Dock lines are curled and ready to toss. Waypoints charted from marina to destination. LA VITA is ready from mast to keel. Rick and Lynn are primed to go. It’s two weeks before Christmas 2014.
“Time to raise the dinghy and tie her down on the foredeck,” says Rick reaching for the halyard. “I’ll pull the dinghy on board while you crank the winch, okay?”
“Sure, I’m ready. Let’s do it,” Lynn replies.
Lynn grabs the winch handle with both hands and pushes. The winch barely moves. Lynn slumps on the deck, rubbing her arms. Her shoulders ache. She fails to raise the dinghy.
“What’s wrong?” Rick asks.
“I can’t turn the winch. I can’t raise the dingy. I don’t have any strength.”
Lynn makes an appointment with Dr. Fabiola, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), hoping Rehab will help. Dr. Fabiola examines Lynn’s shoulders. She suspects rotator cuff damage and writes an order for an MRI. The radiology report reveals major rotator cuff rotator cuff in both shoulders.
When the doctor gives her the news, Lynn turns pale with shock and disbelief.
“We’ll get through this.” Rick wraps his arms around her. “We’ll go next season. Right now you need to get well.”
“We worked so hard to bring you back to good health,” Lynn whispers. She leans against Rick’s chest. “Now I’m the problem.”
“How did this happen?” Lynn asks herself. “It’s not fair. I’ve sacrificed so much, and now my shoulders have betrayed me. I thought getting LA VITA Ready to Launch was the final push. Now a new frustrating setback.”
Rick and Lynn are referred to a highly respected shoulder surgeon in Guadalajara. Lynn’s determined to get her tendons fixed. She calls the doctor’s office and books the first available appointment in January.
Guadalajara is a four-hour drive through the mountains. They take off before dawn and soon discover their printed street maps are out of date.
Rick and Lynn are now relying two whiz-bang electronic mapping systems; a borrowed TomTom and newly purchased iPad.
Lynn’s eyes are glued to the devices. She’s mesmerized by the GPS dots as they slide along the highway; monitoring their progress. Two hours from home, the maps on both electronic navigation systems disappear. The GPS dot remains, but is useless without the streets.
Lynn looks up and discovers a herd of cows munching peacefully in a grassy pasture.
Rick negotiates a blind curve; directly ahead is a complex highway interchange. Without signage the situation is confusing. One off-ramp cuts across oncoming traffic; another exit splits in two directions, where they go is a mystery. By gut instinct, Rick chooses the right route and they continue on to Guadalajara.
They approach the outskirts of Guadalajara and Lynn turns on the iPad. The device begins exchanging signals with the communication satellites. The screen populates with streets and the GPS dot pinpoints their location. Siri calmly offers turn-by-turn voice driving directions to their destination.
Now, if Rick could see the street signs before he passed them, the final leg of the trip would be easier.
They arrive on time. The surgeon reviews Lynn’s MRI report and images. With complex arm movements the doctor tests Lynn’s shoulders for flexibility and strength.
“The main problem is your rotator cuff and biceps’ tendons are torn,” says the surgeon.
“What do you recommend?” Rick asks.
“Surgery is necessary to restore full function. I will repair both, the right arm first; it has the most damage.”
“How long is recovery?” Lynn asks.
“Full recovery is approximately one-year, and physical therapy is critical.”
“When does rehab begin?” Lynn continues.
“Rehabilitation begins about three weeks after surgery with gentle movements, and continues for a year.”
“What’s the cost?” Rick inquires.
With a twinkle in his eye the doctor says, “Cost will vary, but plan on $17,000 US dollars for the procedure. Plus food and lodging, of course.”
Rick and Lynn are speechless. The estimate is completely out of their reach. They are familiar with a local custom called “Gringo Tax.” Some folks inflate prices for non-Mexican citizens. It appears they are candidates for that tax!
Rick pulls out his signature waterproof Ziploc® wallet and hands over $700 pesos for the office visit.
Before leaving home (La Cruz, MX), Lynn had asked Marie, a regular visitor to Guadalajara, about sites in the city.
“The horse-drawn carriage ride through Old Town is great fun,” Marie had suggested.
Needing a change in pace, Lynn and Rick head to the historic district of Guadalajara. The open air carriage tour is ideal with buoyant late afternoon temperatures and fascinating historical sites.
The air is filled with traffic noise and the clip-clop of hooves on pavement. Lynn and Rick strain to hear the driver’s comments. They catch, “The king of Spain declared Guadalajara a city in 1542. There were 126 people living here.”
The driver continues, “Today there are one-and-a-half-million in the heart of the city, and over five million including all the suburbs.”
Rick mutters to himself, “No wonder there are traffic jams.”
Their driver stops to rest their trusty steed. Rick and Lynn stretch their legs and marvel at architecture built before California Gold Rush.
The ride is over all too soon. Lynn steps down from the carriage and says, “I’d love to do that again.”
Rick gently squeezes her hand and says, “So would I.”
Over dinner, they talk about the surgery and expenses. Rick jots notes on a napkin.
“Surgery in San Diego is free (Medicare). Mexico is $17,000 US dollars. Both places we’ll pay $80 bucks a night, plus food and gas.”
Rick looks up and says, “It’s a long drive, but we’d be better off going to the States.”
Lynn nods in agreement. She’s been doing the math, too. “I’ll call the surgeon that fixed my shoulders in 2006.”
HELLO, SAN DIEGO
Back on LA VITA, Lynn calls Dr. Murphy, the San Diego surgeon that operated on her shoulders nine years ago.
“Dr. Murphy is no longer taking Medicare patients. However, we can refer you to Dr. Damion Valletta. He’s a highly respected sports injury surgeon and accepts Medicare patients,” says the doctor’s assistant.
“Thanks, I’d appreciate the referral,” Lynn says.
“I’ll forward your surgical records to Dr. Valletta.”
A few days later, Lynn speaks with Dr. Valletta.
“Send the MRI report and call me next week,” he advises.
“Is it okay the MRI was performed here in Mexico?” Lynn asks.
“That’s no problem as long as the report is in English. Just email the report to me,” he replies.
Dr. Valletta reviews the report and agrees surgery is required to restore full function. Surgery is scheduled for March 11, 2015.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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