Medical Tourism: Visiting an Ophthalmologist in Mexico

Billy and Akaisha are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

This article is part of our series on medical tourism. Medical tourism is a growing trend where travelers can find excellent health care abroad while saving a significant amount of money along the way.

It was a humbling experience.

Lately, I have been spending a good deal of time at the ophthalmologist’s office having tests done on my eyes. This is something I find to be less than comfortable: Someone poking around so close to my face, touching my eyes, and putting in various colored drops, anesthetics, and washes and such.

After several months of these tests and return visits, I became only the slightest bit accustomed to these machines touching my cornea, measuring my optic nerve, puffing for pressure, and flashing brilliant lights to see into my eyeball.

One doctor said it perfectly: “I know this is torture, but you are a good patient. And at least it only needs to be done a couple of times a year.”

Oh thank you Doctor. At least someone understands and recognizes my efforts…

It seems that when we go through medical procedures there can be self-absorption with our “presenting condition” and how the results of these tests might affect our future lives. It’s sort of an underlying mantra that never stops: “My life, my life, my life, how will my life change…? What will I need to do differently? Can I handle the changes?” and so on.

My point to all of this is—amidst all of the self-indulgence of my emotional state, I was privileged to witness people with actual serious problems that made mine appear so miniscule in comparison. It’s an odd way to find gratitude, if I do say so myself.

Visiting eye hospitals can be a jarring experience. There are those with gauze patches over their eyes or those who stare out from orbs that no longer function.

One afternoon with hugely dilated eyes, I was waiting for my taxi to arrive and take me back to Chapala from Guadalajara. A woman, perhaps 35 years old with her husband carrying her bag and her daughter holding on to her arm, all passed by me going out the office doors. Her right eye, that particular side of her face and down her neck was scarred, it seemed from a grease fire. Locals here make carnitas—delicious pieces of pork deep-fried in vats of oil—and although I was guessing, it seemed there had been a bubble in the oil and she was caught in the explosion of that grease bubble.

Her eye was the victim of that event. She and her family were gracious and warmly human as they walked out the door and onto the street.

I said a silent prayer.

On my most current visit to the eye clinic as I was waiting in the office to discuss the results of tests I just had, a woman was helped into her seat beside me. The assistant checked with her to be sure she was settled in and that all was okay before he left her there to wait.

And wait we did.

However, this woman began a conversation with me and again I was struck with how big my ego had been all through this process. I can still see, I can read, I can operate on my own, I reminded myself.

Georgia had had a stroke behind her eyes two months ago, and while the rest of her body worked well and she felt no pain, she woke up to almost full blindness. Her right eye was lost and she had a quarter of her vision gone from her left.

“At 81 years of age you learn to take things in stride,” she assured me. “As things are going, I’ll probably be fully blind soon.”

Georgia has a housekeeper and a private driver to take her places and she still bakes—something she loves to do “recreationally,” she says.

I was absolutely taken with her equanimity. Subdued, actually.

She was feeling warm in the airless office we found ourselves in, and I fanned the both of us with a cardboard folder where the results of my tests were stored.

We chatted, but I found another place in me that felt utterly speechless. I am reminded at how our lives can change in an instant.

Once more, it’s an odd way to discover gratitude in the midst of seemingly horrific events. But I am so very grateful that my hand is still useful (we’ll hear about that next week) and that I have eyes that continue to offer me vision of the world on our travels.

Perhaps there are challenging situations in your life where you can find the gift of gratitude as well. Why not use your eyes and take a look?

Costs Incurred for Diagnostic Procedures:

Field of vision tests, Ocular response analyzer, Retina tomograph report, Optic nerve photos, measuring of optic disc cup, measuring of eye pressure, measuring of cornea thickness, various reports, eye drops, antibiotics, washes and consultations with ophthalmologists: $889.44

Transportation to and from Guadalajara via bus and taxi, transport to Ajijic: $82.96

Total spent: $972.40

Have you tried medical tourism? Would you? Post your advice below!