Health, Hospitals, Survival, and Tepoztlán




My third full week is now complete (and apparently so is my satisfactory rate of dangerous or near death experiences in my birth country). The topics covered in my course this week included violence, narcos, immigration, and much more, but at the moment I am still trying to process those thoughts and discussions as well as my other experiences of the week, so I will touch on those later.

I would like to note that throughout my life, rarely have I paid visits to doctors or hospitals; this is partially because I’ve had minimal injuries/illnesses, and partially because I couldn’t afford all the services there are to offer (you know, check ups, lab tests, etc., or going for something simple). Well, three full weeks in into México and I’ve managed to land myself in the hospital, which I find kind of funny now that I’m alive because I promised those back home that I’d be able to survive in my home-but-very-foreign-to-me-country. Here’s what happened.

It’s been about 2 and a half weeks since I’ve been having tooth pain, which meant that those days consisted of me chewing on the left side of my mouth to avoid random surges of pain. After 17 years of not being in my home country, I want to eat everything new, so this did not sit well with me. After a family recommendation, on Wednesday I visited a doctor who specializes in odontology and periodontology. It was an interesting trip navigating through México’s public transportation alone through a route I had not previously explored, and of course I made it. Forty-five minutes into my visit, I walked out with two fillings, and an operculectomy (look it up if you’re curious). It wasn’t too difficult explaining to the doctor what was wrong even though I was lacking some of the spanish vocabulary used in dental spaces, which I found kind of surprising. Although it was nerve-wracking visiting a doctor in México, I felt that I was taken care of and I’d no longer have to worry about my tooth/mouth pains. Well, I definitely spoke to soon.

I felt no pain throughout the visit, and a few hours after the visit (as expected) I started to feel some pain. The doctor had prescribed me pain medication, but not antibiotics (thinking I wouldn’t need them). I was equally guilty for agreeing that I wouldn’t need them either. After all, I’m invincible right? Besides a tooth being pulled out a couple years back, I had never needed a surgery. The following day (Thursday), the pain worsened, but I pushed through with rest and pain medications. The pain was incremental (or probably more exponential, considering every hour would intensify at different but greater rates). I went to sleep that evening with a lot of pain, but I figured it would get better soon. Come Friday around 3 AM, I woke up to a throbbing pain on the right side of my face, flowing from the upper right side of my neck, cheek, mouth, and ear. My pain medication wasn’t enough, and around 3 AM there weren’t any doctors who could see me; but it felt impossible waiting till later in the morning to try and receive medical attention. I spoke with a local person whom works at the house I am staying in, and what followed were multiple phone calls to pharmacies and local dentist. The dentist identified a potential antibiotic that could be helpful, and I proceeded to locate one of the 24 hour pharmacies in the area. Unfortunately, there was no way I was going to be given an antibiotic without a prescription regardless of how much pain I was in, so that trip wasn’t very helpful. Keep in mind, at this point the pain still felt like it was getting worse. A couple phone calls later to my professor and temporary insurance, and I was suggested to visit a hospital on the other side of the city. At this point, it was a bit terrifying having to find my way to a hospital in an unknown city/country without the support of family. Fortunately, I was accompanied by a friend and we made it.

What followed was a blurry visit to the emergency room where the pain was starting to make my body feel weak and I was unsure what the outcome of this entire experience was going to be. I was sure I had an infection. The doctors/nurses then proceeded to take my vitals, ask me questions, and diagnose me. Sure enough, I had an infection. I do remember that this visit was a bit tricky because again, my Spanish vocabulary is very limited when it comes to health terms (be it mental health, dental health, physical health, etc.). Nevertheless, they were able to understand me, and I them. Eventually, I was given a shot in a very uncomfortable place I will not share with you, and a prescription (that as of right now continues to be pretty effective). Thus, the introduction to my week three weekend was complete.

By 10 AM I was back home. Friday was also the day my study abroad group was set for an excursion to Tepoztlán. I didn’t want to miss this experience (you have to keep in mind that México is full of little Méxicos; every city and state has its own uniqueness and culture) and I wanted to get out of the city. And so, I went and even though my weekend was filled with a bit of discomfort because of the prior infection, it was worth it. The food was worth it. The views were worth it. The hike up el Tepozteco was worth it. The observations of tourism and the city’s own form of nationalism was worth it.  Because this post is already long, I won’t expand on this, but I would like to add that I managed to survive the weekend which included a couple trips/falls when going down a mountain, exposure to a very tiny but intimidating scorpion, and an hour and a half staring contest with a very poisonous spider and a couple other creatures I did not want to harm but felt uncomfortable around. We’ll see what the remainder of this program and experiences has to bring, but for now, I am satisfied with my learning experiences.


I’ll share some pictures of Tepoztlán to add some more positivity to this post.


Despite the frustrating week, here I am at the top of Tepozteco

We were almost to the top, but we couldn’t feel our legs much at this point

People, vendors, Tepozteco, life

The view from where we stayed.