Dr. Juan's patients think they know more about mouths than he does, and insist on describing how their own dentists back home do things. Or they'll ask if he knows what Novocain is. "Not if I'm going to use it," he clarifies for us, "but if I know what it is." (He does know what Novocain is. He also knows they probably mean lidocaine, because most dentists haven't used Novocain for decades.)
His favorite line came from a patronizing New Yorker, who advised him before a procedure, "Be sure to use surgical gloves." Other patients are surprised he has state-of-the-art equipment. One was surprised to see solid brick buildings.
Those attitudes seem ridiculous to Dr. Juan, but patient advocates do suggest that you research any foreign clinic and even check it out personally before agreeing to be treated. Sure, good doctors in Mexico may be as skilled as their counterparts in America, but that doesn't mean you can trust just any building in a border village or resort town that swears it's a hospital. Maybe you'll find yourself operated on by a cosmetologist instead of a surgeon and needlessly end up dead. Or maybe the mistake will be less major, but you won't have American courts protecting you afterward or getting you compensation. Medical tourism comes with risks. It's a messy workaround that shouldn't be necessary, not some awesome hack that beats the system.
Every so often, a patient of Dr. Juan's will get up from the chair, still in severe pain, and leave. "Sorry," they say, leaving their nonrefundable payment behind. "I can't do this." And at least once a month, Jerry takes some passenger like that back to the U.S., their procedure abandoned. One memorable guy made it as far as having his leg shaved in surgical prep before getting out of there, spooked at the last minute by hearing the doctors speaking Spanish. On the shuttle north, the other passengers talked about how well their own operations had gone, so after they crossed the border, he phoned the hospital, asking if he could do the surgery after all. They told him it was too late -- to go forward with it, he'd have to pay the fee a second time.
Maybe he ended up doing that. Even paying twice, it would still be a bargain.
Evan V. Symon is a writer, interview finder and journalist for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you'd like to see up here? Then hit us up in the forums.
Interested in making a trip to Mexico? Check out Fodor's Guide to San Diego and Tijuana.
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