2010, traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to have bariatric surgery, for weight loss. The subject of the interview is a 40-year-old female with two active teenage daughters. For privacy purposes, I refer to her as Pat.
J.D.:: You had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy performed a few months ago in Tijuana Mexico. How did you find out about this procedure?
Pat: I learned about this procedure through online research. I had gotten to a point health wise that I had to something about my weight. Diet, exercise and medication just weren’t doing it.
J.D.:: Can you tell a layperson what was involved in this procedure?
Pat: Basically, they went in laproscopically with several small incisions and removed 80% of my stomach. They sewed what was left of my stomach into a small pouch about the size and shape of a banana.
J.D.:: Was any part of it covered by your insurance?
Pat: No, this was paid for by me, not by my insurance company. Many commercial insurance carriers are starting to pay for bariatric (weight loss) surgery, but there is an extensive approval process. I was right on the line of meeting the minimum 100-pound overweight guideline that they follow. I also had been noncompliant by not seeing my primary care physician regularly for the last several years. My insurance carrier required a five year documented history of obesity. Since I had not seen my doctor regularly, I did not have that documentation, even though I have fought my weight for years.
J.D.:: How would you rate the treatment you received?
Pat: I received excellent care! I was very happy!
J.D.:: Did you have to travel to Tijuana on your own, or were you met in the US by representatives of the clinic?
Pat: My husband and I were met at the San Diego Airport by a driver who took us to Tijuana.
J.D.:: How long did the surgery last?
Pat: I am not sure exactly, since I was kind of out of it when I woke up, but I think it was a couple of hours at the most.
J.D.:: What was the level of pain/discomfort you experienced? (1 to 10)
Pat: I have a very high tolerance for pain, but I would put it at a 7-8 when the pain medication wore off. But the pain was very well managed with medication. I only took pain medication for about the first 4 or 5 days at the most.
J.D.:: How soon after the surgery, were you ready to return to your home?
Pat: I had surgery on Saturday. I spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning at the surgery center/clinic. I was then sent to their “recovery house” (basically an offsite house that is staffed with a nurse and cook and the doctor visited me there to check on me) on Monday afternoon. I spent the night there. Tuesday morning they drove us to our hotel in San Diego. We took a nap and then walked around, shopped and went to a movie. We flew home the next day.
J.D.:: How long was the period of recuperation?
Pat: From what I understand, most people take several weeks off; I took a week off and was back at work the next Monday. I was moving kind of slow and got tired easily for the first few weeks. Also I was still a bit sore, but nothing that required pain medication after the first few days.
J.D.:: How would you rate the overall experience?
Pat: I would rate this experience a 10! I have no complaints.
J.D.:: You work in the medical field yourself. What about cleanliness?
Pat: Wonderful! They were constantly cleaning and making sure that everything was just right.
J.D.:: How were the English skills of the clinic personnel?
Pat: I speak a small amount of Spanish, so I did my best to try to be respectful of where I was and speak in their language when I could. That wasn’t necessary though because almost everyone spoke wonderful English. The doctor had a translator with him when I spoke to him. Only one member of the staff didn’t speak very good English, and on the one occasion that I needed to make myself understood, he got someone quickly that could speak English.
J.D.:: And how was the Surgeon?
Pat: I have no complaints. He was kind and personable and did a wonderful job.
J.D.:: Did you have any post-operative complications?
Pat: Other than a small soft tissue infection, no. One of my incisions opened due to a broken suture (I must have turned the wrong way in my sleep). That incision became macerated (basically wet and yucky) and slightly infected. They already had me on antibiotics as is standard postoperative protocol. I did not have to take any additional antibiotics and did not have to be seen by my primary care physician for this.
J.D.:: Are you satisfied with the results?
Pat: To say I am satisfied would be putting it mildly. I have my life back. I am thrilled!!!
J.D.:: In comparing the cost to US based procedure and hospitalization, how much did you save?
Pat: I probably saved $14,000 taking in to account the cost to travel there for both my husband and myself, including food and hotel expenses.
J.D.:: Did you need any follow up care after returning home?
Pat: I did not have any complications that had to be treated. As a matter of common sense I went to my primary care physician a few times after surgery to have lab work run to monitor my health. I am happy to report that all is well! As a matter of fact, I am no longer diabetic or anywhere near diabetic. My cholesterol is down and I am very healthy!
J.D.:: We have heard a lot about violence in Mexico. Did you feel safe at all times?
Pat: Yes, I felt safe at all times. We were never alone. There was a guard on duty at night in the clinic and we did not venture into areas that would be likely to be dangerous.
J.D.:: Would you recommend this procedure to others similarly situated?
Pat: I would and I have!
J.D.:: Would you recommend this facility to others?
Pat: Without reservation!
J.D.:: Would you recommend the surgeon to others?
Pat: Again, without reservation!
J.D.:: Did you check the qualifications of the surgeon before making your choice?
Pat: I did my best to research him. There are data bases to search Mexican surgeons in, but those data bases are of course in Spanish. I had to rely on word of mouth from former patients. In doing my research, I took both reported extremes with a grain of salt. There are people on these websites that have their own axe to grind or their own agenda. All of these physicians have referral programs where they give a monetary reward to former patients for referrals. Some of these people will get so pushy about trying to send you to their doctor that they will start to slander other doctors. I also know from my experience in the medical field that even in the US people get infections and die every day. Just because this is Mexico does not make it a guarantee that you will not get good care. There are excellent physicians in Mexico and horrible physicians in the US also.
J.D.:: Did you check out alternate facilities either in or out of the USA?
Pat: Yes, I did.
J.D.:: What was the major factor in helping you choose this facility and surgeon?
Pat: Cost was obviously a big factor, but I also went with my gut feeling as far as where I felt was the safest and most comfortable after talking to people who had already had the surgery. I also spent a lot of time on the phone with Louise (the patient coordinator). She was very patient and kind when answering my questions and did a lot to put me at ease.
J.D.:: How much has your weight loss been due to the surgery?
Pat: I’ve lost about 78 pounds so far since December 18th. My goal is to lose at least 12 more.
J.D.:: Thank you very much for sharing your experience with our readers and congratulations on your success.
So, there you have it. I am impressed with Pat’s enthusiasm, and the incredible weight loss she has accomplished. The implications of obesity on your health and longevity are well known, from heart disease to diabetes to self-image, and controlling one’s weight is very important indeed.
If you are interested in finding out more about the options that Pat chose, have a look at the website of the clinic at http://hospitaljerusalem.com.mx/index.php, or call the patient coordinator Louise Johnson at 866-806-4286 or 727-423-5662. Good luck in your quest for better health.
This article concludes our 3 part series on medical tourism but for lots more information and resources on healthcare overseas visit Escape Artist Medical Tourism.
Or if you are asking questions like Who to trust? Where to go? and How much will I save? you will be interested in our ebook How to Plan a Succesful Medical Tourism Trip available to download now.
About the authorJamie Douglas is an Adventurer, Writer and Photographer with an amazing array of Nikon equipment, and a lifetime of experience traveling and documenting. He currently enjoys the great weather and fine wines of Mendoza, Argentina, and edits Expat Daily News and Expat Daily News Latin America