On April 17, 2011, I was admitted to Star Medica Hospital in Merida to undergo surgery to repair a very large hiatal hernia. The procedure known as Nissen Fundoplication was performed laparoscopically by Dr. Jose Luis Araujo Barrera. My surgery, hospital stay, pre-operative tests, lab work, medical consultations, recommendations, post-operative care and recovery have been nothing short of phenomenal, far exceeding my expectations. This is due, in no small part,to the talented hands and skills of my excellent surgeon, Dr. Araujo.
First, a little bit about me. My name is Carol Ann Elliott. I am a 66-year-old expatriate from Florida, now residing in the state of Yucatan, Mexico for the last three years (as of May 2011). I have always been in excellent health and have had no surgeries or major illnesses, unless you want to count my tonsillectomy when I was seven years old. I have had three children, all natural childbirths.
Prior to My Surgery
One year prior to my surgery, I had been living and traveling in Oaxaca and Jalisco, Mexico, for several months. Blood tests done in Guadalajara in April 2010 indicated that I should see a hematologist as soon as possible. When I returned to Florida in May 2010, a hematologist confirmed that I was suffering from severe anemia and immediately hospitalized me for two days. I was given four pints of blood and three units of iron. An endoscopy revealed that I had bleeding ulcers which were aggravated by a very large hiatal hernia. Medication was prescribed to help heal the ulcers, treat the anemia and Nissen Fundoplication surgery to repair the hernia was advised. The total bill for my hospitalization was in excess of $38,000 USD.
Investigating Other Options
After consulting a highly recommended surgeon in Florida (with whom I was not impressed), I decided to investigate medical options available to me in my adopted home, Merida, Mexico. Over the past few years, I have had positive experiences with the medical community in Merida, treating minor issues and providing well-care exams. Via the internet, I read comments and testimonials posted about Dr. Araujo and his Associate, Dra. Maria Eugenia Icaza, a gastroenterologist. My first contact with Dr. Araujo was in July 2010, via email one afternoon. I sent him questions regarding Nissen Fundoplication surgery, asking him about his qualifications and experience. To my astonishment, I received a personal email response that evening that addressed all of my questions and even offered advice and additional information.
Consultation and Colonoscopy
In the fall of 2010, I returned to Merida and scheduled an appointment with Dra. Icaza for a consultation. She recommended a follow-up endoscopy to determine if the ulcers had healed. Blood work was ordered and I was scheduled for the procedure the next day. The endoscopy confirmed that the ulcers had healed and Dra. Icaza also recommended Nissen Fundoplication surgery to repair the very large hiatal hernia that had not gone away. Total cost of the consultation including the endoscopy and lab work was less than $400 USD.
In January, 2011, I returned to Dra. Icaza for a routine follow-up colonoscopy. Again, this procedure went smoothly and I was very pleased with the care I received. Dra. Icaza is a very capable, caring and personable physician. Total charges for this procedure were less than $400 USD. I was repeatedly reminded how refreshing it is to be able to obtain quality medical care by excellent doctors at reasonable costs.
Surgery at Star Medica
Due to the constraints of my Mexican health insurance, it was necessary to wait until April 2011 for insurance coverage of the costs of my surgery. I consulted with Dr. Araujo and he ordered pre-operative blood work and a barium swallow X-ray to assist him with my surgery.
I was admitted to the Star Medica Hospital on the Saturday before Palm Sunday with surgery scheduled for Palm Sunday morning. My admission the night before went smoothly and I was taken down for surgery at 7:30 in the morning and gently transferred from my bed to the surgical bed. I was administered anesthesia for surgery. The next thing I knew I was on my way back to my room. Surgery was completed in approximately 2.5 hours and I remained in recovery for 2.5 hours.
I cannot begin to express how impressed I am with the quality of care I received. The surgery and all the procedures before and after surgery went exceedingly well. This is due, in no small part, to my excellent surgeon. My recovery has also been unbelievably easy. I had only minimal discomfort after the surgery, and no pain. I was given pain medications and antibiotics for only two days post surgery, along with intravenous solutions. Although I was given pain medications, I was awake and alert during the day and I rested well at night. There was a drainage tube inserted to allow excess fluids to escape, and I had five small incisions which healed very quickly. I had no problems at all swallowing and started a liquid diet the evening after the surgery and moved up to soft foods before being discharged from the hospital.
Star Medica is a modern, very clean hospital equipped with up-to-date technology. Support staff in the hospital were pleasant and accommodating. My blood pressure, pulse, drainage tube and incisions were checked regularly. My room was cleaned daily and trash emptied three times a day; linens were changed daily. My spouse remained with me overnight sleeping on a sleeper couch in the room. He was provided fresh linens daily as well.
The Care of a Good Doctor
During my five-night stay at Star Medica, Dr. Araujo checked on me, sometimes twice a day and always with a smile and positive words of encouragement. On two occasions when he was busy performing emergency surgery, he sent his very capable assistant, Karla, to check on me. Also, Dr. Araujo gave me his cellular phone number with instructions to call him 24 hours a day, anytime, if I had any problems, questions or difficulties with the language or with understanding the hospital staff.
Finally, before being discharged from the hospital, Dr. Araujo provided me with color photos and a DVD of my surgery. Watching the DVD impressed me all the more with Dr. Araujo’s skill. I feel very fortunate to have chosen him to perform the surgery. In fact, should another medical necessity arise in the future, I will always begin my trip with Dr. Araujo and his associates guiding my journey.