November 12, 2009

Not getting well too fast

My surgerized shoulder is still giving me grief six months after the surgery. I had hoped by now it would be in much better shape. Maybe I have been overdoing the exercises they gave me or maybe something is wrong with my shoulder—I have an appointment to see the doctor when I get back to Denver in a week.

DIF provides care for the full spectrum of Mexican society

In the meantime I have been trying to fit in therapy sessions at DIF (Desarollo Integral de la Familia), a major Mexican agency for social assistance that is part of their socialized medical care system. This brand new facility was built just across the street from us about a year ago and seems to encompass physical therapy, rehabilitation, prenatal counseling, child care and mental health services for the family. My maids’ brother Alfonso works over there as a therapist. When I was complaining about my shoulder she told me to go see him. So I can walk across the street from the guesthouse where he applies electrical stimulation and heat compresses to my shoulder, then treats it with ultrasound, followed by repetitive arm lifting exercises where he manipulates my arm. The first time I went I signed my name on a sign-in sheet, but not knowing if I had any kind of Mexican insurance it is being administered for free—that’s pretty astounding to me. That’s the only piece of paper I ever signed, didn’t even have to show anyone any form of identification.

As many as eight of us defective people can be treated at one time in a 300 sq ft room sitting on chairs and massage tables our limbs swaddled in dark turquoise green terry towels and heating pads that are re-used on each patient. Alfonso is quite happy with the recent donation by an American Christian group of a 90” x 90” massage table on metal legs that that can be raised or lowered electrically. He can treat more people now at the same time. It is in far better shape than the other tables in the room made of wood and Nagahyde (or its relative).

We are all on friendly terms, my fellow halt-and-lame companions. Although I have never seen the same sufferers in the room each time I have gone, we all greet each other like long lost friends, carry on conversations about their lives (only half of which I generally can understand given that we are talking in Spanish, and they have such twangy accents that I can only make out part of their words.) Last time I meet an older couple in their late 70s that came over from Michoacan 30 years ago and run the local old folks’ home. Each of them was being treated for bad knees. They had gotten hitched at the age of 17, had been married for 57 years and had nine children, most of whom have moved away to other parts of Mexico or the U.S.

In the DIF I am just another injured person and we meet on the same plane. They are all friendly and treat me like I am just another Mexican. They are all surprised when they find out that I live across the street and that my husband is working for the mine. I can’t tell you how kind they are, such gentle people that like to talk. And if I go and no one talks to each other, we all still say hello and good bye to be polite even if those are the only words spoken.

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