Injuries are not ideal no matter where they happen. But when you're in a foreign country, it takes the experience to the next level. An obvious barrier is the language difference....and the unknowns of where to go, how the local healthcare system works, and the lack of inside knowledge of where to get the best care. This can lead to an unplanned healthcare adventure.
On vacation I prefer planned adventures that are fun. That is why Mexico is one of my surf destinations; the surfing is consistent and (usually) not dangerous. Add in the consistent sunshine, yummy tacos, and the direct flight from Denver and it's an easy and enjoyable vacation. Plus, my good friends from physical therapy school have a time-share in Cabo San Lucas and are nice enough to invite my husband and I. Several years ago, the four of us developed our surf skills together at a multi-day surf camp outside of Lima, Peru with various degrees of success.
Cerritos Beach is our go to surf beach in Cabo because it's not only convenient (about 45 minute drive) but it's also safe spot for beginner surfers. The waves are fairly mellow, the bottom is sandy (not rock or reef), the riptide risk is low, and the locals don't mind tourists paddling aimlessly around them. Even with all the "surf safety" boxes checked, the ocean has a mind of it's own. Like smashing a surf board into Becky's face the day before her birthday.
After the impact, the initial concern was a missing tooth or two (all stayed in - phew!) and a broken nose (just a scrape and bruise - thankful!). After 30 seconds of examination by 2 physical therapists and an engineer, the conclusion was her bottom tooth pierced completely through the skin just below her lip. There was no doubt stitches were needed. So we asked for advice from the most obvious person, the bartender at the beach bar.
We had 2 options: drive 45 minutes into Cabo to the main hospital or drive 10 minutes to the small town of Todos Santos and hope that whoever was working that night at the local clinic was trained in stitches. The bartender ensured us that the local clinic would be able to help us but gave a small caveat that it was be pricey. Obviously we took the bartender's advice and went to the local clinic, because how pricey could it really be in a small town in Mexico?
After a 10 minute drive, some elementary Spanish from our group of 4 and decent English from the providers at the clinic (no ID needed), Becky was shot up with Lidocaine and her chin was sewed back together with 7 stitches. Being PTs, there was specific attention paid to sanitary aseptic technique - they passed! Just as importantly, the quality of stitches was very good. And then the bill came...we had decided in the car ride that $200 was the highest amount we expected. Turns out, $200 would be been a huge discount because 7 stitches in Mexico cost $600 USD!
Although the cost was shocking, we were grateful that Becky was ok, the stitches looked good, and it was a fairly quick solution. Plus, Becky got to celebrate her birthday the next day with a new scar and a Band-Aid on her chin!
Accidents happen, both at home and on vacation. At home, we know how to manage our health insurance and ensure we go "in-network" facilities when possible. When traveling to foreign countries I use SafetyWing insurance ($40/month for me, $60/month for my husband) to cover accidents and injuries. If Becky agrees to surf with me again in Mexico, I am going to double check that she bought her travel insurance policy for the trip!
Luckily, Becky's injury wasn't series and we were able to enjoy the remainder of our vacation with an ATV adventure, nice dinners, and quality time with friends. Thanks to the bartender at Cerritos for the good advice and to the gals at the clinic in Todos Santos for their skill.
Post Script - Don't let your husband take your stitches out. Getting any sort of healthcare from your partner is never a good idea.