Beth caught a nasty case of something a week ago. She went to the medical practice downtown that holds our dentist/orthodontist and a general physician we’ve used at some point in the past among a lot of other medical professionals. Unfortunately, the doctor had moved out since we last visited him a few years ago and no one seemed to know where his office is located now.
So, desperate to see a doctor on a Saturday morning, Beth went over to a “similares doctor.” You may be wondering just what is a “similares doctor.” (BTW, “similares” is pronounced in English similarly: “sim-e-LAR-ehs.”) Let me just give you a spoiler alert: if you aren’t familiar with the Mexico health system, my advice is to stay in the dark as much as possible. It will probably be a relief to you not to know anything should you ever be in Mexico and need medical attention. That’s not to say that there aren’t any good doctors in Mexico because I’m sure there are. We just aren’t sure if we really know any.
Nonetheless, I will fill you in on a “similares doctor.” In Mexico, there are different types of pharmacies. Some sell mostly name brand drugs and others sell only generics (“similares”). They actually use this word on the signs. They usually have a “doctor” who has an office next door or connected to the pharmacy store. This doctor is obviously a doctor because he or she always has one or more diplomas on the wall that state something. It might be best to just say this person is “similar” to a doctor. The diplomas and the white lab coat and indecipherable handwriting are strong hints.
It’s sort of like a walk-in clinic in the USA. There are even some large pharmacy chains in the USA that have a nurse practitioner who supposedly works under the auspices of a doctor, but who is quite capable of diagnosing simple things and dispensing with prescriptions for those things. I used two of these clinics last summer when I had a horrible case of something bad…nasty cough that took about 6 weeks to get over.
So, here in San Juan del Río, we have these “similares doctors” at pharmacies all over town (they’re in every town in Mexico). These doctors have probably studied some form of medicine or holistic withcraft and typically are well informed about how to write down the name and dosage of a handful of drugs and to diagnose relatively common ailments. So far, sinus and throat infections are the only two ailments that they seem to have studied. I say that because it doesn’t seem to matter what’s wrong with you, the diagnosis will most assuredly be a sinus or throat infection. This is really helpful if you actually have a sinus or throat infection, but not so great if you don’t really have one of those ailments.
However, you will at least be able to take some generic drugs that might rule out those ailments, or more often than not, lead to taking a second round of even stronger generic drugs that will most assuredly rule out the ailments that you don’t have, but one can never be too sure. What harm is there in taking drugs we don’t need for problems we don’t have? Oh right. Well, never mind that facts. Facts and medicine don’t often mix well in Mexico. Don’t get too uptight over it. There are plenty of ways to die so why bother trying to prevent ALL of them, right?
Having given you a sneak preview of what a similares doctor is like here in Mexico (I prefer to call them “seemy-lares doctors” because they sort of seem like a doctor), let me fill you in on the general procedure that we’ve been able to identify from experience for how to deal with a problem ailment that requires medical attention or at least something that seems like or is similar to medical attention:
- When ill and feeling as if your efforts to self-medicate aren’t working, either go to a doctor’s office or go to a similares doctor. The difference is usually somewhere around paying $20 USD for a regular doctor or about $2.50 for a similares doctor (they may yield similar results or one may kill you and the other might get lucky and not kill you).
- With that knowledge in mind, pick your poison. If you should choose the cheaper and more expedient route, be sure to choose your similares doctor wisely (we just look for the easiest one to get to). Beth sat for awhile in the sitting room for one of these similares doctors last Saturday with a bunch of sick people. Her cough was impressive. One of the sick ladies even piped up and said (in Spanish of course), “Wow. You’ve got it really bad!” (no doubt the lady was referring to the sinus/throat infection that everyone already knew they had)
- After talking to the similares doctor and receiving the obligatory paperwork with which to walk next door to the similares pharmacy, take your similares drugs. In this case, get your shot and take your drugs.
- Pray for a miracle.
- If after a week you survive but are still ill, try a different similares doctor next time and try to remember the ones that didn’t work out for future reference.
- If it’s true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, my advice is to eat two (although apples cost about the same as a visit to a similares doctor but are less likely to kill you, unless you forget to disinfect them before eating them…that’s a topic for a different post).