Having a cataract procedure done in Playa del Carmen
I could no longer ignore it, the optometrist in the Philippines already mentioned a cataract, but things worsened quicker then I hoped for. The bright Mexican sun probably played a role in that.
I started to see a halo around the lights at night, stumbled over my own feet and miss-stepped on the stairs. But admitting I needed a cataract surgery made me feel old, so I kept postponing. Also because I was afraid of the financial aspects of such a procedure.
I had the Eye Clinic “Clinica de la Vision Playa” already marked on my Facebook. And I was working up the courage to send them a message. It is one thing to admit to yourself you need a procedure like this, it is another thing to discuss the matter in a language I was still learning to speak.
My Spanish is okay, for everyday chit chat, but not for consulting a doctor
Lucky for me, the doctor in Clinica de Vision Playa speaks English. The rest of the staff manages to speak a few words and together with my Spanish, we managed to communicate.
The meeting with all the tests was rather relaxed and the doctor took plenty of time to answer all my questions and inform me about what he planned to do. There is not much choice. You have bad eyes and you need it fixed and there are only so many solutions and one or maybe two will fit your eyes. It is more or less up to the doctor’s advice and the machines that give the scores to decide for you what you need to agree to.
For me, that was a certain type of Carl Zeiss lens that would enable me to see in the distance and work on my laptop, and I probably need to wear reading glasses afterward.
The price was a shock! Really I know this stuff is expensive but good grief, I live on a budget and I felt a kind of cornered by the price. I did not want to spend that amount of money on myself. Yet I was left with no choice.
After seeing my hesitation, the doctor lowered his price with 5000 pesos per eye. Which made it a little more acceptable for me.
The surgery was scheduled a week after the appointment. In that week I have to make a 50% downpayment to secure my spot in the (what they would call it in my country) Cataract-street, the doctor can do up to 40 patients in a day he told me and the preps are done in such a way that he has a continuous flow of patients on his operating table.
In preparation for my surgery, I had to do a run-around-town for tests
All the necessary eye tests are done the same day in the clinic. They measure and map every corner of your eyes, all is digitalized instantly for the doctor to study. I was impressed with all the tests done. I think I passed around 6 machines before the doctor had a clear view of my blur and what he needed in order to fix it. And he explains what he sees. As if he, out loud, reasons with himself about the best outcome for the results. I liked that.
Plenty of time to ask questions also.
Operation day set! Now I was at play! I needed
my blood tested, those tests covered two A4 filled with data
an electrocardiogram made
a signed approval for surgery (declaration of health) by a physician
There was a lot of confusion, probably due to the communication barriers with the secretary about the tests. I was given the address of a laboratory that could do all, only to hear a day later after I had done all the tests, they needed to be done and checked by an internist.
I had no clue how to find an internist in Playa del Carmen. You can read about it in this post
There are several reasons why you need to see a doctor in Mexico. Besides being sick I mean. You might ... Read More
The total price of my complete procedure (to be finished 2 months after my first visit to the Clinic)
Consultation and test CVision Clinic
Blood tests and Electrocardiogram
consultation Internist (medicina interna)
copies of the results
surgery both eyes
The total price for me in dec-2019 = 52,460 MXN Pesos (= 2,490,70 Euro/2,768.63 US$)
I probably have to get reading glasses, but that is decided in February 2020, around 4 weeks after my last eye is fixed.
Is Cataract surgery cheaper in Mexico than it is back home?
I did some research on cataract surgery prices in the Netherlands and I think I had a great deal. The type of lens I received here in Mexico is not included in the Dutch healthcare insurances. And depending on the hight of your own risk (your own personal financial contribution agreed upon with your health insurance) and whether or not your healthcare covers the procedure (believe me, some don’t and others only do after the monthly premium is raised significant), the surgery itself might be a little less expensive than in Mexico.
It will also depend on the urgency, some insurance companies want a doctor to declare it is a medical urgency. That means that in most cases your vision loss will be significant before they give you permission. And not, like in my case, when it becomes annoying.
The type and quality of the lens your doctor has in mind for you (or works with, since in the Netherlands doctors are bound to deals they make with brands) and the strength and correction for astigmatism will add to the hight of the prices. In my case, that would be on the expensive side of intraocular price ranges I found on the Dutch websites. I think having cataract surgery done in Mexico is a good deal more affordable.
I have a Toric EDoF Carl Zeiss lens. That means I can see in the distance and intermediary, and there is an astigmatism correction that is especially measured for each of my eyes. I can work on my computer screen and drive my motorcycle without any visual hindrance, but there is a possibility that I need reading glasses for the fine print. It is the latest technology in intraocular lenses with lesser side effects and complications for the eye and vision afterward, especially at night time.
And I do not have to wait two years before I can benefit from the little refunds you might get in the Netherlands. Since the insurance companies will only pay a refund every 2 years.
Like I have mentioned in articles about healthcare in developing countries before: I do not understand why healthcare in the Netherlands is so extremely expensive, while in other countries for sometimes less than a third of the price you can have your procedure done with no waiting lists, under the same good qualities, and in sometimes even better-equipped and qualified private clinics.
Before the Operation
In the clinic I received a piece of paper with the tiniest letters possible, the irony struck me that we are all there because we have problems with our vision and they hand you instructions in such small print. I could not read it. I made a photo with my phone to enlarge it.
It told me what to do on the day of surgery
Come showered, hair washed
not eating 6-8 hours prior to the procedure
and a bunch of other rules about smoking and medication that did not apply to me.
Besides the other half of the money to finalize the bill, I had to bring photocopies of the test results, my appointment slip and someone to accompany me home after surgery. You are not allowed to drive. And trust me, you do not want to go home alone. Not even in a taxi. It is nice to have someone help you a bit.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the thought of someone making a cut in my eye to suck out a lens was a nerve-wracking thought. I tried not to think about it, but hell, the moment I entered the eye clinic located opposite of IMSS hospital 18 in Villa del Sol, there was no escape. It was busy and crowded with waiting family members and anxious patients.
I was picked out of line with the speed of lightning and went before anyone else, no idea why. But I did not give that much thought at that moment. I signed a bunch of papers that I forgot te read before signing. But I assumed they were clearances for surgery and a statement that I was aware of the risks involved. I received a little bag with black protective glasses and antibiotic eye drops and papers with after-surgery instructions.
I brought my son to help me home after surgery
The staff is very caring, although they do not speak a lot of English. After I was told to enter prep room 1, the assistant applied eye drops a few times. slipped blue operation room covers over my shoes, she tucked my hair under a cap and I had to put on a blue gown, over my clothes. More eye drops. These did not sting as much as the first ones. So I figured they were my anesthetic drops, and they were working already. Boy was I wrong!
Next room, I was told to lay down. The anaesthesiologist joined me and talked with me about my life and hers for a while. Like two women chit-chatting at the hairdressers but I knew behind the next door is the operating room. It makes me more nervous. She disinfected my eye, inside and outside and then she appeared above me with a long needle and syringe. I freaked. I felt the breakfast I had 6 hours ago pushing its way out. I told her.
She did not hesitate, she asked if she could give me a sedative. Yes, please!! And after that my world quickly filled with peaches and roses………..NICE…….
The injection still was horror, but what did I care…..
The needle goes in just under your eye, moving upward, poking around a bit. I experienced it as someone pushing my eyeball out from the inside. Not that I ever experienced that, but that is how I imagined it would feel like if…..You do not feel the needle for it is so thin, and it is not really painful, but with an overactive imagination, it is not a nice experience. The lady after me didn’t give a whimper about the whole procedure, I figure I’m just a sissy. I’m not looking forward to that bit when I go for the right eye in a month or so.
The assistants helped me into the next room. two operating tables, 2 operating units next to each other, my doctor and a few nurses. Due to the sedative, I felt a bit dizzy. Laid down on the empty operating table. They clipped a monitor thing on my finger, put a band around my arm for blood pressure. And covered my face with only the lucky eye open in the clear.
The doctor told me I would feel some water, and not to worry about that
And then it started. You look into the light, straight up, I was told and so I did. I saw red, (Doctor: I am removing your lens now) I felt nice cool water, then I saw nothing only the cloth covering my face with my other eye (doctor: I am placing the new lens) and then I saw red again. Some more cool water. Some patching, and tape, and I was told it was finished. The doctor told me to sit up carefully and they helped me out of the room, while on the table next to me the next patient was laying down.
I waited in the pre-operation room for a while. Still groggy. They removed the needle from my hand where they gave the sedative and I was ready to go home.
Not more than 30 minutes had passed from entering until exiting the sterile area of the clinic*
*Disclaimer:This is my experience, this is not a medical report. This article about cataract surgery at Clinica de Vision in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, is based on a diagnosis and treatment plan made by the clinic doctor especially for me. This is no guarantee that your diagnoses will be the same, cost the same or has the same outcome.
Jeanette, a Dutch female nomad, started to travel the world at the age of 17. Walker of beaches, shell searcher and iPhone photographer. Writer and owner of two websites
Currently, she lives in Mexico.
She is an emigration coach and works online.