Tuesday, February 4 (continued)
I’m at the Ja-Bal Clinic in the Mexican border town of Los Algodones. I need my teeth cleaned and a loose tooth extracted. Ricardo, the manager at Ja-Bal, introduces me, “Susie,” to my dentist, Jesus, and to the dental assistant, Christina.
First names and no titles . . . I like it!
No time is wasted.
After introductions, I’m shown the dental chair and the procedure begins. No waiting, like in the U.S., while the dental assistant fusses at the counter behind you.
It’s also been my experience in the U.S. that the dentist leaves the room immediately after injecting the numbing agent. This allows time for the patient to dream up all sorts of horrors involving teeth and machines that scream and grind.
At Ja-Bal the dentist stays with you after the shot(s). He gets busy cleaning teeth. Imagine that!
A dentist who cleans teeth!
I’m not going into the gory details of the extraction. In short, it comes out all right. Jesus and Christina are polite, efficient, and professional in every way.
“All done! You can sit up now,” Christina tells me with a smile.
That’s when things take a downward turn.
I sit up and my head feels wobbly. “Ooh, I’m dizzy,” I mumble.
“Are you all right?” Jesus asks with great concern. “Is it your heart?” he quickly asks.
“No, no, no. My heart is fine. I think I’m dizzy from lying with my head low. I’ll be okay.”
They both stay with me for a couple of minutes until I’m ready to leave the treatment room.
Ricardo takes over at the front counter.
He makes out the bill. “A cleaning and an extraction. That will be sixty-five dollars.” I pay in cash.
Jesus, the dentist, writes a prescription for pain pills and antibiotic. He makes sure I understand the prescription which is completely legible (!).
I still feel strange.
I want to choose eyeglass frames from the wall display. However, instead, I sit in one of the chairs and rest my foggy brain. Ricardo asks if I’m okay. In a few minutes I stand up and tell him I’m ready. He explains the different categories of frames, from cheapo to designer.
I try on several in the middle category and end up choosing the frames Ricardo handed to me first. Then I pick up my second choice and take both frames to the counter.
“I’d like two pairs. I want both to be bifocal, progressive, hard plastic with coating, and transition.”
Ricardo nods his head.
“That will be $350 for two pair.”
I hesitate while my frugal nature takes over. “Well, on second thought, I think I’ll get only one pair.” I turn to put one of the frames back in the display.
“You can have both for $275,” Ricardo announces.
In hindsight I realize I probably could’ve haggled the price lower. Everyone reading this post would have done that, of course, and saved a wad of money. Well, I didn’t.
First off, I’m not a haggler. Secondly, at this point my head is swimming. I suspect the numbing agent was too strong for me. I often have reactions like that. One pain pill will dope me up for a day.
I look at it like this.
In the states I’ve paid more than $275 for a comparable pair of lenses with frames. Here I’m getting two for less than I paid for one in the U.S. I’m willing to pay it.
Immediately Fernando appears.
We’re introduced and he escorts me out the door. Fernando is a wiry, energetic, cheerful young man who makes pleasant conversation as we work our way across two blocks to the Ja-Bal Vision Clinic.
The vision place is jammed.
Even so, I receive prompt and courteous service. My eyes are examined and I’m told the lenses will be ready in about two hours. I can pick them up at either clinic. I choose Ricardo’s clinic and pay the $275 with a check.
Off to the pharmacy!
I do a bit of negotiating at the counter. The result?
Ten pain pills (different from the ones on the poster at left) cost $16.
The antibiotic costs $23 for a box of a dozen capsules. I need two boxes ($46). My total pharmacy bill is $62.
Maybe another person could’ve brought the price down further.
Maybe I could’ve done better in the states with my Medicare pharmacy benefit. I don’t know. I’m new to Medicare.
Anyway . . . Medicare is irrelevant to this situation.
I’m in Mexico and I need the pills NOW.
I backtrack to a courtyard between the two Ja-Bal clinics. I’m looking for something to eat and water to drink with the pills.
The dental assistant said “no milk, no spicy foods.” Darn!
At the back of the courtyard I buy a water and blueberry muffin for $2.50.
Not because I want a blueberry muffin. Because I can tear off little bites and eat them without swallowing the gauze in the side of my mouth.
I know, too much information.
I down the pills and soon my jaw stops aching but my head still feels like a massive cotton ball.
I enjoy some people-watching for a while. Then I venture out to take a few photos.
By now it’s past noon and Los Algodones, so full of electricity and commotion a few hours ago, is slowly slipping toward siesta.
To be continued . . .
THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING AMAZON THROUGH MY BLOG!
I’m trying to take the mystery out of Mexican dental and optical services for those people considering crossing the border for care for the first time.