Tag Archives: O Negative blood

Mixing with the natives

We have another saint tacked to the head of Larry’s bed, a gift from yet another well-wisher who comes by, counseling us to “Héchale ganas,” and “Anímate!” – Mexican versions of “keep your chin up.” Our sense of community here has grown. Larry and I are now good friends with quite a few patients and their familiares. Among them are Juan Jose and his wife Patty. They live in a little ranchito up near Santa María del Oro, with a view of the crater lake down in the center of the old volcano. Juan Jose worked for twenty years in Orange County, working two nine hour shifts a day, the first in the strawberry and tomato fields, and the second in a parts factory.  He lived in Santa Ana just a few blocks from the Civic Center, where I spent so much time volunteering in the jail. Juan Jose took advantage of the amnesty offered back in the eighties, is a U.S. citizen, and his three daughters live and work in Santa Ana today. He is fifty-one, and is in for heart surgery. His daughters send Patty money for her daily expenses here. She is sharing a room with Marta in our hotel. All those years driving the 405, looking at those strawberry fields and the men working them as I was stuck in traffic – interesting where we can end up.  

It has been a day of what seems like three steps forward and two steps back. Of the three of the donors Marta and I met early this morning at the blood bank, Pedro, Teresa and Raquel, two were rejected — rosy robust Teresa for anemia (hah!), and Raquel for not having slept through the night. Raquel had come straight from her night job to give us aid. Today I’m paying her wages to stay home and sleep, and then sleep through the night. She’ll give it another try tomorrow. Her brother-in-law just brought her federal ID by to us, so we can get the date early tomorrow morning. The donor we had lined up in San Miguel de Allende found no one who knew anything at the IMSS clinic there. She will also try tomorrow.

And tomorrow we have a hearty French Canadian coming in from Lake Chapala, a well-rested Raquel, and Ruth Suarez from La Peñita. Johan from the on-line community Jaltemba Jalapeño is driving her up. Ruth called early this morning, just having heard of our plight, and informed me she was O negative and willing to give. “If I need to go to Tepic,” she said, “why not just come all the way to Guadalajara and do it there?”

“Come on down!” I responded. Easier said than done. All the buses out of our area are filled with happy vacationers headed back to Guadalajara. So Johan and Ruth are leaving at 1:30 this morning and driving straight through here to the blood bank below. Sleep well, querida amiga! We want those globules fat and juicy. Yum! I’m feeling more and more like a character out of Twilight every day.

I am learning a lot more about blood than I ever wanted to know. I am also learning a lot more about health care systems and those who use them than any practicing Christian Scientist ever thought she’d need to know. It’s humbling, and enlightening. The courage, persistence, tender loving care, generosity, that we are being shown, that is being shared throughout the hospital – it’s a privilege to witness so much goodness in action. Why should I be surprised? Don’t I know that God is infinite good, and God is expressed in and through the lives of each and every individual son or daughter? Well, just because I know the potential beauty of music, I am still amazed and awed when I hear it played well by musicians who give it their all. Right now we are surrounded by a symphony of goodness, and we are amazed at each and every player. Bravo!

So, if we get all the proofs of donors copied and stamped and registered and into the queen of programming tomorrow by 9:30 in the morning, Larry will be scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. Or maybe Thursday. At least some time this week. Which is progress. You never know when or where you might end up, or with whom!

“…All the rugged way”

I’m writing this later than usual because I needed to get some joy back before putting pinkies to the keys. The day started with a series of rugged ups and downs. I got to the hospital room just after the cardiologist told Larry his operation would be Monday. Hooray! Then a woman who programs the surgery came in and yelled at us because we didn’t have the comprobantes in hand, that she had to have them by ten o’clock this morning in order for Larry to have surgery on Monday. She was so, ahem, emphatic, that Larry started getting upset. She kept telling Larry, no te preocupes, cálmate, cálmate, and then would continue speaking to me in a really loud voice, obviously very upset. English speakers aren’t the only ones who think yelling slowly at foreigners will get the point across. I sent her out of the room with Marta, who came back later and told me the surgery would be Tuesday. Disappointing, but Larry said you were never supposed to buy a car that was assembled on Monday, and maybe heart surgery was the same way.

Other good news of the morning was that we had an O Neg donor actually show up in Guadalajara. This after calling a list of eight O Neg donors registered with the Red Cross, Eric and his wife Shirley came into the city from Ajijic (out on Lake Chapala), making the effort to be at the IMSS central blood bank by 6:30 in the morning. That’s when people start lining up to get a ficha or date to give blood. If you get there early enough, you get a date that same day. It took them a total of about five hours waiting. I took a picture of their sweet faces. Wish I could download it. They headed back to Chapala, leaving me the first actual comprobantes I’d ever seen – the precious papers that say so much blood has been given for Laurence Michael Cobb. They also gave me the name of an O Neg friend of theirs, and I called him. He is willing to come in next week and donate. Blessings on these dear people.

I also received by email pdf files of the comprobantes of the three donors who gave in Tepic. I look at these, and they don’t look anything like the one I got from Eric. Sweet Lulu also gave in Tepic this morning, though I don’t see a comprobante from her in this group of files. I hope sometime during these next few days somebody, some where can help me make sense of this stuff.  But the whole world, it seems, is going on vacation. The hospital is left with a skeleton staff.

But the blood bank remains vigilant! Marta, our treasured donor for plaquetas, went in to be tested today. She flunked. She has a tooth descapada. The crown is off. Shoot, I had a crown come off the first day we got here. That’s why I’ve been eating quesadillas. They’re soft! But this was a real downer.

I also explored buying blood from a private blood bank. I was told by the IMSS blood bank that buying blood in Mexico is a federal offense, and IMSS will not accept blood donated or acquired through another hospital that may not have the same high standards as does IMSS. No ****! I keep saying I will translate the requirements for donors and post it here. It’s pretty amazing. One thing they don’t mention, but will also disqualify you is if you haven’t been living in Mexico for at least six months. So precious friends in the States who are willing to fly down and “be there” for us, sigh, it would be for naught! Thank you, anyway.

Then came another visit from the queen of programming who informed us that maybe some time next week would be the operation. And, maybe not. I said I didn’t understand all the waffling around, and was told that foreigners always want to know an exact date and time, and it just doesn’t work that way here. I need to remain calm, tranquilo and patient. I kept remembering Marielena’s assurance that the surgery will go through. We just may have to set up housekeeping here for a while.

In the midst of all this friends have been making grand efforts on our behalf, putting notices on web boards and e-zines, and giving counsel and comfort, by phone, by Facebook, by email. Other patients and their familiares come by to encourage and offer prayers. I treasure each and every one, and offer my own in the form of the hymn Larry and I grew up singing in Sunday School. I’ve been singing it to him very quietly. The words seem particularly poignant right now:

 Shepherd, show me how to go

O’er the hillside steep,

How to gather, how to sow, —

How to feed Thy sheep;

I will listen for Thy voice,

Lest my footsteps stray;

I will follow and rejoice

All the rugged way.

Thou wilt bind the stubborn will,

Wound the callous breast,

Make self-righteousness be still,

Break earth’s stupid rest.

Strangers on a barren shore,

Lab’ring long and lone,

We would enter by the door,

And Thou know’st Thine own;

So, when day grows dark and cold,

Tear or triumph harms,

Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,

Take them in Thine arms;

Feed the hungry, heal the heart,

Till the morning’s beam;

White as wool, ere they depart,

Shepherd, wash them clean.

The adventure April 16 – April 19

The following are Notes I posted on Facebook, but I find that many of our friends and neighbors can’t access that information. I’ve decided to post this on my public website as our personal experience may be of help to others going through similar situations. The writing is raw, unedited, and often comes straight from being cut and pasted out of correspondence to a particular individual or group.

April 16, 2011 — Update on Larry

This isn’t exactly blog material, so I thought I would post this update I wrote to my family here on FB in a note where those who are interested could read it. Too tired to edit….

Dear Siblings, et.al.

I now have a little thumb drive thingy that gives me internet where ever there is a cell phone signal — like the Virgin Mobile one you introduced me to, Amy, only this one only required sheaves of paperwork, a four hour long session in a TelCel Customer “Service” Center, and I’m on the hook for $399 pesos a month for the next year and a half. I signed my name twenty-four times and answered every question imaginable – including what color my house was. But at least I’m now connected. I’ve missed being able to keep you up to date.

Larry and I got here a week ago Tuesday, April 5. Since last January we’ve been going up to Tepic at least once and sometimes twice a week for a series of appointments at the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social. That’s the Mexican national health insurance that practically everyone in Mexico has. As employers, we paid for it for our workers when we were building the trailer park, and two years ago we became members ourselves, paying at the top bracket, because we are both over 60. It cost us MN$3,200 each a year. That’s pesos, which are worth about 8 cents a piece. About last December, after Larry had recovered from his back surgery of just a year ago, he found he wasn’t able to exercise with the vigor he was used to. It got to the point that he could take an early morning walk, very slowly around the neighborhood park with his friend Danny and the dogs. But by the time he got back around 7:30, he would have to take a nap until about 10. That’s when Danny would pick him up and drive him around for several hours. Then they’d eat lunch out, and Larry would come back and nap for several hours. He’d get up and have dinner, and then go to bed around 8, sleeping hard until 6 the next morning.

So he’s been going through a battery of tests, and we ended up here. We’ve had a friend, Lulu, at the IMSS clinic in Tepic. She is head of making appointments, and has accordioned the whole process up for us, rather than dragging it out over half a year. So, at last, he had an angiogram here in Guadalajara last Monday afternoon. That’s where they shoot you full of dye to be able to see where there might be blockages. And if the blockages are fixable at that time, they do it with little stents, or “cateters.” The blockage was too extensive to do that. So they approved him for what I guess is a triple by-pass. All of this is fully covered by the IMSS insurance, but there are a few little requirements in this community of insureds. Everyone who is to have an operation must line up 8 to 10 blood donors, and one local (Guadalajara) “plaqueta” donor. I believe that term is platelet. That person has to be ready to give the day right before the surgery. When we first got this news it was “no problem,” and we had plenty of potential donors. Danny rented a van and took four happy campers to Puerto Vallarta Thursday. And our friend Alejandro, a student in Tepic, got two of his friends and went down and gave. We were well on our way to having enough donors.

Then things started going haywire. Cheesh, I don’t want to go into all the details. Things just got complicated. It has to do with making appointments in order to give blood, and limiting the number of donors per patient to just so many a day, and it being the beginning of Semana Santa here — which is the BIGGEST holiday time of the year, and faxing proof of donations to me and my not having a fax machine in my suitcase, and every thing in Mexico closing up for this next week. And to top it off, the blood bank here asked me what type blood Larry had. O Negative. Oh. The blood bank people are insisting now that all donors must be O Negative. But there are others (nurses, some of the doctors) who are saying otherwise. We are working our way through all this. We have friends in some good places, but just about everyone is on vacation.

In the meantime, Jim and Forrest are getting their blood typed on Monday. Theo is O Negative, so there’s a good probability those guys are, too, though they’ve never had a blood test before. But Forrest is in the last few weeks of his first semester back in school. We don’t want to screw that up. In the meantime it turns out that Marta, our angel friend Lulu’s sister who came along with us to help out (and who gave a first impression of being a strumpet and a total flake) is O Negative. Larry burst out laughing when he heard that. Marta is willing to be the platelet donor, and has quit smoking and eating Cheetos in preparation for her task. She’s taking it very seriously, and says she has found a purpose in life — helping others. I must admit, she’s been a VERY big help to us. She sleeps on the floor in the hospital room through the night, so I can sleep in the hotel and be with Larry in the day. But during the day she also does laundry and shops — like finding a portable fan for Larry and one of those egg carton mattress pads. Lulu had to go back to work, but left Marta an IMSS jacket and ID badge, so she is able to go in and out and poke around and ask questions and look official. She’s really got the attitude down. It helps that she is also wearing much higher necklines.

There’s so much to be grateful for. So many good friends knocking themselves out for us. So many NEW friends we’ve met going through similar circumstances. “Héchale ganas,” the son of the man who was in the bed next to us said as he left. He’s 22 years old and looks sixteen — Umberto Junior. Umberto Senior had a picture of his grand daughter in a pumpkin costume taped to the head of his bed, along with a picture of the Pope and a likeness of the Virgin of Zapopan. Umberto Junior lost half his hand in an industrial accident several months ago, and told us he knew some of his donors were O Negative. He’s going to look them up for us. I spent several hours over the last week reading the Bible Lesson in Spanish aloud to Umberto Senior, who was very frightened. He said what I read “filled him.” So his family is returning the kindness. And they also left us the pictures of the Pope and the V of Z.

We’re going to get through this, and it will all be good. Keep us in your prayer and caring. We love you all.

April 17, 2011 More Update on Larry

I am absolutely overwhelmed with the loving response from friends far and near. I would write each one individually if I had the time, but know how my heart is uplifted with each kind word. I’m going to carry my TelCel stick up to Larry’s room tomorrow and let him log onto my FB page and read through everything. I know it will do him good.

He’s doing fine. Getting a LOT of rest. I’m not particularly, even though technically today was the official day of rest. Sundays everything closes down, even the front gates of the hospital. You have to come around here to the back at the emergency entrance. That’s where my little hotel is. At last I have a decent room, sort of like a little European pension. There are twin beds, so I have a nice big work space where I can spread out papers and clothing — since there’s not a closet, cabinet, chair or desk. But the iron bed steads are painted white and the bedspreads are in good conditions and actually match the color on the walls — which isn’t awful. Marilyn included some clothes pins in the suitcase of clothing that Eddie and Roberto brought today, so I can pin the curtains together. That way the breeze doesn’t expose me to the taqueria across the street.

There’s even a tiny little elevator, but since it’s Sunday it wasn’t running. Oh, well, neither were the elevators in the hospital tower where Larry is. He’s on the sixth floor, and remember, they start counting “one” after the ground floor. One hundred and fifty steps. I finally counted them after the second trip.

I really hesitated to write that last paragraph, because it makes the hospital sound backward and third world. It’s not. There was just a transformer that blew up, and they have prioritized use of the power available. There was ONE visitors elevator available, but on a Sunday afternoon it was unbelievably crowded with a really long line waiting for it. This hospital complex is really more like a large university campus, and is pretty impressive. It goes for blocks with massive concrete buildings (hence the lousy cell phone coverage inside), park like areas, huge trees, lots of walkways, etc. And a big bronze statue of the IMSS logo — an eagle, its beak extended, with broad wings overa nursing mother and child. I find the image comforting on many levels. Both the U.S. and Mexico have an eagle as their emblem. The one on the Mexican flag has the snake in its mouth, and the one on our currency has arrows and an olive branch, but I particularly like this IMSS bird. It represents a national priority of a different nature then we usually associate with eagles.

We continue getting donors, even though they aren’t O negative. So grateful for every one of them. It is the blood bank that told me we must have all donors with O negative. Nurses here, the doctors, and the surgeon in charge all are willing to go forward. They are pumping anti-biotics into Larry (at least that’s what it says on the drippy thing they keep sticking in him), and giving him a special drink before each meal to “fatten him up” before surgery. I’m trusting this thing is going forward on Tuesday, blood bank or no.

This morning Larry and I had a little reading time together, and came to the Bible passage where Jesus prays, “Father, that they may be one.” I laughed out loud. Looked like O-ne(gativo) to me! OK, so that’s the way my mind’s going these days. It’s surely a corruption of what the passage REALLY means, but other verses talked about there being neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, because we’re all “one blood in Christ.” Well, I’m figuring that “Christ” stands for love, and there’s ample evidence of Love with a capital L all around us. I’m not going to go sorting it out into A’s and B’s and O’s, negative or positive. It’s just One big Oneness, and the question is not how much or how many or what type, but how big is our sense of that Oneness. It’s got to be Infinite. And that’s enough. Amen.

That sounds like a good place to stop. I will for now. I feel downright cozy being with you. thanks for being there.

April 18, 2011 Standing by the bed waiting

I’m taking the easy way out and copying the body of an email I just sent to my sister….

Hi Amy,

Just got your voice mail, but it cut off before you said the second thing. But the first thing was dear enough. Wow, I think we have more O- blood bearers in our immediate family then there are in all of Mexico! All three of you, huh! Well, JP is too young, John too old, and you, sweet sister, are a little far-removed from Mexico. Hah! But thanks so much for the offer. We love you all so much. We have one valiant O- donor who spent the whole day up in Tepic being interviewed, rejected, accepted, and finally drained. Lulu referred to him as the “guerote grandote.” That means great big white man. If she could only see our family! “GG” is Colin Kearns, Larry’s surfing buddy from Vancouver Island, whose house we stayed in when we first visited here.

But good things are going on. It’s been a roller coaster day of highs and lows, but I won’t go into them. I INSIST that good things are going on. I just got off the phone with Mom, telling her the latest development:  There is a woman on the other side of this floor who was scheduled for surgery tomorrow. For over a week she has been gathering donors because she, too, is O-. Today the doctors said they were NOT going to operate on her. A young woman doctor here on the floor put me on to her. I went and talked to her and her husband. They were slightly suspicious and reticent, but after a while they said that their son would be here this evening and they would decide whether to release their “comprobantes” to us — and on what terms.

“Hay que dejarlo en las manos de Dios,” everyone keeps telling me. Especially a little round angel-faced lady who has kept popping up at my elbow, giving me hugs and encouragement all day long. For the life of me I can’t remember meeting her among all the people I HAVE met up here. But she just came into the room and said she’s going home now. I finally just asked her flat out what her name was. She smiled up at me. “Guadalupe,” she said, and then waved good bye. Too sweet. (I leave you to the strains of either The Twilight Zone or the Hallelujah Chorus. You choose.)

besos to all three of you,

April 19, 2011

Roller Coaster or Learning Curve? You get bugs in your teeth either way

And tears in your eyes. I admit it. I totally lost it today. I boo-hoo-ed into the ears of anyone who happened to answer their cell phone. My apologies. I am now post melt down and my grip is much firmer. I also finally had lunch around 3:30, which improved my outlook no end. Life looks much more rosy with a couple of quesadillas — they’re LITTLE — in your tummy.

Some time this morning, in the midst of all the back and forth of telling us what we could do, what we couldn’t do, what someone else was going to do — and not do, my lights went out. I saw mouths moving and Spanish words flying around, but I couldn’t grasp anything any more. I just went blank, and Larry rolled over and went to sleep. There was no rousing him. It was his way of shutting out the chaos, and I wanted to kick his butt out of the bed. Or at least move him over and crawl in with him, pull the cover over our heads and make it all go away.

It seemed so perfect, those five  O Negative donor comprobantes that the woman wasn’t going to use. The family was so sweet this morning, eager to let us have them. But alas, they were not theirs to give. The blood in the bank belongs to the blood bank, and just because it was given in your name, doesn’t mean you get to say where it goes. In retrospect, a very honest set up. I was ready to pull out piles of pesos (thank you, Mommy) to express my appreciation. But I’m/we’re learning a whole different way of operating that doesn’t involve waving a checkbook and moving to the front of the line. Is this a constant lesson for me, this process of engaging with total strangers, meekly asking for help from friends and family, opening my life so others can become involved? Thought I’d learned that once. But maybe once is not enough. Maybe you just can’t get enough of being involved.

I joked when we started this process that now I see why Mexicans have large families. I also see why the vast majority of their young people are conscientious about staying healthy, don’t take drugs, and don’t get tattooed. All of those things exempt you from the blood donor pool, and being able to “be there” for your family and friends is a high priority for this population. The lines at the blood banks are long, and the waiting rooms always filled. Those who go to donate get there at 6:30 in the morning to get a place in those lines. The patient in question may not use all that blood — usually doesn’t — but having all those donors in your corner, I suppose is a way of indicating that there is a group of people who think you deserve to stick around — tangible evidence that you would be missed. That has to have an effect on the morale of an “infermito,” as those in the beds around here are usually called.

A good friend posted our plight on the web board at www.chapala.com, and in response someone gave a list of o- blood donors registered at the Red Cross. I called all eight on the list and got one who was able to give. Hooray for Eric from Canada! I’ll look for him and his wife tomorrow morning.

And then I got a call from Nena, my good friend Marielena Lozano, who has been in Turkey for the last two weeks. She came sailing  up the staircase to meet me in the main plaza in front of the hospital, gorgeous, poised, absolutely in command — and I collapsed in her arms. She called her cousin who works in another IMSS clinic to get the straight scoop on how things are done and should be done. I got assurance — no one is going to kick us out or make us stay forever. It IS going forward. There is no way to stop it. And we can get donors of other blood types. Those DO count for something. (thank you Vicente. thank you Alejandro, Oscar, Lulu and so many others) And as a cherry on the top, Nena is O negative. “See,” she says, “you have one more donor!”

So Larry is scheduled for Monday, and little by little we’re going forward. Close friends are a cell phone call away, and others are even closer geographically, ready to come by and hold hands and offer comfort. We will have a week of Semana Santa here in Guadalajara, resting, reading and enjoying the peace and quiet. It is a madhouse in Guayabitos during this vacation time. But Eric Nice is watching the house and the puppy. Well, a puppy no longer. From what Eric tell us, Zack has come into his own with Cody gone, assuming fierce barking responsibilities, standing sentry duty up on the verandah railings. Brave dog. Good example. If you can balance like that, we can hold on for this ride.

Adventures in Mexican Health Care

My husband Larry has been interned in the Centro Medico del Occidente in Guadalajara since April 8. I was without internet for the first week of that time, but once I got connected I started posting updates on my Facebook Notes page. I thought they were accessible to everyone, whether or not they had a FB account. I guess not. So I’m transferring them here to a more public place, minus the supportive and encouraging comments — which have meant the WORLD to us. Right now I’m writing from the middle of what some might imagine to be the worst nightmare ever. But my hope is that as we work our way through this experience, what we learn will be of help to others.

Our current need is outlined below — a notice we’ve put on internet bulletin boards and sent out in emails. Might as well post it here!

Laurence Michael Cobb
IMSS Number 5509470021
Bed 6123 in the Torre de Especialidades at the Centro Medico del Occidente on Belisario Dominguez in Guadalajara

 O Negative blood needed. Can only be donated at an IMSS Clinic which accepts donations and will transport the blood by ambulance to Centro Medico in Guadalajara. If donor is near Guadalajara, it is better to donate at the blood bank here at Centro Medico. All blood must be transported here. Those who donate will received two slips of paper. These should be scanned and sent as a pdf attachment to coreofthecorn@gmail.com. That is the address of Larry’s wife Susan. She must have the printed hard copy of these comprobantes in hand in order for surgery to be scheduled. If the donor is giving at Centro Medico, Susan will come down and take the comprobantes directly from you.

Larry Cobb is 64 years old, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where during four years of service, he gave blood every forty-five days. He and his wife Susan have been married for over forty years, and have lived in Mexico full time for almost five years. They live in Rincon de Guayabitos, north of Puerto Vallarta.

Donors should take with them picture identification which gives age. They must be over 18 and no more than 65.