Thursday, January 26, 2012

I learned there is no first aid or medic at the Cozumel airport.

I was elated to find our forced-to-check-at-the-gate carry on bags almost first on the carousel at the Cozumel airport. Plucking one of those off, I next went for my suitcase, a hard-bottomed and fairly large ScubaPro bag that held all my dive gear and clothes. The weight and heft of the bag caught my exhausted self by surprise, so I boffed the execution. As I heaved it off the belt, it slammed right into my right great toe; not down on it but more at it from the front. 

Damn, that hurt! When I looked down I understood why: the bag had totally and cleanly ripped the toenail off. It remained attached at the very bottom of the nail bed, and was pointing up at a 90 degree angle to its usual position.  

That's one way to ruin a pedicure. 

In one of those moments where you are looking at something, but don't quite GET what you are looking at, I bent down and flopped the nail back and forth a bit with my finger, amazed that it really didn't hurt. (Oh, that was short lasting.) Seeing the nail bed kinda made me want to barf, and I realized that yes, I'd just ripped my big toenail clean off, as blood starts to fill my Birkenstock. 

We'd been up for two days straight, after a pretty exhausting week that led up to the start of this vacation. The flights were long, the layovers longer, and we'd spent two hours on the tarmac in Houston while a large number of flights were rerouted due to some significant weather events in the Gulf of Mexico. We'd landed in Coz and were ready to head to our hotel for a gallon of water and a nap. 

Now I needed a doctor... in Mexico. Scot asked airport staff if there was a medic; the alarmed response was no, we'd have to go to the clinic downtown. No problem, we'll take a cab... only problem is, you can't get a simple single outgoing cab at the airport, you have to wait for the big cattle vans that go to hotels... and they won't make another stop for you. 

Seriously!? WTF.

This wasn't life or death situation, nor were we making a big deal about it. Everyone that looks at my face knows something's up and I tell them and before I can say, "Don't look," they look down at my foot and say, "Oh, gross!" My initial assessment of, "Huh, that doesn't really hurt that much," had turned into, "Would someone just cut the toe off, this is freaking hurting." By the time we get into a van I was getting grumpy and less enamored with the laid back Mexican way of doing things. 

We get to Blue Angel and our travel buddies take our bags for us, and Scot asks the front desk for the best clinic to go to just in case there is an option (I don't think there is). The front desk person looks alarmed, gives him a card, and I hail a taxi. In broken Spanish Scot talks to the driver, who looks at my foot and freaks out. 

We arrive at the clinic, walk in, and the receiptionist looks at my foot, looks out the window and says, "There's the doctor, he'll help you." We walk into a room, the doctor looks at me as I try to pull my foot out of my sandal without disturbing the toe with Nailzilla sticking up, and has me sit on the little bed while I explain what happened. 

What surprised me the most was that the people were interested in me and my problem... not one question about payment, no forms, no bullshit, nothing as it would be in the USA.

We're laughing and joking (and I'm throwing some whining now and then too because it's really freaking hurting now and he's poking around trying to see what's up). He says it's good I'm taking it all in good humor. Because unfortunately, it's the bottom of the nail bed, where it's still attached, that actually really hurts. Gee... thanks.  

Two injections for numbing that hurt like hell -- "It'll just feel like a bee sting," my ass! Felt like my toe was going to explode. He cleans the area, pokes around a bit. I swear this takes forever. I've been hiding my face in Scot's shirt since the injections; he makes sure the area is numb and then pulls the nail free. GAG. I can't help but look now and IT'S SO GROSS. 

He doesn't give me any limitations, but laughs at my comments that I'll get in the water for a checkout dive that night. He suggests I might miss a few days of diving. I disagree with his assessment and he chuckles. What followed while he wrote his note was an awesome conversation about everything from opioid abuse in the US to the cultural differences about health care and pain to the specifics of Hispanic compound names. Awesome guy... and really hot, too; always an important qualification for your health care professionals. I mentioned Dr. Piccolo; that's the man you see for chamber rides if you get bent in Coz. This lead to a conversation about attitudes about diving, and the local tragedy that rocked the island last year, a totally avoidable diving accident amongst professionals. 

About an hour total, and it wasn't as cheap as you'd think; $200, plus another $55 at MEGA for four rx's (ointment, antibiotic, two pain meds [neither of which I've used]). 

I asked how long it would take for the local to wear off; about four hours he says. So over the afternoon, I notice how it's not that the toe hurts... but the sensation on that exposed tissue is so foreign that it's annoying like nails on a chalkboard. 

After happy hour, Scot passes out from exhaustion in our room while I unpack, and then gear up for a quick checkout dive to test my weights and this whole toe thing. The water doesn't bother it at all; I feared the saltwater would hurt. But using warm water fins leaves me without booties in a very sharp rocky entrance, and that hurts like hell. I'm ginger with that foot, so I'm not very steady and the entrance is a little rough due to surf and some rocks. 

The ironic truth is, if I hadn't tried to save weight in my baggage, and just used my rock boots and trusty Hollis F1s, I wouldn't have had a problem in the water. But I can't get the slim fitting warm water fin on the bad foot. At least not bobbing in the water. It will be less of a problem on the boat, I think. We don't go out until tomorrow afternoon so we'll see then. 

I ran around with it exposed so it could dry all evening after I exited the water. It didn't hurt. I put more ointment and gauze on it and NOW its hurting like a sonofabitch but I may have taped it too tight! 

Worse case scenario, I'm in Cozumel and have to miss a day of diving. Or  two. That wouldn't make me happy, but in the scheme of things... I think I'll survive. 

Yes, I have phone pictures but I'm not posting them. :) 

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