Paul was certain he would get chikungunya this trip, because if there’s a new disease, virus or syndrome to be had, Paul insists on having it. Plus, he’s a mosquito magnet. I’m pretty sure he’ll get it too, hell or high water.
So far, it was something more mundane that felled the hero of this story. All the stress and exertion required to be a fabulous expat — and probably some excessive air conditioning — caught up with Paul, and an ear ache turned into a very bad ear infection. Some antibiotic ear drops at Botica were no match for the infection, and it was clear we needed to see a doctor. This is something we knew how to do in theory, but actually we had never sought medical treatment while in a foreign country before.
We called a friend, who called a friend, and she suggested the obvious: Go to the nearest urgent-care clinic. Although we always hear about Clínica de Mérida or Star Médica, there was really no objection to heading six blocks away to the less flashy, but still respected, CMA — Centro Médico de las Américas — a 50-plus-bed private facility abutting the hotel zone.
CMA was built in the 1980s, and hasn’t been redecorated since; it is not glamorous by any means. It’s not going to be on the front of any brochures about health care in Mérida. But it’s clean, appears well run, and serves good cappuccino in its café. Tenants in our house reported there for an emergency last year, and returned with positive stories. Now it was our turn to give CMA the test. CMA had no idea that the ever-powerful, all-seeing Imagine Mérida blogger was there, taking mental notes.
It was before 9 a.m., which helped a lot in terms of quick service, but we were still amazed at how immediate and focused Paul’s care was. We walked through the front door, walked 50 feet, and were greeted by a small group of people at a desk. We were directed to a consultation room about 20 more feet away, and in one minute — no kidding, one minute — a doctor came in. Not a physician’s assistant, not a nurse, not a technician, not a candy striper. A doctor. And we hadn’t even given a name and weren’t asked for any I.D. or proof of insurance or status of any kind.
She examined Paul’s ear, and explained the problem. She even drew a diagram of his middle ear, and explained what the infected part looked like, as opposed to what it should look like. (It should look like a shiny fresh-water pearl, not a piece of sponge fished out of the New Jersey Meadowlands. I’m paraphrasing here.) She then called in a second doctor for a second opinion. After a brief conversation, he agreed with her diagnosis. I was impressed with everyone’s earnestness and lack of self-importance.
Mainly, everything you’ve heard about caring medical professionals who take time to communicate with their patients was true for us at CMA.
The pace was slow, and rapid, at the same time. We progressed through the system rapidly, and yet each encounter was unrushed, and uncomplicated. It was as if their main objective were to cure patients. Think about that. All they wanted was to help sick people. Paperwork was handled after the consultation, and consisted of a one-page form.
The specialist opened his office a little early to see Paul. He anesthetized and aspirated the ear and wrote out prescriptions. Since his receptionist hadn’t come in yet, we handed him his cash due directly, right on the street corner where Paul and the specialist were chatting informally. The consultation cost $1,000 pesos, or $56 US dollars under the current and very favorable exchange rates. We spend around $20 US dollars for the prescription drugs.
Paul is now resting comfortably and waiting for the chikungunya to kick in.