Back after a brief and expensive hospital break

Hello again, after a few weeks of silence during which our lives were, in fact, filled with ups and downs, though fortunately, with more of the former. 

About three weeks ago, we had the opportunity to sample Mexican hospital care, when Stew had to have a knee-replacement operation. We ended up at Hospital Angeles in Querétaro, where he was hospitalized two nights before and after the actual day of the operation, with me sleeping on a sofa bed with cushions that felt like fossilized foam. It was also Mexican-sized, so half my legs dangled in mid air.  
I admit some trepidation about surgery in Mexico, working for the common assumption that medical care in the U.S. is invariably superior and preferable. In addition to anecdotes from expats, both positive and horror stories, who’d undergone surgery on both sides of the border, Stew also had had back surgery a year ago at a deluxe orthopedic hospital in San Antonio. So we had that additional point of comparison. I must say that except for some incidentals—larger patient rooms and a fancier cafeteria—Hospital Angeles seemed every bit as good as most in the U.S., and partially compensated for any deficiencies with a Krispy Kreme doughnut store on the first floor. 
Patient room wing of the hospital

One difference, an expensive one, is that in San Antonio we just had to wave our Medicare card, and all expenses were taken care of, no further questions asked. 

Let us pause now for a moment, to praise “socialized medicine.” 
Not so in Querétaro, where you had to transfer funds, a week before the operation, to the individual bank accounts of the surgeon, the hospital, assisting doctors and other acolytes, plus leave a US$2,500 open credit card charge the day of admission. 
In addition, before the operation Stew had to undergo a series of tests and doctor visits, including a Covid-19 test (US$200), a visit to a San Miguel doctor for a physical exam and other tests, and a dentist to certify he didn’t have any festering infections in his mouth or gums, and home visits by a physical therapist afterward. All of this would have been covered by Medicare. 
It felt like a long series of expensive ka-chings! All told, the bill came to approximately US$18,000, a nice bundle of dough for sure, but likely only half or even one-third, of what the bill would have been in the U.S.—except, of course, for Medicare taking care of it there. 
We tossed around our options before deciding on Querétaro: traveling up to San Antonio, renting a hotel room or an Airbnb apartment for at least a month or more, plus meals, would be an expensive hassle. But what weighed just as heavily on our decision was the Covid-19 pandemic, which had shut down most restaurants, movies and shopping malls in that city, leaving us with a lot of dead time. 
Stew checking fan mail. 

So, it was Mexico for us, and it all worked out well, thanks to our having the money available and living a mere 40 minutes away from Querétaro, whose medical facilities any more seem to come close to their American counterparts. But expats with only limited funds would definitely face a financial dilemma. 

The protagonist of this tale—Stew—seems to be progressing along well. The first two and a half weeks were painful and he was confined to a bed or shuffling around using a walker. This week he’s graduated to a cane and we might even go to a nearby thermal spa tomorrow for some therapeutic splashing around. The physical therapist is coming by again this afternoon.
An unexpected benefit: A Krispy Kreme stand in the lobby.

For both of us, though, Stew’s operation and convalescence, relatively brief as it’s turning out to be, felt as if the pandemic lockdown had become doubly constrictive. Before, we could sneak out the back door of our ranch for dinner, sometimes with a couple of friends, masks in hand, to restaurants with outdoor seating. With Stew homebound, the lockdown became a 24/7 proposition, except for my trips to the grocery store or to pick up the mail.

Beyond costs or pandemics, however, an immeasurable plus of having opted for Mexico has been the support of friends. One secured a borrowed walker and a cane for Stew, and emails and phone calls inquiring about Stew’s status also have helped his recovery. Two weeks after his operation we were invited a Thanksgiving dinner that turned out to be one of the most enjoyable ever for us, from the food to spending time with a few good friends. 
And looking out our east-facing bedroom window at home every morning, and seeing the sun rising over the mountains, and flocks of birds fluttering over the feeders, is certainly more uplifting than a view of a parking lot from a motel room, in a strange city. 

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