Three: Dr. Prince’s Visit
A week after the departure of Dr. Bock, Dr. Val Price—the pediatrician from Palo Alto who came to Ajoya a year ago–arrived on schedule with his wife and two of his children. During Dr. Price’s stay we had a number of very difficult cases, for which I was particularly thankful to have Dr. Prices’ knowledge and support.
When we took the little girl to the hospital, she was at once hurried into an isolated corridor across from the morgue.
The most tragic case we had was that of a five-year-old girl with tetanus, contracted when her ears were pierced. Her father brought her to us in the night from Güillapa. Although I had given DPT inoculation in Güillapa, and had in fact inoculated all the brothers and sisters of thee little girl, she had somehow been missed. Val and I determined to rush the child to Mazatlan for hospital treatment, but as it turned out, we could have treated her as well or better in Ajoya. In México–even among the medical profession– there seems to be an incredible misconception about the contagiousness of tetanus. When Juan José died of tetanus in April, for example, nurses were sent to Ajoya from the Centro in a San Ignacio and inoculated only a handful of persons who had been in or near the house of the sick boy, as if it were contagious.
Similarly, when we took the little girl to the hospital civil in Mazatlan, she was at once hurried into an isolated corridor across from the morgue. It was a horrible place. The room was filthy, coated with dust, smeared with dried blood and excrement, the windows were broken, there was no light and the naked wires dangled from the ceiling. The hospital stored no tetanus anti-toxin, so Dr. Price and I hurried out to a pharmacy to buy some. At the hospital, we discovered that the authorities would let none of the nursing equipment into the room with the girl, not even a pair of scissors. We had to use a pocket knife to cut adhesive! When, after her arrival, the little girl nearly died of asphyxiation due to phlegm, her hospital attendant refused to use the suction aspirator because of the dread of tetanus. We did what we could to suck out the phlegm from her throat with a syringe and a piece of plastic tubing. In the night, we borrowed a kerosene lamp from the home of a friendly nurse. That same nurse also made arrangements for the Lion’s Club of Mazatlan to underwrite the cost of additional medicine, should the little girl survive beyond the first few days. Yet, she died shortly after noon of the next day. The nurses helped us sneak her body out of the hospital so that her sad father could at least return the child to its family for burial.
While Dr. Price and I were in the Hospital Civíl, we also paid a visit to a seven-year-old boy, who Dr. Bock and I had brought there with a broken thigh two weeks before. The boy’s leg was in traction and seemed to be doing alright, although he had developed a raging case of impetigo, which no one had bothered to treat. As little Ramón had no relatives with him, we provided the mother of another patient in the ward with phisohex to wash his face, and gave the boy a shot of penicillin. A week alter when I had occasion to return to Mazatlan, the youngster’s impetigo had completely cleared up. The traction device on his leg had slipped, however, his thigh had recontracted, and the bone had begun to knit in an overlapping and twisted position. I was told that the doctor had seen the boy shortly after the bone had slipped out of place, but instead of resetting the bone, had scolded the boy saying that by fidgeting, he had lost his chance at sound recovery. On seeing the leg, I at once telephoned the doctor, who came the next morning, looked at the twisted leg and told me not to worry; that young children were very adaptable and that little Ramón would in time be able to walk fairly well by affixing a block to the heel of his shoe. I pointed out that Ramón had never worn shoes in his life, and might never. The doctor shrugged, and said the boy would be alright. So! Through Guillermo Ruíz Gómez’s sister, who lived in Mazatlan, I contacted Guillermo about Ramón’s plight, and Guillermo at once made arrangements with the children’s hospital in Culiacan to have Ramón admitted. The next morning, we took Ramón out to the Hospital Civíl in Mazatlan, and transported him in my Jeep, 150 miles to Culiacan. There, at last, he got good treatment. His leg was immediately x-rayed. The following [day his] leg was re-broken and pinned. So now, although Ramón is still not over his ordeal (the pin will have to be removed in late September), at least he may have the comfort of knowing that when it is all over his leg should be just about as good as new. But what an effort!