March 12, 2021
Remember the cartoon character, Mr. Magoo?
The Mr. Magoo animated series debuted in 1949. Jim Backus (Mr. Howell of Gilligan’s Island fame) voiced Magoo, and I’ll bet you didn’t realize that three of the cartoons were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Animated Shorts. Later, Leslie Nielsen played Magoo in the movie version.
So, here’s the crux of the cartoon’s saga. J. Quncy Magoo, was a short, elderly, squinty-eyed, big-nosed retiree. He was Rutgers educated and a millionaire. But he had one big flaw. Mr. Magoo was extremely nearsighted, which, face it, happens to us all as we age. Not a big deal, right?
Magoo stubbornly refused to admit that he has any kind of problem, much less a vision one. This led to a series of comical, usually dangerous, situations. Bystanders in the cartoon segments thought him to be accident-prone, codgerly and basically a nut job. But Magoo always uncannily seemed to pull through each foible exclaiming at the end of each episode,
“Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again!”
Sigh! As a kid, I loved Mr. Magoo.
Gasp! Choke! Gulp! As an adult, until four months ago, I WAS Mr. Magoo!
My mother and grandmother sent me to “charm school” when I was in sixth grade, but obviously, it just didn’t “take.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been a bit clumsy. But, the past few years a bit has become quite a bit, and I knew something was wrong. When I fell and ate the sidewalk in Cancun on the way to Isla Mujeres last year, that did it. The dentist fixed my teeth, John soothed my damaged pride, and we sought out an ophthalmologist to check out my eyes. It turns out that there was no need to ask for charm school refunds, I had cataracts.
Because our insurance covered just about everything for surgery in the U.S., I made an appointment for the beginning of April, 2020, to travel back to Texas and get the surgery done. Our plans were for John to stay at our Cancun house sit and then meet me in Barra de Navidad on the other side of Mexico for our next sit. Easy peasey. Piece of cake. What could possibly go wrong?
A virus. That’s what.
My surgery in Texas as well as my plane flight were cancelled.
So then we proceeded to Barra thinking, like many others, that the pandemic would be over in a few months and I could finally get my peepers mended. No such luck.
On to Plan C.
Our experiences with doctors and the medical communities here in Mexico has been outstanding, so, we checked into having the eye surgery done here in Mexico. We found an ophthalmologist in Colima (2 hours from Barra de Navidad) that spoke English and had done the procedure for several of our friends in Barra. It was going to cost a wee bit more than what our insurance co-payment would have been in the states, so it was a no brainer. We rented an AirBnB apartment within walking distance to all Colima medical facilities. Since we are returning to Villa Santa Barbara in Barra for a second house sit in May, we decided to ride our the pandemic for six months, experience Colima (we’d never been here before) , get my eyes fixed, our teeth cleaned, our yearly physicals, etc.
We had barely unpacked our bags from our move to Colima, before it was time for my first visit to Clinica de Ojos de Colima (Colima Eye Clinic). Neither one of us knew what to expect, but since we’ve spent almost 4 years now as traveling nomads, we’ve learned to keep expectations in check, or, even better, to have none at all.
However, when we walked into the clinica, even with my bad eyes, I knew this place was over the top.
The waiting room was huge, with a marble staircase that lead to a second floor of offices that looked down on the sitting area. A monster twinkling chandelier hung in the middle and lit the plush couches and exquisite furniture of the waiting room. The entire area was adorned with ornate artwork and sculptures, that were big…really big. To top it all off one entire wall was a live, gurgling waterfall. Ambient lighting and music filled the space. The waiting room was full of people and the staff was “working the room” seeing that all patients were being taken care of. Everyone was wearing masks.
We were the only gringos in the room.
Anel: (gasping and taking it all in) Wow, honey, we’re not in Texas anymore.
John: (getting his temperature taken and hands squirted) There must be A LOT of cataracts around here.
My name was on the list (thank goodness!) and the lady at the front desk motioned for us to sit.
Note: In Mexico, doctors don’t believe in making patients wait. I was directed into the “Look at the Eye Chart” room that had a full array of modern machines, and my initial exam began. Everyone spoke Spanish, but frankly, it didn’t matter because my eyes were just as bad as my Spanish and I had a hard time even reading the big “E” on the chart.
After doing a cycle of all of the eye machines they seated me back in the lobby and put the “magic” dilating drops in my eyes. Wonderful.
When it was my turn, John led me up the Cinderella staircase to meet Dr. Jorge Luis Velázquez Bravo, who was a blend of Antonio Banderas and Ricky Ricardo. Even with my eyes dilated I knew he was a “hubba hubba” hottie.
He checked out my eyes and told me what we already knew…I did need cataract surgery. He then added, “Would Wednesday, day after tomorrow work for you?” Definitely not in Texas anymore.
We almost shouted YES together. Dr. Bravo told us that he would email me all the info I needed for the hospital, directions, meds, etc. Then he sent us on our way.
Since we have no car here in Colima, John asked me if he needed to call a taxi, or if I thought I could walk back to our apartment with dilated eyes. I donned my old lady sunglasses and exclaimed, “Lead on.”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea because my eyes were really, really dilated. It had taken us about 30 minutes to walk to the eye clinic. It took us over an hour to get back. But my man was patient with his patient. He lead me as we shuffled on the sidewalks and cobblestone (yes, cobblestone) streets.
There were a lot of people out and about, and I think I heard a lady say, “Aww, look at that poor pitiful woman.” Of course, she spoke Spanish, so it could have been, “Does this skirt make my butt look fat?” Either way, I couldn’t see her, so I kept on shuffling.
About halfway home I caught a wonderful waft of air that smelled like strawberries. Nothing wrong with my nose. I asked John if there was a fruteria (fruit and vegetable market) close by. Sure enough, there was. John said he really wanted to stop and stock up, which I agreed to.
The fruteria was an open type but it did have three walls, so he took me to an area in the back, let me touch the wall and “parked” me there, telling me not to move while he shopped.
I complied. What else was I going to do?
The hospital where the eye miracle was to occur is a little over 2 miles away from our apartment. We found it on Google Maps, charted our walking path, and, by golly, on the morning of my surgery, we walked. After the dilation thing two days earlier, I figured I better get in as many miles as possible, prior to the big event. Who knew what it would be like on the other side, and I knew my seeing-eyed husband’s patience might not last forever.
When we arrived at the hospital, again, we were “wowed” by yet another phenomenal medical facility. It had a beautiful lobby with winding marble staircase. We were greeted at the door by a smiling man with a temperature scanner and a disinfectant squirt. It also kind of appeared that we were the only ones in the whole place. Yikes!
Now think about it folks. Although John is better than me with his Spanish, both of us are far from being fluent, especially with medical stuff. I sure as heck didn’t want to leave the hospital with a lobotomy rather than new eyes just because we happened to be lost in translation “lala land” and messed up telling them what we were there for. Plus, there is a pandemic going on!
I think the cheerful guy that squirted and temperature zapped us could sense my angst, so he personally led us to the admissions area. He spoke no English, but his warm smile said a lot.
The admissions dude was young, efficient and spoke some English. Whew! My brain was safe today. With John by my side, we waded through a few forms and took photos of each with our phones, since they were all in Spanish. We’d translate later! Another hospital administrator then appeared and walked us up to the second floor to a room that was a “holding” area for people who were having eye surgery. We were tag teamed over to the prep nurse, a young guy who was to get me ready for the big event.
I was given booties to put over my shoes, a gown to put over my clothes, and a hair net thing-ie to stuff my hair into. I was absolutely adorable. Then I got a needle jabbed into my arm that got attached to a bag of clear stuff that hung on a pole. Woo hoo! Finally, some good “la la land” drug stuff…I hoped.
Anel: Hey honey, just in case I go to Mexican Never Never Land and decide never to return, when do you think we are supposed to pay them?
John: (with a twinkly smirk) I guess they wait until afterwards…just in case…some…goes…wrong… mWahahaha…
We are still working on John’s bedside manners.
After a few minutes, the anesthesiologist came into the room pushing a wheelchair that contained an old lady with a big patch on one eye. After he got the woman settled onto a couch, he came over to me to let me know exactly how things would go for my surgery.
Of course, he spoke Spanish, so I just kept nodding. He looked nice, so I got in the rolling chair, hugged and kissed John adios and down the hall I rode.
Dr. Bravo was waiting for me at the end of the hall. Whew! He showed up! I knew I was in great hands now. I scooted up onto the surgery chair and frankly, once they stuck oxygen tubes up my nose, I don’t remember much else.
I do, however, recall the doctor saying, “This went perfect! You don’t even need a patch! I’ll see you in my office tomorrow.” He motioned for me to hop back on my rolling wheelchair throne, and that was that.
John was waiting on me back in the prep, now recovery, room. He let me know that he had paid and everything was golden. After about 30 minutes the nurse took out my IV, collected my hospital costume (hair net, booties and hospital gown), and loaded me back into a wheelchair.
The old lady with the patch was still there, and she spoke to John. We think she wanted to know why she had to wear an eye patch and I didn’t…and we both just shrugged.
I was pushed in the wheelchair to the curb at the front of the hospital. The parting gift was a pair of monster sunglasses, so I figured that I was good to go for walking back to our apartment. I was ready to take my new bionic seeing device for a test “run.” Woo hoo! John remined me that there was a reason I was sitting in a wheelchair and called a taxi.
The next day we walked back to the eye clinic for a follow up eye exam. Dr. Bravo checked me out and told me everything looked awesome. He then said, “Let’s do the other eye…tomorrow!”
So we did.
It was a little like the movie Groundhog Day except when the alarm went off ithe next morning, the radio announcers heralded a new day in Spanish, rather than English.
I was in third grade when I got my first pair of glasses. They were the pointy kind, and I think they had a few teeny rhinestones on the stems. I was so proud of my new brainy look.
Back then, if you couldn’t see, glasses were your only option. Wow, have things changed.
It’s been almost 4 months since both eye surgeries now. The doctor had let us know that it could take a while, months or even a year, to get the full benefit of my new, improved orbs. He was right.
Before, I wore glasses to see far away, and I would jerk them off to look at things up close or work on the computer. Now, it’s just the opposite. Distance, and colors, are great. I could become a sniper if I believed in and knew how to shoot guns. In other words, if I were still in third grade, I could see the chalkboard with no problem.
But up close, I have to grab readers (reading glasses) to see what’s in front of my nose. So I still look kind of brainy…at least up close. Dr. Bravo told me to limit my computer time, and let my eye settle and heal. So, that’s what I’ve done.
John loves the new me. Now he doesn’t worry about the cobblestones and every little crack in the sidewalk as we run errands and try to see a little more of Colima.
Although the exact prescription for my reading glasses is not perfect, every day, my eyes get better. We are heading back to Barra de Navidad in May, and we hear from our friends there that the coast is still clear.
I can hardly wait until we go back so I can see the beautiful Barra coast line for myself…clearly.
I beg to differ with those that say that aging is a bitch. Some things are definitely better.
Overall, my Mexican surgery and hospital experience has been super. Having my eyes fixed during a pandemic…in a foreign country…where I don’t speak the language has been awesome. And, at the end of the day as I look back (with ocular precision) on the whole thing, I, like Magoo, can’t help but smile and sigh,
“Ole Anel, you’ve done it again.”
Vibrant, colorful sunset in Colima