Most of you now know the results of our long-awaited trip to Guadalajara for the Cochlear Implant surgery for Gael. It was the day we had been working towards since late last fall when we first took Gael to a doctor to find out just what was possible for him. Since then there have been many trips to many doctors in Puerto Vallarta and Tepic and Guadalajara. Tests and more tests -MRIs, CT scans, Brain stem tests, blood tests, audiology tests. Hours and hours of research to find the best surgeons, the best implant device, the best sign language and speech therapy resources. And of course, the fundraising. 5 months of events and online crowd sourcing campaigns and Facebook posts and email blitzes and PayPal transactions and bank wires. After many setbacks, many date changes and location changes and device changes, we were finally on the road to Guadalajara to have the surgery. Gael, his mom, his teenage cousin, Francisco, myself, Grant and a big red cooler – all piled into the Blue Explorer SUV owned by Manos de Amor. We had a three-bedroom Airbnb booked for 2 nights, the cooler full of important stuff like coffee and peanut butter, and Grant’s leather bag packed with cash. Yes, we were paying the hospital and the surgeon in pesos – a giant pile of pesos.
The surgery was booked for early Tuesday morning and the doctor had asked to see Gael on Monday afternoon at 5:15 in preparation. We headed out around 10:00 in the morning – certainly better than the 3 am start on our previous trip to Guadalajara. We stopped ½ way for some tortas and gorditas and were just coming up to the outskirts of the city when a warning beep and light came on. An oil light saying oil pressure had dropped. Of course. This day had been all together too smooth to be a Swanson story! Almost immediately we saw a small shop that sold oil and other lubricants – how perfect was that! We pulled in and the owner said he only sold products – he didn’t fix vehicles, but he would call us a mechanic. It didn’t take long for a young mechanic to arrive in his beat up blue half ton truck. He looked, listened and agreed that it didn’t sound good. We better not drive any further. Aargh. This was not in our plan for
this week at all. On the up side, we had made it to Guadalajara. Almost anywhere else along the way would have left us stranded in the middle of nowhere. On the down side, Guadalajara is giant, and we were nowhere near the surgeon’s office and now we had 5 adults, 1 deaf boy, a bunch of suitcases and one big red cooler standing by the side of the highway.
The mechanic suggested we call Uber and for the next 3 days that is just what we did. In Guadalajara, Uber only uses small cars for up to 4 people so that was our first challenge. And you can’t call a second Uber with your app until the current trip is finished. So we placed our request and within 5 or 10 minutes Ana Patricia was there. Francisco and Gael and mom and cousin jumped in the car, leaving Grant and I and the luggage and of course the big red cooler on the side of the highway while Grant downloaded the Uber app on his phone. I watched as the tiny car on my phone app rushed Gael to meet Dr.
Macias. They left us at 4:06 – arrived at the hospital at 5:18. 3 minutes late for the appointment we had been planning since last fall. Ana Patricia waited for them outside the hospital – in the end the trip was over 2 ½ hours and it cost $392 pesos – that’s about 20 bucks. For 2 ½ hours. In the meantime, Grant and I had called another Uber and loaded it up and headed to the apartment that would be home for a couple of days.
We had expected to take Gael to the hospital by 7 on Tuesday morning, but instead Dr. Macias decided to admit him Monday night, so he would be prepped and ready for the early morning surgery. His mom was nervous and scared but also excited. She and Gael were given a beautiful private suite with a separate sitting area for her to spend the night. We promised to be there in the morning when Gael came out of surgery.
The surgery took about 3 hours and the doctors told us it had gone perfectly. While there is never a guarantee, they were confident it had been a success. We won’t know for sure until activation day which will be in 6 weeks. That is the day the device will be turned on and Gael will hear.
We were relieved and thrilled. Gael was carried back from the operating room and his mom and I shed a couple of tears as he moaned in pain. His head was wrapped in a giant white bandage. The nurses laid him in his bed and as I leaned over to kiss his cheek he reached up with his one arm and hugged me tightly around the neck. He was groggy and in pain but still the affectionate Gael we love.
I expected him to be dopey and in a lot of pain all day, but it couldn’t have even been an hour before he sat straight up in his bed, grabbed Grant’s phone and started playing Candy Crush. It was as if nothing had happened. Soon he was out of bed, entertaining us and playing with the 2 trucks the hospital had given him. He was concerned as they took his IV line out, didn’t like the teensy drop of blood that was on his hand, but he was amazing and strong and brave and was proud of his bandage when I showed him his picture.
About 9:00 that evening he was released from the hospital and we made plans to go home the next day. Except of course we had no vehicle. After many conversations with the mechanic it was determined a timing chain had broken but he promised it would be repaired by Thursday at noon. Guaranteed. We really didn’t want to keep the whole gang in Guadalajara. Our suite was not available for another day and we couldn’t all fit in one Uber so we had to take 2 cars every time we wanted to go anywhere. So on Wednesday morning Francisco, Gael, mom and cousin headed to the bus station to take a bus back to Bucerias. Grant and I found another suite in the same apartment building that was available, and we moved our suitcase and our big red cooler down the hall. We would stay for one more day – have a mini vacation – and bring the car home on Thursday.
Wednesday was a fun day. We went to the giant Guadalajara zoo and had a romantic dinner in a nearby restaurant. I was ready to be home, but this had turned into a nice bonus day together.
On Thursday morning we called our Uber, loaded our crap into the trunk and headed to the mechanic shop to get our vehicle. He said he was on track – it would be ready by noon. The first problem was that we didn’t really know where the shop was. The address he had given us was super vague. The Uber guy couldn’t figure it out. We knew the general vicinity of where we had pulled over when the whole problem started, but the mechanic had towed the truck to his shop and we weren’t sure where that was. Finally, thinking we were close, we told the Uber driver to let us out and then we piled our suitcase and briefcases and the big red cooler on the side of the road and started asking people if they knew where this shop was. Turns out we had quite a way to go and we weren’t even on the right side of the highway. Luckily there was an overpass to walk over the highway nearby, so we started the long walk to find the shop. Along the way we kept asking people where this shop was, and we got all manners of directions – all of them different. 5 more blocks. 3 more blocks. You’ll have to turn left and go one block. No, it’s on this highway. No back the way you came. We just kept walking. We piled the red cooler on top of the suitcase which promptly hit a hole in the road and dumped the contents of the #*(#**@ red cooler all over the road. Just as we were getting frustrated and a bit grumpy, we came upon the shop. In fact, we almost walked right past it until I spotted the car right out front. Still being worked on. Not quite done.
Fine. I was happy to sit for a while and wait. After a 1/2 hour or so, the mechanic guy got in and started the car. He stepped on the gas. And then we all heard it. A weird knocking noise. It didn’t sound good. Long story short….. the car wasn’t ready. It needed more work. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Not today.
And that is how we found ourselves boarding a fancy 2-story bus heading back to Bucerias. I laughed when Grant frowned and said, “We’re not really bus people”. No, we’re golf cart people and this bus had huge reclining seats, flip out foot rests, individual TVs, and a free sandwich. A big upgrade for us!
As always, the week had more challenges than expected. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. But we arrived at the correct destination unharmed. Gael had the surgery we’ve been dreaming of for a long time. If all goes as expected, his life will never be the same. The course of his future has completely changed, and we are so grateful for your generous help and God’s provision and protection. And of course – even in the midst of celebrating, there’s another bumpy surprise! The day after Gael got home, a red rash broke out – he now has chicken pox! Oh Gael….