Wrapping up and saying “Thanks!”


It’s a busy Sunday in Mexicali – presidential elections are today, so I am going to try to get some pictures of the nearest polling station later.. In the meantime, I am spending the day catching up on my writing..

a polling station in Mexicali

Lots to write about – just haven’t had the time..  Friday morning was the intern graduation which marks the end of their intern year – as they advance in their residencies.. Didn’t get a lot of pictures since I was at the back of the room, and frankly, unwilling to butt ahead of proud parents to get good pics.. This was their day, not mine and I was pleased that I was invited.

I did get a couple of good pictures of my ‘hermanito’ Lalo and Gloria after the event.  (I’ve adopted Lalo as my ‘kid’ brother.. Not sure how he feels about – but he’s pretty easy-going so he probably just thinks it’s a silly gringa thing, and probably it is..)

Dr. ‘Lalo” Gutierrez with his parents

Lalo’s parents were sitting in the row ahead of me, so of course, I introduced myself and said hello.. (They were probably a little bewildered by this middle-aged gringa talking about their son in atrocious Spanish) but I figured they might be curious about the same gringa that posts pictures of Lalo on the internet.. I also feel that it’s important to take time and tell people the ‘good things’ in life.  (Like what a great person their son has turned out to be..)

Same thing for Gloria.. She is such a hard-worker, and yet, always willing to help out.. “Gloria can you help me walk this patient?”  It’s not even her patient, (and a lot of people would say – it’s not our jobs to walk patients) but the patient needs to get out of bed – I am here, and I need some help (with IV poles, pleurovacs, etc.)  and Gloria never hesitates.. that to me – is the hallmark of an excellent provider, that the patient comes first .. She still has several years to go, but I have confidence in her.

She throws herself into her rotations.. When she was on thoracics, she wanted to learn.. and she didn’t mind learning from a nurse (which is HUGE here, in my experience.)

Dr. Gloria Ayala (right) and her mother

She wasn’t sure that her mom would be able to be there – (she works long hours as a cook for a baseball team) but luckily she made it!

Met a pediatric cardiologist and his wife, a pediatrician.. Amazing because the first thing they said is, “We want nurse practitioners in our NICU,” so maybe NPs in Mexico will become a reality.. Heard there is an NP from San Francisco over at Hospital Hispano Americano but haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her.  (I’d love to exchange notes with her.)

I spent the remainder of the day in the operating room of Dr. Ernesto Romero Fonseca, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma.  I don’t know what it is about Orthopedics, but the docs are always so “laid back”, and just so darn pleasant to be around.  Dr. Romero and his resident are no exception.

[“Laid back” is probably the wrong term – there is nothing casual about his approach to surgery but I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet, so my vocabulary is a bit limited.. ]  Once I finish editing ‘patient bits’ I’ll post a photo..

Then it was off to clinic with the Professor.

Saturday, I spent the day in the operating room with Dr. Vasquez at Hospital de la Familia. He teased me about the colors of the surgical drapes,(green at Hospital de la Familia), so I guess he liked my article about the impact of color on medical photography.  (Though, truthfully, I take photos of surgeons, not operations..)

Since the NYT article* came out a few days ago – things have changed here in Mexicali.  People don’t seem to think the book is such a far-fetched idea anymore.  I’m hopeful this means I’ll get more response from some of the doctors.  (Right now, for every 15 I contact – I might get two replies, and one interview..)

Planning for my last day with the Professor  – makes me sad because I’ve had such a great time, (and learned a tremendous amount) but it has been wonderful.  Besides, I will be starting classes soon – and will be moving to my next location (and another great professor.)

Professor Ochoa and Dr. Vasquez

But I do have to say – that he has been a great professor, and I think, a good friend.  He let me steer my education at times (hey – can I learn more about X..) but always kept me studying, reading and writing.  He took time away from his regular life, and his other duties as a professor of other students (residents, interns etc.) to read my assignments, make suggestions and corrections when necessary.    and lastly, he tolerated a lot with good grace and humor.  Atrocious Spanish, (probably) some outlandish ideas and attitudes about patient care (I am a nurse, after all), a lot of chatter (one of my patient care things), endless questions…  especially, “donde estas?” when I was lost – again.

So as I wrap up my studies to spend the last few weeks concentrating on the book, and getting the last interviews, I want to thank Dr. Carlos Ochoa for his endless patience, and for giving me this opportunity.  I also want to thank all the interns (now residents) for welcoming me on rounds, the great doctors at Hospital General..  Thanks to Dr. Ivan for always welcoming me to the ER, and Dr. Joanna for welcoming me to her hospital.  All these people didn’t have to be so nice – but they were, and I appreciate it.

* Not my article [ I wish it were – since I have a lot to say on the topic].

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Spending the weekend with Dr. Vasquez, and medical photography


For internet searches for medical photography – all of my images are free for your use, but please give proper credit for my work, ie. “Photo by K. Eckland”.  For commercial uses, contact me, (so that I can contact the subjects of my work).

Please note that patient privacy is protected – and patient permission is obtained prior to photographs.  For the most part – I photograph surgeons – not patients, or surgery.

Spent much of the weekend in the operating room with Dr. C. Vasquez, cardiac surgeon at two different facilities, and the differences couldn’t be more apparent – and perhaps not what one might expect.  Much of it comes from perspective; as a person behind the lens, I see the scene differently than others might.

harvesting the radial artery

In fact, this prompted me to write an article on the subject of medical photography, complete with a slide show to illustrate the effects of color on surgical photographs. I’ve also re-posted much of the article here (see below).  Once you see the photos from today, you’ll understand the article.

the beige operating room

The case today went beautifully, with the patient extubated in the operating room.

Dr. Vasquez, and Lupita, scrub nurse

While we were there – had an unexpected surprise! Dr. Gutierrez ‘Lalo’ showed up.  I have been trying to get him into the cardiac OR since he confessed his interest in cardiac surgery.  It was great to see him – and I like encouraging him in his educational goals.   (I kind of miss being a mentor, and preceptor to students..)

Lalo peeks over the curtain..

Dr. Gutierrez (Lalo) in the cardiac OR

Medical Photography

Medical photography is many ways is more art, and luck that skill – at least for people like me who never set out to be medical photographers in the first place.  It was a natural development prompted by dire necessity during the early days of interviewing surgeons and medical writing.  I am still learning, and hopefully improving.

But as I said before, much of it is luck, and timing, particularly in this field, where the subjects are always in motion and a slight movement of the hand tying the suture knot can result in either a breath-taking shot or an utter failure to capture the moment.

The most dramatic and vivid photographs often come at mundane moments, or unexpected situations.  In medical photography, where the subject matter combines with a dramatic interplay of color, light and shadow to illustrate some of life’s most pivotal moments such as birth, death and life-saving operations – it is surprising how important the background elements are.

Here in Mexicali, I have been taking photographs of different surgeons for several weeks at different facilities across the city.  But, almost unanimously, all of the photographs, regardless of subject at Hospital Almater are lackluster and uninspiring.  Contrast this with the glorious photos from the public facilities such as Hospital General de Mexicali, and Issstecali.

The culprit is immediately apparent, and it demonstrates how such carefully planned such as aesthetics and interior design can have unintended consequences.  The very studied, casual beigeness used to communicate upscale living in the more public parts of the hospital are destroying the esthetics of the operating room services they are selling.  Whereas, the older facilities, which have continued the use of traditional colored drapes and materials do not have the problem.

Historically, surgical drapes were green for a very specific reason.  As the complementary color to red, it was believed to be a method of combating eye fatigue for surgeons looking at the red, bloody surgical fields for hours at a time.  Over the years, operating room apparel and drapes evolved away from this soft green to a more vivid blue, know as ‘ceil’.  The reasons for this change are probably more related to manufacturing that medicine, and since that evolution, surgical drapes now come in a variety of colors – hence the color matching here, of the paint, the tile, the patients, the operating room and the surgeons itself.  Somewhere, an interior decorator is filled with gleeful satisfaction – but I can only muster up a groan; knowing I will be here again and that most of my photos will be unusable.

While the consequences of poor medical photographs may seem trivial to anyone but myself (and my interviewees) at this junction – it runs far deeper than that.  With the advent of the internet, and the complicated legalities of getty and other corporate images, small, independent photographers such as myself are gaining wider exposure than ever before.   Alas! – much of it is uncredited, but several of my more popular images are downloaded thousands of times per week, to grace slideshows, powerpoint presentations and other illustrations for discussions of anything from medicine and surgery to travel, technology and even risk assessment.  In an era of branding, and logo recognition, places like Hospital Almater are certainly missing out.

In  other news/ happenings: Upcoming elections!**

Finally found someone to talk to and explain some of the issues in Mexican politics – but he hates Quadri, and doesn’t really explain any of it except to say ‘He’s corrupt..”  (From my understanding, ‘corrupt’ is an understatement, and that all of the parties are corrupt – and it’s pretty well understood by everyone involved – so of course, if I hear something like that – please explain.. explain..)  It’s not like I am capable of voting anyway, but I’d sure like to hear perspectives..

It looks like I’m not the only one who is a little leary of pretty boy pena’s party’s dubious history.  His numbers have fallen in recent polls in advance of tonight’s televised debates.  (Let’s hope these debates are better than the last.)

My personal “favorite”, Quadri is still trailing in the dust, but it looks like Lopez has a chance to take the election from Pena (much like it was ‘taken’ from him in 2006 with his narrow defeat..  Lopez is a socialist which is hard for Americans like me to understand – but then again, it’s not my country, and the levels of inequity here are certainly wider than at home – so maybe someone like Lopez can bring some much needed support to the lower classes.

I mean, a lot of what we take for granted in the USA doesn’t exist here, like a decent free public school education.   (Okay – I know critics will argue about the value of an inner city education – but we still provide a free elementary & secondary school education to all our citizens.)  So socialism for the purpose of providing basic services in all areas of Mexico seems pretty reasonable.  (It would help if I could read some primary source stuff – without using translation software, so I would have a better idea of the specifics of AMLO’s ideas.)

I did ask my friend about the student demonstrations for Yo Soy 132.  I guess as an American growing up after the 1960’s – we tend to not too make much of a big deal over student demonstrators – after all – we have the ‘Occupy’ movements going on right now in our own/ other countries – but he was telling me that this is pretty uncommon in Mexico.

** No, I’m not really into politics but I feel like it’s important to try and understand as much as possible about the places (countries) where I am residing.

Mexico on my mind….and the city by the fence


Actually, it is on my mind quite a bit these days, as you can imagine.  But that’s also the title of the new website where I will be contributing to articles about life, and health care in Mexicali.  It’s a website designed for Americans and other extranjeros living in Mexico, so I thought it was the perfect place for some of my articles on medical emergencies and medical services.

I think that if you are an ex-pat living in a different country/ culture/ etc. even if you’ve been here for a while – if you become ill, it’s a little more frightening and confusing than it might be in your old hometown.  So, hopefully the addition of a fellow gringa to help navigate the system, so to speak, is more comforting and helpful to readers..

Of course, many of the readers of the site are living in different areas of the country, so this is also a chance for me to speak up and promote Mexicali – and after being here for a couple of months – I really think that Mexicali is often judged harshly.

Sure, I don’t want it to become the next Cabo San Lucas – where Spanish is drowned out by drunken teenagers hollering, puking and carrying on in English, and Mexican culture has been submerged beneath a sea of tacky shops, Starbucks, and the homogenous effect of chain restaurants and fast food.  But I also think that when people skip over Mexicali, they are missing a chance to see an interesting side of Mexico – a side that is often downplayed to tourists unless you are heading to Mexico City.

But first – let’s be sure to say what Mexicali isn’t.  It isn’t a quaint seaside resort, or charming village.  It also isn’t a crime-infested border city, as we’ve talked about before.

If you are looking for cute, charming and rural – this isn’t the place for you.

But that’s not to say that Mexicali is without its own considerable charms.  It is first and foremost – a city of industry.  While this contributes to wide areas of industrial blight (factories and their by-products aren’t particularly attractive) – it also means that there is a significant sector of skilled labor and a higher overall standard of living.  Some of this industry is medical, but much of it is more traditional – factories and companies who came here to take advantage of NAFTA.  Frito-Lay is here, Modelo brewing is here, as well as several juice distributors and machineries.  But there is also Intuitive Surgical – the makers of the DaVinci Robot, a two million dollar piece of extremely sophisticated medical technology.

street art in Mexicali

It is also the capital of Baja California, so there is a large contingent of government offices here too,  along with the Universities and educational facilities of higher learning.

But most importantly, it is a city of people.  These people are the true heart of ‘Mexican culture’, in a very real sense.  I am fortunate that as a student, in my daily activities – I get to encounter these people on a day-to-day basis – and the people of Mexicali have proven to be as friendly and welcoming as any city I’ve ever lived.  Despite the close proximity to the border, this is the real Mexico – and it hasn’t been diluted.  Spanish remains predominant, and real working class citizens populate the streets and buildings as opposed to the more touristy destinations where everything has been ‘Americanized’ for our comfort.

Want to learn Spanish?  Then come here.  You will get to practice every day.  People will help you, correct your grammar, offer you the occasional missing word – and they do it with patience and a smile, but they will expect you to speak Spanish all the same.

The charm is here – on the quiet, upscale streets in the different barrios of the city, in the music emanating from well-kept homes, in the kitchens of mom and pop restaurants serving native dishes, and in the way that residents still welcome outsiders like myself.

They have pride in their city, their way of life and take pains to encourage me to sample it – pieces of their culture, whether as part of traditional festivities for a national holiday, or a bite of food from a street vendor or even just directions to the best [blank] in town.

an art museum in Mexicali

It also has its own identity, distinct from larger Mexico.  Some of this comes from dealing with the heat – 120 degree days in the summer are not uncommon – on these dry, sun-baked and parched streets.. Some of it comes from the unique make-up of this city – which boasts a shared heritage with a large Chinese community who fled the states after building the railroads.  So, yeah – they probably have the best Chinese food in Mexico too.

So hopefully, as I write about the doctors, and hospitals of Mexicali, visitors to the city will see the other charms that make me appreciate this place a little more every day.

You’ve come a long way, baby!


Wow..  a long couple of days – but I am sure not complaining!  Still having a blast – and as they teased me in the operating room, “Cristina, Cristina, Cristina!” I felt more like I belonged – instead of as a student, often lost/ confused.  Even more so – when I found myself irritated on rounds – irritated when the answers were obvious!!  Obvious – that’s certainly making progress..  (Irritated is such an improvement over clueless, I must say..) But the interns are a good bunch, even if they don’t love surgery like I do!

Residents at Mexicali General

The good doc gave me some homework – as we work on a ‘mystery diagnosis’ which I am enjoying.  Of course, it won’t be a mystery as soon as the pathology comes back, but I am surely enjoying the intellectual challenge (and kind of hoping that my preliminary leaps aren’t completely off-base..)  Of course – the doc is so smart – he probably already has it all figured out, and is just checking on the faculties of his student.  (He is secretly brilliant, and just hides it behind his braces and freckles.. Kind of scares me sometimes..)

Deceptively normal looking..

Bumped into Dr. Ramirez and Dr. Perez (the anesthesiologist) this morning, which reminds me that I still need to write about my visits to his operating room last week.  So I haven’t forgotten – expect it in just a couple of days..

It’s nice too when we run into people I know as we round at different hospitals around the city..  But then – as I glance at the calendar and realize that time is passing – I get a little sad.  Just as I am starting to understand things (Spanish, the hospital systems etc..) and I am enjoying it here so much, learning so much, yet time is flying, and before you know it – I will be returning home again (wherever that is!)

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, will you marry me?


[I have used images obtained on the internet to illustrate this post – and have tried to give proper attribution to sources.]

Just kidding about the marriage proposal – but it seemed like a nice headline for today’s post, as I muse about Mexican politics.. I’m no political pundit, just a little gringa temporarily living in Mexico.

So I am spending today at home, trying to get a better understanding of Mexican politics in advance of the presidential elections this July but it’s a daunting task!

As I read and read, different articles about the candidates and the issues** – it becomes very clear that this is one of those things that makes you truly appreciate how complex a lot of the things we often take for granted are – such as a working knowledge of your ‘home’ political systems, and its domestic and foreign policy issues.

Of course, the basics are easy enough to understand – Presidents are elected for a one time only six-year term – (no re-elections here) and there are more than two major political parties.  But the intricacies of this process, the sentiments surrounding it – and the true impact, and importance of the issues facing this nation are certainly too deep for a short-time resident like myself to really understand and comprehend on a deeper level.

I know who the candidates are – I watched the televised debate a few weeks ago, (and understood much of it) but of course, I couldn’t catch the nuances, or comprehend much of the deeper meaning, the context or the history behind their statements.

At this point, as an outsider looking in – I think that Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI party will winProbably not for the reasons that residents vote for him – but because even to a foreigner like myself, he presents a nice, polished picture of what we expect politicians to look like.  (Not always a good thing in my opinion – but people can look at him, his 1960’s gelled look and picture him as president – in a John Kennedy-esque way – he is young, well-groomed and certainly handsome.  He seems smooth enough in his speech the other night, though a recent article (in English) leaves me doubtful as to his actual capabilities to govern this troubled but beautiful country**.  I also have some misgivings about his party – they ran Mexico for a long time – (70 years) and I’m not convinced they did such a great job of it.

Despite being as ignorant as I am – I have my own favorite, Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the New Alliance party  – which just goes to show that you don’t really have to understand anything to hold an opinion.  So, Mexicans take note, and be glad that they don’t let ignorant gringas like me vote..

But – as an outsider looking in, Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (from my very limited perceptions) seems a little less like a career politician and a little more like a college professor.  Many people would argue that this is a handicap since it means he would be less effective, and less knowledgeable about actually navigating the system so to speak, but to a ‘southerner’ like myself – who is quite disgusted with the Ted Kennedys, the Robert Byrds, and all these other dynasty senators – it’s refreshing.. (I know that both of those American politicians are now deceased – but the mold of being able to be in politics just because you’ve been there, getting re-elected over and over and over still exists – just ask California politician, Jerry Brown.)

Photo by NTX – obtained from Vertigo Politico website.

I like Gabriel Quadri de la Torre because he seems to be a man of science, a man of reason – not some oratory firecracker who just likes to stir people up – but then again – that’s probably why he’s trailing so badly in the polls.  His platforms on alternative energy are forward thinking (but then – I grew up on a windfarm outside of Tracy, California – so of course, I would think so.)   I was also interested in his position on Pemex, but frankly didn’t know enough about the situation to understand it – even after I asked several people here in Mexicali.. (I’m not sure they understood it either – they are in health care too – not analysts, not economists..) So I decided to ask one.

I asked an outside financial analyst & economist who specializes on oil and alternative energy resources for more input/ insight on the Pemex issue from both a national (Mexican) and international perspective.  I also specifically asked –Is privatization the best thing for Mexico or does it just benefit outside investors?  How does it impact the rest of the world? 

This was his response [edited for length only]:

Pemex is an incredibly poorly run state-run oil company (think of the postal service but drilling for oil)
 
Privatizing it would be the best thing for Mexico.  It wouldn’t make a big difference to people in my field [economics/ finance] but Mexico would find more oil which would be good for the whole world (especially Mexico).
The other reason I like Gabriel Quadri so much – is that he seems like someone who is smart enough to know that all of these issues are more complicated than they first appear – and he doesn’t offer any quick easy fixes.. I like that – even if other people have told me it makes him look indecisive.  He also took the time in the debates to explain his positions instead of wasting time attacking his fellow candidates..
We all heard about Pena’s ex-mistress whining on facebook – can we move on to the real issues that affect the 100+ million people who live here?  Mr. Quadri seemed to be the only one who was really able to do that..

But then, like I said – I’m not sure if someone like me can even really understand the issues..

Take crime for example -we all heard about the headless bodies on the side of the highway – and we all know that the escalating homicide rate, and rampant violence among drug gangs is a big issue in the coming election.  But can a foreigner like myself, (particularly one living in the relatively sheltered environment of Mexicali) really understand the impact of this runaway train of grisly murders that has gripped this nation during the course of President Calderon’s term? Of what it’s like to live in an area where people ‘go missing’?

Is it possible for me to grasp the intricacies of the candidates plans to address this issue – particularly in light of the history of corruption among Mexican police forces?  What about political corruption?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as issues are concerned.  Just the idea of trying to govern a place like Mexico City (D.F) would send me into a panic – and that’s not even getting into the Pemex investment issues, endemic poverty and social security issues, or trying to bring the rest of Mexico into a technological age to make it more competitive with the rest of Latin America, and the rest of the World. With so many foreign trade opportunities, Mexico can and should carve out a better place for itself in the world – but how?  (Maybe they will figure it out at the G-20 next month, who knows?)

My gringa criticisms of the other candidates are probably equally unfair, as they hinge on such limited (okay, absent) insight.

Josefina Vasquez Mota – National Action Party. I guess my main issue with her – is I find her a bit too Hilary Clinton and not enough Geraldine Ferraro.  Plus her views on some of the issues are a little too conservative for me – particularly if she’s using the ‘woman power’ platform..  I am an old-school type feminist, which means I want equality, not special preference – so you can’t get my support by saying, “I am a woman, so if you are a woman, you should support me.”  You can’t have it both ways – equality means an equal chance to fail.

If I want to be the best at something – I want to be the best person at it – not the best woman.. It’s kind of like all of those world records, and Amelia Earhart – she got a lot of ‘first woman’ but not a lot of first person..  That’s really second place.  I guess in the 1930’s it was a big deal for a woman to do any of it, and maybe that’s the case in Mexican politics today (and the USA, for that matter) – but I still don’t think she should trade on her ‘womanhood’ to try to win an election.

Just be the best candidate.  She certainly seems smart enough without all of that – but then again, maybe it’s inescapable.  After all – I don’t hear people speculating that the other candidates have an eating disorder..

As for Andrés Manuel López Obrador (party of the democratic revolution, or something like that) – well – I guess he’s my second choice.. Since it’s impossible for Quadri to win, I guess I’d feel a bit more comfortable if Lopez was at the helm, because he seems to really care about the Mexican people (from what I’ve read about his previous work but I guess he also has a bit of a shady past..The whole ‘Legitimate Presidency’ thing kind of reminds me of the hanging chads episode down in Florida.)

** Of course, another significant issue for English speakers like myself – is always the use of language, and translational biases.  It really hits home once you try to function in another culture and another language how strong semantics really are – and how easy it is to make a mistaken impression through incorrect word choice.  So when I read these English language articles, I have to question how much of the information was slanted simply by the words the writers chose to use – even when translating quotes and candidate statements.  Also some of the sources themselves for English language information  are a bit sketchy..Kind of like if you read this blog for your Mexican election info..

In the operating room with Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez, Cardiac Surgeon


Had a great day in the operating room with Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez, MD the promising young heart surgeon I told you about several months ago.  I have some absolutely breathtaking photos of the case – but I want to double-check with the patient before posting anything potentially revealing in such a public forum.

Todays’ surgery was at one of the public hospitals in Mexicali – and while technology was sometimes in short supply – talent sure wasn’t.  I was frankly surprised at the level of skill and finesse Dr. Vasquez displayed given the fact that he is so early in his career.

Dr. Cuauhtemoc Vasquez, Cardiac surgeon

He’s also just an all-around pleasant and charming person.  I know from previous encounters that he’s well-spoken, interesting, engaging and an excellent conversationalist –  We didn’t talk at length on this occasion – because honestly, I really don’t like to be distracting during cases – especially since much of the discussion was in an English-heavy Spanglish.. (He is fluent in English but we both tend to slip in and out of Spanish.  I mainly slip out when I start thinking in English and come across a concept that I am not sure about explaining or asking about in Spanish.**

But don’t worry – I am planning on seeing him next week – where I can hopefully lure him to lunch/ coffee or something so we have a more lengthy discussion – so I can give you all the details in a more formal fashion in a future post.

As a crazy side note – finally got that ‘great’ picture of the good doctor.. Oh, the irony – not during a thoracic case but while he was assisting Dr. Vasquez – (the good doctor is board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon, after all..) I didn’t post it here because there are some ‘patient bits’ in the photo..

**I know this can be frustrating from my experiences with my professor – but it’s also frustrating when: a. a question gets misinterpreted as a statement (because of my poor grammar) or b. misconstrued completely – which still happens pretty frequently.  Luckily, people around here are awfully nice, and tend to give me the benefit of a doubt.

Also – I need to post this photo of one of my favorite operating room nurses – Lupita.  (Lupita along with Carmen and Marisol) have been an absolute delight to be around even of those very first anxious days..

Lupita, operating room nurse.. Doesn’t hurt that she’s as cute as a button, eh?

Great day in thoracic surgery and oops!


Oops! probably shouldn’t be part of any blog about thoracic surgery – but I say – “Oops!” because as I look over some of my writing – I see that I have definitely fallen into old habits (of writing reviews).  But I won’t fight my natural tendencies – and just maybe, when we get done – there will be another ‘Hidden Gem’ for my loyal fans..

Long, wonderful day in thoracic surgery – which started at the Hospital de la Familia, a private facility on the outskirts of Mexicali by the ‘new’ border crossing.. It’s way out on Avenue Maduro (after it changes names a couple of times) in an industrial area.  But – like most of the private facilities I’ve seen so far in Mexicali – its sparkling, and gleaming with marble floors, and plenty of privacy for the patients..  Don’t worry – I’ll be writing more about this, and the other private hospitals in Mexicali soon..

Hospital de la Familia

While I was there – I got to see Dr. Octavio Campa again.  He’s an anesthesiologist – and a pretty darn good one (and if you’ve read the previous books, you know I won’t hesitate to mention when anesthesia isn’t up to par, either.)  This picture* should show you exactly why I am so fond of him – as you’ll note, he pays very close attention to his patients, and their hemodynamic status.

Dr. Campa – Anesthesiologist

This is my second time in the operating room with Dr. Campa – and both times he has consistently shown excellence in his care of the patient.  (He’s pretty skilled with a double lumen tube, which helps.)

Dr. Octavio Campa Mendoza  MD

Anesthesiologist

(if you want to contact him to schedule anesthesia for your surgery – email me.)

Dr. Campa was born and raised in San Luis, Mexico. In fact, along with Dr. Gabriel Ramos – he’s known Dr. Ochoa for most of his life.  After completing his medical education, he did a three-year residency in Anaesthesia, and has been practicing for seven years.

Prior to starting the case, he started a thoracic epidural for post-operative pain control – using a nice combination of Fentanyl and bipivicaine, so this should be fairly comfortable for the patient when (s)he wakes up.   A lot of anesthesiologists don’t like performing thoracic epidurals (it’s an extra hassle, and takes more skill than a standard lumbar epidural) but I am sure the patient will appreciate the extra effort.

He was attentive during the case – and the patient’s vital signs stayed within acceptable ranges during the entire case – good oxygenation, no tachycardia, and no hypotension at all during the case.  He didn’t delegate any of his responsibilities to anyone else – he administered all the drugs, and stayed by the patient’s side during the entire case.  (Like, I said before – if you’ve read the books, you know that this is not always the situation.)

Recommended.

Dr. Vasquez, the cardiac surgeon joined us in the operating room today.  It was nice to see him.  I posted a picture of him in his surgical regalia so everyone will be able to recognize him when I interview him next week.

Dr. Vasquez (left) and Dr. Ochoa at the end of another successful case.

I can’t (and won’t) tell you much about the individual cases but I did get some great photos to share today.. (It’s too bad – because I always meet the most interesting people – disguised as ‘patients.’  But it wouldn’t be fair to them.)

* I don’t believe in ‘staged’ operating room photos – what you see is what you get – sometimes the photos aren’t perfect, because I take them while people are working – but I don’t want to add any artificiality to the scene.  Of course – the casual, between cases photos are a little different.

a more casual photo now that the case is over.. Dr. Vasquez, Dr. Campa and Dr. Ochoa

I promised everyone more photos – so don’t worry – I still have a lot more to share.  This is one of my favorite ones of Dr. Ochoa – he’s notoriously hard to get ‘good’ photos of – because he’s always in action, so to speak – so a lot of the operating room photos don’t always capture him well.

Dr. Ochoa, writing orders

After the first case – we headed over to Mexicali General – where I was able to get some more pictures of my friends.. However, this photo below – is probably my favorite that I’ve taken in Mexicali so far.. (Which is surprising because: a. it’s not a surgery photo and b. I had to set aside some of my ego to even post it.)

But then again – no one is going to look good in a photo next to Carmen – she’s a stunningly beautiful woman – even after an evening in the operating room.  Carmen is one of the circulating room nurses at Mexicali General – and she’s pretty awesome – in addition to having these amazing expressive eyes that peep out from behind the surgical mask.  I really enjoy talking to Carmen – because at the end of the day – whether I am taking on the role of medical writer, photographer or student – I am a nurse, and I always enjoy talking to other nurses and hearing about their work, and lives. (I know there is a great book there – a compilation of nursing stories from around the world – but try getting a nurse to slow down for five minutes for an interview..)

with Carmen, a circulating nurse at Mexicali General

Of course, I couldn’t end my post without more pictures of my two favorite people; Lalo and Jose Luis..

I like standing next to Jose Luis – besides being a fabulous guy – doesn’t it make me look thin??

For the last photo today – I’ve got a great, dramatic action photo of Lalo.. You can’t really see – but he’s throwing sutures in this picture – and I just think it will be a great photo for him to have when he’s a practicing cardiac surgeon someday.

Dr. Gutierrez, throwing sutures during a VATS case