There is Something Wrong with Me
Patricia is now alone in her Shirley Valentine Flat. I believe she’s adoring every moment. She joins us for yoga and tennis. Patricia has always been a much better tennis player than us and our round robin group welcomes her higher level. For various reasons, we can’t make three games and Patricia happily takes the bus on her own, plays tennis and enjoys her breakfast at the Balboa Beach Club. Like Juan, she gets Maz. The reason we can’t make morning tennis is because I am having morning problems. It’s been going on for six weeks. Dr. Levid can’t figure it out, (that always scares the hell out me) and after a series of pills which do not work, he finally recommends Dr. Gamez, a gastroenterologist. Google may be my friend, but my morning diarrhea symptoms leave me with nothing but fear. I have a tendency to overreact to medical descriptions on the internet. The morning “surge” is uncontrollable and it spans over two hours. I am not in pain. I am not loosing weight. I am not totally panicked. Yet. I had a colonoscopy four years ago. Could I have developed knots and lumps in my intestines since? I phone Dr. Gamez’s office and manage to make an appointment, all in Spanish. His secretary does not speak any English. Then the receptionist caught me off guard by asking me questions. I am lost, but fortunately Ligia is here, and I hand her my cell phone. She translates, “They just want to know your birth date and could you come in today?” An appointment with a specialist today? No wonder I didn’t understand. I opt for a time two days later.
I feel I need to enlist some Spanish help from Alfredo. I suspect there will be “prep” work involved and I want to be absolutely sure of the instructions. The teacher then does two wonderful things. He went to Dr. Gamaz’s office and confirmed my appointment. He then phoned his doctor daughter, Karla, and arranged for her to meet us at the specialist’s office. Karla is a busy mum with her own practice, but she’s very kindly made time for me. It also helps that she trained with Dr. Gamaz and they know one another. We rendezvous at 4 p.m. That’s Dr. Gamaz’s first appointment of the day. From 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. he works at the local social security health clinic; he then sees private paying patients from 4 until 8 p.m. We really must do something about these lazy Mexicans.
Karla joins me in Dr. Gamez’ office and together we answer his many questions. I’m glad Karla is a female because now she knows all about my bowel movements, my weight and my entire history. I just knew there would be prep work, there has to be, and now the dreaded instructions all being delivered in Spanish. Karla walks me through what to take and drink at what hours. I could not be doing this without her. I did not need barium enema translated; well, how else does a doctor get to the bottom of my problem? Karla makes the appointment for me at the lab. I spend Sunday night in the bathroom and watch five movies. It’s way worse than prepping for a colonoscopy; this prep has the added bonus of nausea.
Monday morning dawns, I’ve had no sleep, and we take a pulmonia to the lab. The fun begins right at 9 a.m. The rectal injection is done efficiently and with care. Oh boy. I’m shaken and stirred for an hour. I get through this by deep breathing, and focusing on ocean waves. It was so uncomfortable I was wishing for a colonoscopy. My photos are being developed on the go; Soren can see the radiologist looking at each frame. I get dressed and we wait for 20 minutes. The radiologist hands me my X-rays and says there is nothing wrong. Well of course, there is something wrong; it’s just not knots that I had feared. It must be some kind of deep infection, I’m thinking. No need for an operation as I was imagining on the steel slab as the technician rolled me about. We both appreciate being given news right away; the control of my health is where it should be, with me.
On Wednesday we visit Dr. Gamez, X-rays in hand. There’s no need for Karla to be there. Dr. Gamez looks at the X-rays and shows me that the upper part of my lower intestines are twice a thick as they should be. It is indeed a major infection and it’s simple to cure with antibiotics and drinking lots of apple juice. Relief is pouring through me. I work up the nerve to ask if it’s alright to have a glass of wine while taking these antibiotics, “Yes, go ahead, you should feel better in 15 days.” Dr. Gamaz picks up his cell phone and calls Karla. He tells her that I’m fine. Alfredo will know this within five minutes. Watching the sunset this evening is pure delight. Soren and I review my medical crisis. In just one week I’d seen a specialist, been to the lab, saw Dr. Gamez again for results and treatment. A complex health issue has been solved in seven days. That would just never happen in Canada. Getting an appointment with a specialist can take from three to six months. Yes, there are costs attached. Each visit with Dr. Gamez is $55 (US), blood work is $20(US), and my fun- filled hour at the lab cost $80(US). We feel very well cared for here in Mazatlan. Alfredo arrives the next morning wearing a big smile saying, “See I told you you’d be okay.”
Patricia pops in and out of our apartment to chat and to use e mail. She’s been occupied by soaking up the rays on the Malecon, by shopping in the market, by treating herself to a gorgeous chunky necklace from Elina’s Chauvet shop in the square, and she keeps returning to Pablo Corpus’s painting hanging on the walls of the Bolero Café. On the Malecon she’s also seen two Chihuahuas dressed in pink tutus and during one sunset a Mexican gentleman asks her, very politely, if she’d like to have dinner with him. Patricia, very politely, says no thank you. Patricia has us “downstairs” for a chicken Marsala tandoori dinner. It’s yummy and such a welcome change from Mexican flavours. She looks very at home in her flat; I’m wondering if she’ll make this Shirley Valentine month an annual affair?
It does not take 15 days to get better. It takes four days. My energy has returned and I am better than back to normal. It’s now safe to leave the apartment. Soren and I have a date with our condo, unit #703. We wear hard hats and sensible shoes and climb seven flights of stairs. We dodge construction workers; we dodge beams, flying shovels, scaffolding and open elevator shafts. We peek in at the site kitchen which feeds the 140 men breakfast and lunch. We are laughing how this tour would never be allowed in Canada. We reach our unit; the view is breathtaking. I can’t believe how awesome it is. There are no walls yet, but the shell is enough to excite us and assure us of how smart we were to buy an ocean view property. Well, we’ve paid 90%, we’d better love it! It’s mid March, and new deadline in mid October. Is that even achievable?
We offer another climb to Patricia which has a stunning southern view of the cruise ships, as well as a north east view over the city and Sierra Madres Mountains. We had a dress rehearsal with Juan, so we knew the time to leave Pedregoso and when the cruise ships slip through the narrow inlet. At 4:30 p.m. we walked up the steps; I think Patricia counted a 165, and then we collapsed in the chairs to watch the sunset and ships, sipping beers and margaritas. With Warren and I being such margarita experts, I was forced to return them two weeks ago. But this time I knew exactly what the bartender would be doing; talking on her cell phone and looking at her long, turquoise glittering nails. I simply went straight to bar and showed her how to mix it. She didn’t miss a beat in her conversation, the cell phone never left her ear, but she did respond to my directions. Patricia is enjoying the ballet of how the cruise ships turn in the narrow inlet, and then the pilot boat guides them out to open Pacific.
Patricia returns to the Pablo Corpus painting, which is really a print, which she has now seen three times. She wants to buy it, but since she’s had the luxury of a month, she’s taking her time to decide. We go downhill from the El Mirador and have dinner in the square. I remark it’s past 8 p.m and perhaps the Bolero Café is open, and perhaps Grace is there, Pablo’s agent, to facilitate this sale. Grace is there, and Patricia buys the print. She’s concerned there may be more than one print — then, all three of us say, who cares? The next day Patricia hands over the pesos, of course, as it’s always cash in Mazatlan. She then trots off to the local Kodak shop where a young man makes her a carrying tube out of spare cardboard garbage. I know her Toronto house well and the print is such a joyful take on Mazatlan it will look wonderful.
Patricia’s month has raced by and she’s packing for cooler and rainier weather now. I am thrilled she bought Pablo’s print; it will always remind her of her happy month in Mazatlan. Alfredo, the son, drives her to the airport. As we wave goodbye, a truck pulls up and dumps 1,000 bricks in Pepe’s front yard.
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