Brandy is a financial aid officer at her local community college; she lives with her twin 12-year-old sons and her disabled mother.
“My problem was that I was morbidly obese. At 5’3” I weighed 355 pounds. I’ve never been bedridden due to my weight, but walking was exhausting and painful. I couldn’t play with my sons. I didn’t have the energy to go to events with them. I was never enthusiastic about the prospect of being seen by a lot of people. We never went on vacations that would require me to fit into a narrow seat. I avoided movie theaters and restaurants with booths. It restricted what I felt I could do with my sons, so we stayed home entirely too often.”
Although she had medical insurance through her job, two applications and two refusals made it clear that Brandy’s insurance would not pay for bariatric surgery. A friend said to her, jokingly, “Why not go to Mexico?”
Why not, indeed? thought Brandy. Her first move was to simply Google the terms “bariatric surgery Mexico.” Through that, she found links to several medical travel facilitators in Monterrey. She found one that had an informative and professional website. The agency offered facilitation for more than just bariatric surgery. “This was something I was looking for,” Brandy says. “Their scope is comprehensive, rather than focusing on a single type of surgery. In my mind, this meant they were far less likely to be a front for a single surgeon who simply funnels people into his own practice.”
Brandy talked to friends, family, and to her own doctor about her choices, and did comprehensive research before making a commitment. Her medical travel agent communicated with her through both email and phone calls. “[My agency] understood that I was only willing to have surgery done in a hospital,” she says. “They collected my information and sent me a packet that included the bios of surgeons that fit my needs and specifications. They acted as a liaison between me and my chosen surgeon.” Brandy secured her surgeon’s résumé and took it with her when she went to see her personal physician at home. Her plan was nearly complete.
Her agency would have booked a hotel for her, but that detail was handled by a friend. A representative of Brandy’s agency met Brandy’s plane at the airport and took her to her hotel. He explained to Brandy what she could expect and stayed with her as both support and interpreter through all her presurgical lab tests. “I think the most touching and surprising thing he did was sit next to me all the way up until I was wheeled into the operating room,” Brandy says. “It was incredibly comforting to have him there to talk to. I’ll never forget it. Surgery is scary no matter where you have it done. He made me feel like I was at home and in the best of hands.”
Brandy was delighted with both her hospital and her surgeon in Monterrey. “If I could go to him for every surgery, every medical question, every ache or pain, I would!” Brandy exclaims. “He answered every email I sent to him before my surgery (and believe me, there were dozens of them). He called me on the phone. He came to see me every single day that I was in Mexico. He came to my hospital room. He came to my hotel room. He answered his cell phone no matter where he was or what time of day it was. Still to this day, he emails me to check up on me. It has been ten months since I last saw him. He’s my angel.”
And the hospital receives its share of praise as well: “It’s a beautiful facility. It isn’t just clean, it’s spotless. There’s an art gallery in the lobby. There’s art hanging in the hallways. Gorgeous art. I didn’t meet a single unfriendly member of the staff. I never had a language barrier. I saw touch-screen computer technology that I’d never seen at home. I saw waiting rooms that are simply unparalleled in any hospital I’ve ever been in before. My hospital room was very pretty and had an amazing view of the mountains. The staff was so quick to respond to any need. It was fantastic.”
Brandy’s surgery went smoothly. “I didn’t have excessive pain,” she reports. “By that, I mean that the pain I experienced was not unexpected for my procedure. [My doctor] made sure I had access to good pain medicine to manage my discomfort. As a matter of fact, just days after surgery, I was able to hike up a gently sloping mountain to see a waterfall. After that, my friends and I walked through at least a couple of miles of roadside shopping booths. It was hot and I was tired, but I didn’t hurt.”
And she’s had no complications or problems with followup care. “I had the best medical attention I’ve ever had in my life while I was in Mexico,” she says. And her medical travel experience has given her new confidence. “I know now that I can get into the country without a problem, I can get out of the country without a problem, I can navigate the city and the language barriers without a problem, and I can be seen by excellent physicians without a problem.”
While Brandy does consider herself fortunate, she does not attribute the success of her experience to luck. She credits her doctor, her hospital, and her health travel agent for the excellence of the healthcare services they provide.
Last updated on 9 March 2013
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.