Marty A., Washington, United States
At age 64, Marty noticed she had become increasingly sedentary over the years. Climbing the stairs, taking a walk, or even plucking a weed in the garden was beyond her capabilities. She was becoming an insulin-dependent diabetic, and an increasing pain in her hip suggested that a joint replacement might be necessary soon.
Marty's daughter had undergone gastric bypass surgery in the US a few years before, and she thought the procedure might help her, too. When she mentioned the possibility to her family doctor, the response was, ”you’re an excellent candidate; you’re in good health, but you’re obese.” Marty knew she needed a major lifestyle change, but her insurance company would not cover the surgery, and she could not afford the US$60,000 cost estimate she was given at home.
Marty asked her daughter for help in researching surgical options in Mexico. “My grandfather was raised in Mexico, my parents wintered there, and we’ve been spending a couple weeks’ vacation in the state of Jalisco for 25 years,” Marty explains. “When my father had a hip replacement at a private hospital in Guadalajara, his experience built my confidence in Mexico’s medical system.”
Marty and her daughter checked out support-group websites, did a search on hospitals offering gastric bypass, and evaluated the quality of hospitals, patients’ reviews, and doctors’ credentials. They found a bariatric surgeon at Clínica Vitro in Monterrey who had performed 4,000 gastric bypass operations over 15 years. The cost of the surgery, including hotel: US$10,000. “We figured those were pretty good statistics,” Marty says.
Marty did not use a medical travel agency. She called the hospital directly, and the international relations department responded promptly, answering all her questions.
Marty made a quick decision: “I spoke with them on October 1 and flew to Monterrey with my husband on October 11.” An English-speaking employee of the hospital met the couple upon arrival and took Marty immediately to a laboratory for a blood draw. Next came an ultrasound to check for fat deposits around her liver. “We were then dropped off at a wonderful, comfortable hotel, and my surgery was confirmed for the following morning,” Marty says.
Marty’s operation went off without a hitch. “The hospital was very clean and had all the medical departments, so I knew they could take good care of me if I had any problems. The woman at the intake desk spoke English and was very professional. Upstairs, the anesthesiologist came in to meet me and answer my questions,” Marty says.
When she came out of surgery, she reunited with her husband, and the hospital staff made her comfortable in a private room. “The nurses were great. They didn’t speak a lot of English, and I don’t speak a lot of Spanish, but we did fine,” she says. She subsequently spent six days recuperating in her hotel. “I had very little discomfort from the surgery,” she says. “There was a sky-bridge over to a mall, so we walked and walked until my muscles were sore from the exercise. I was already losing two pounds a day.”
Five months after her surgery, Marty lost 80 pounds and continues to enjoy excellent health. Her blood tests are normal, she has discontinued the diabetic medication, and the pain in her hip has vanished. “I haven’t needed a hip replacement after all. Instead, I’m having physical therapy to strengthen my legs so they can do everything I expect of them,” Marty says. She’s dropped four dress sizes, and a friend has altered some of Marty’s clothes for her—removing a whopping 18 inches! “It’s a whole new life, and it’s liberated me completely,” Marty says. “In November, we visited our grandkids in California, and it was amazing, because we could walk to town and have a cup of coffee, and I could do it! I wouldn’t even have tried it in the old days. I feel blessed.”
Marty’s finances also worked out well. She charged her procedure on her credit card, and she’s already paid off the balance in full. Her family relationships are better, too. “My husband was so supportive throughout our trip, and he was great at helping me in and out of bed and checking tubes. It was good to have him right there. It actually made us closer, and as I keep losing weight, we’re physically closer, too. He also lost about 25 pounds from the change in our lifestyle. It even saves us money, because we enjoy going out to eat, and now we can just agree on what we’re sharing and split the meal.”
Marty has lost so much weight that she may need plastic surgery to get rid of excess loose skin. If she does, and her insurance company won’t pay, she plans to go back to Mexico, probably to the same hospital. Marty’s advice to other medical travelers is to maintain a positive attitude. You have to say, “This is my mission and this is what I’m going to get done.” Just as Marty did.
Last updated on 24 June 2016
Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork
Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have more easily been obtained on site. So before you hightail it out of your hospital or clinic, be sure that you have all of your important documents.
Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.