are done and should be done. I got assurance — no one is going to kick us out or make us stay forever. It IS going forward. There is no way to stop it. And we can get donors of other blood types. Those DO count for something. (thank you Vicente. thank you Alejandro, Oscar, Lulu and so many others) And as a cherry on the top, Nena is O negative. “See,” she says, “you have one more donor!”
So Larry is scheduled for Monday, and little by little we’re going forward. Close friends are a cell phone call away, and others are even closer geographically, ready to come by and hold hands and offer comfort. We will have a week of Semana Santa here in Guadalajara, resting, reading and enjoying the peace and quiet. It is a madhouse in Guayabitos during this vacation time. But Eric Nice is watching the house and the puppy. Well, a puppy no longer. From what Eric tell us, Zack has come into his own with Cody gone, assuming fierce barking responsibilities, standing sentry duty up on the verandah railings. Brave dog. Good example. If you can balance like that, we can hold on for this ride.