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Roman’s Bloody Thumb and the Homemade Table Saw

Felipe made a table saw out of my circular saw. He used a piece of plywood and cut a little slit in it so that the saw blade stuck up far enough to make cuts. Then, he took scrap wood and screwed it onto the ply as a “guide” for cuts. It was clever. I congratulated Felipe for the idea and Felipe smiled and was proud of it. The make-shift stuff our workers concoct to get a job done never ceases to amaze and sometimes scare me. They’re creative and fearless in how they accomplish tasks. John and I used to try to manage things like the creation of scaffolding for second-story work made from extension ladders and a rusty piece of old barbed wire.

But Mexico, and the way people do things here has started to sink in. While in the states, highways are painted with big machines, here in Mexico, several men go out with hand rollers to do the job.

As an American, it isn’t always easy to grasp what’s going on with the ladders and the wire. “What is this?” I wonder. A group of barefoot men alongside the highway with paint rollers was similarly hard to decipher for a long time. But I’ve gotten more and more used to it over time. Are the big machines and fancy scaffolding really better? Perhaps in some ways, but in others no. While five men have a job painting the roads here in Mexico, one guy runs the machine in the United States. Four other men can’t find good jobs. But the work here in Mexico is hard. The men have solved this problem with machismo, a gender-specific worldview that’s sometimes endearing and sometimes stupid depending on the situation.

Mexico is rich in its strange ways. What’s been closed for years in the U.S. is still wide open here. What’s clear-cut and rule-oriented up north can still be approached with creativity here. When I say “creativity” though, I’m not talking about Hobby Lobby and craft projects. I’m talking about the breed of creativity that blossoms out of difficult challenges that have to be overcome.

On Wednesday, the wood guy, “Roman” came to put in cabinets in apartment #2. I talked to him briefly at the entrance to the apartment. And he told me that he worked for several years in Arizona, but never got to learn English because his sponsor, the guy he lived with during that time, wanted to learn Spanish from him. Recently, he moved back to Guanajuato. At the moment, he’s using our tools because he can’t afford to buy his own. “Tools are really expensive.” He told us. His work is precise despite the fact that his wrench is stripped and his bag is filled with make-shift stuff that most people wouldn’t recognize as “tools”.

Later that day, John yelled down the stairs to me that Roman had cut his thumb. I asked how bad it was and John said, “I don’t think he cut it off completely.” So I grabbed the DMSO before heading upstairs and handed John a hand towel to pass on to Felipe. I told Lydian to get the veterinary adhesive. Upstairs, I found Roman standing in the doorway of the obra negra third floor entrance room which was filled with old bricks, trash, and various odds and ends. Roman seemed jovial though slightly agitated. It seemed from his behavior that the cut probably wasn’t very bad. Felipe (our construction team’s leader) had already made strips out of the towel. Roman’s thumb was partially wrapped and blood leaked through it. Cristian brought a bottle of alcohol into the room as I stepped through the door. Roman saw the clear bottle with a red cap and the room fell silent in reverence around it. For these wokers, alcohol is an important, affordable medicine, but one that promises great pain in an emergency and arguable emotional trauma.

I had my little bottle of DMSO in my hand, this miraculous stuff that practically no one in the U.S. knows about and I went over to Roman as Felipe wrapped more of the towel around his thumb. If you apply DMSO right away after an accident, it can regenerate nerves and bones that otherwise wouldn’t heal or regrow. DMSO makes things heal faster overall because it’s also an anti-microbial, like alcohol but better. And though it warms up when you put it on a wound, it doesn’t sting like alcohol or iodine. It feels like warming water. I took the dropper and held it out to Roman. Roman, pulled back a part of the towel and I put a few drops on his thumb and thought, “Wow, that doesn’t look too bad actually.” He quickly recoiled from me and laughed nervously. He said, “Es caliente. Que es eso?” (It’s hot, what is that?). I told him what it was and what it could do and then, after he could tell that the DMSO wasn’t stinging, he held out the rest of his thumb, a chewed up mass of bloody flesh barely clinging to the bone. There wasn’t much left of it.

I gently dropped more the DMSO into the bright red meaty flesh and Roman quickly withdrew his thumb again and rewrapped it. Lydian came up then with the veterinary glue (it wasn’t easy to find it). She handed it to me, but I told her that we shouldn’t use it because the DMSO takes chemicals deep into the body. DMSO is used with micro-doses of chemotherapy to take aim directly at cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells in the body. The stuff comes from trees and somehow it’s able to seek out and selectively destroy whatever doesn’t belong in the body. The veterinary glue on the other hand, contains acetone and on top of that, it would sting like a son-of-a-bitch and maybe cause more problems than it would solve for Roman since his thumb was all chewed up. The towel was a better choice.

The three of them, Felipe, Cristian, and Roman stood for a while and chatted with us until I finally asked if they were going to the hospital for stitches. They’d been waiting for us to excuse them. Our Spanish is good, but not good enough to fully understand all the dynamics that have to do with things like machismo and these worker’s sense that we were still in charge even though Roman clearly needed medical care.

“Oh my God…just go!” I said.

On his way out, Felipe asked John for a loan to cover the cost of the hospital visit and the stitches.

“How much?” John asked.

Seiscientos pesos.” (600 pesos = about $30 USD) Felipe said.

In the end though, the hospital visit only cost 300 pesos ($15 USD). Felipe gave John half of the “loan” back.

The next day, Roman showed up to work. John and I weren’t surprised about that. The night before, I’d prepared a little bottle of DMSO for him in the hopes that the nerves and bone in his thumb would regrow properly with daily applications. When he got to the building, John and I sent him home. Felipe agreed. Roman resisted and offered to bring over a friend to help him with some of his building projects. We all said no, he needed to go home and rest. John told him that he’d pay him to take the rest of the week off through the weekend. Roman could come back on Monday after his thumb had started to knit back together.

I gave Roman the little bottle of DMSO. He wanted to know more about what it was and what it was supposed to do. Felipe was interested to. This I hadn’t expected. In the United States, as a general rule, no one wants to know about alternative therapies. I talk a lot about miraculous cures that I’ve seen in other parts of the world. I’m a blabbermouth about it, almost to a fault. But for the most part, Americans just simply aren’t believers in “cures”. They believe in drugs that don’t cure anything and fast food that makes them feel happy despite it all. Salvation comes from a doctor’s office in the form of a prescription, something Americans regard with almost supernatural reverence, but that I don’t even need here in Mexico for most health issues. So when our Mexican construction workers asked me questions about this little known cure that reverses problems like Down’s Syndrome and Parkinson’s Disease, I was surprised. They asked me questions. They were curious. Their questions were intelligent and probing. No one in the U.S. ever asks me questions about these things. No one wants to learn more about what I’m peddling. I’ve learned to regard this lack of interest on the part of Americans as a choice of life paths because many of these cures are life-changing.

John looked up a video on DMSO that had been done in Spanish and Roman sat down on the stairs and listened to it. I told Felipe that DMSO, if given via I.V. in the first few days after a major accident, even one that severs the spinal cord at C7, that person has a chance at walking again. DMSO should be in every ambulance all over the world. It can be mixed with tiny bits of antibiotics and you can drink it and the antibiotics go straight to the offending pathogen without damaging the intestinal flora. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t stand a chance against DMSO mixed with low-dose antibiotics. So many antibiotics that aren’t in use anymore could be brought back to life in certain situations if they were used with DMSO.

Felipe showed me an old injury on his hand that made it so that he can’t bend his index finger all the way. He wanted to know if DMSO could make his finger work again. I promised to get him a little bottle of the stuff to try it. I was shocked though by the fact that he thought of the injury and wanted to try this “new thing” (DMSO isn’t new…it’s one of the most well-researched drugs on the market—even FDA approved, but shelved by pharmaceutical companies). People in the states simply don’t think this way. They’re so dependent on their doctors. Americans don’t think creatively about their health anymore. Here in Mexico, people are open to these new treatments.

When I told our Wednesday night Spanish language instructor that Lydi and I were writing a book on Cancer Cures she was disappointed to hear that we were only writing in English and then went on to tell us about her father-in-law who was cured of cancer by cascabel, which is derived from a snake. She wasn’t surprised about cancer cures and she wasn’t put off by the thought that chemo and radiation are bad for you. It’s common knowledge here, at least in Guanajuato. The only reason why there aren’t more alternative therapies here is because a lot of people can’t afford them. That’s right—here in Mexico, conventional medicine is cheap. Why? Because Big Pharma knows that in order to hook Mexicans on their drugs, it has to be cheap. In the states, things are different, of course. There, the cheap, accessible stuff is regarded as less effective.

In November, before we left the states, my mom woke up one morning vomiting blood. My dad took her to a small town hospital nearby. She was moved from that hospital to a bigger hospital in a medium-sized town. From that hospital she was moved to yet a bigger hospital in a bigger city 4 hours away. When she arrived at the big hospital, it took 24 hours before a doctor even came to her room to examine her. Eight hours after her arrival I went out to the nurses’ station and told a doctor there that I was going to have her transferred to a different hospital. He kind of laughed at me, but I got on the phone and called the other doctors who’d been working on my mom. In between calls, I made sure that the doctor knew that I was still working on have her transferred and that if a doctor didn’t materialize in Mom’s room soon to start taking care of things (since my mom was technically bleeding to death), that there would be hell to pay in short order.

In reality though, I had very little power in American healthcare settings. It awed me how hard it was turning out to be for me to get my mom out of that shitty hospital. My dad was in a state of total acceptance/denial during the whole thing. He turned on the TV and tuned out the fact that he was paying thousands of dollars for nothing but ongoing blood transfusions and no doctor.

I knew why the doctor didn’t show up. It’s because there aren’t enough doctors in the United States. If you look at factsheets about the number of doctors per capita in other countries throughout the world, even undeveloped countries, the U.S. clearly scores low. And the lack of doctors isn’t for lack of students wanting to study medicine. It’s because in order to study medicine, you have to be willing to accept things as they are and not rock the boat. If you fit a certain profile and it seems like you might shake things up in medicine, it’s likely you’ll never get into medical school in the United States.

So as it turned out, just as I figured out how to get my mom out of the crappy hospital and into a bigger one, a doctor finally showed up in her room. First, they wanted to do an exploratory procedure (fluoroscopy) that would expose my mom to two hours of continuous radiation. I fought against this and told the doctor that it seemed smarter to do exploratory surgery that would seek out the problem and then solve the problem at the same time during the same surgical procedure. The doctor sat back in his chair, folded his arms, got a pouty look on his face, and told me he felt like I was “micromanaging him”. I said, “I only want to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” Clearly, he wasn’t used to having patients question him in any way. The doctor finally agreed not to do the radiation procedure. I couldn’t believe it! I actually cried for joy. Then the doctor came back into the room with a friend. They’d changed their minds. My mom would have the procedure after all. Dad flipped on the TV. Mom was too weak to care.

I stayed for the radiation procedure to be with my dad. The doctor came out after my mom had had 3 hours of radiation and told us he’d found nothing. They still didn’t know where the bleeding was coming from. They wanted to do another gastroscopy, the third one in 2 days to try again to find it. I threw a fit and asked why they didn’t just do surgery and find the problem and then fix the problem like doctors have done for a century. Gastroscopy is risky and doing it over and over again meant that mom didn’t get to eat anything. At that time, it had been 3 days since she’d eaten.

My dad got angry with me then and said I was “being antagonistic toward the doctors”. And he was right. I was. I told dad to “sit down”, but he wouldn’t. We had a stand-off. My mom said, “Why do you always do this to us?”

I realized at that time that healthcare advocacy isn’t always wanted or appreciated and that my mom and dad had a right to choose that conventional medicine path with all the technology and risk that leads nowhere. It’s a choice. But I couldn’t watch because I know what all the high-tech procedures like fluoroscopy are designed to do (cause cancer). I know why there are so few doctors (because waiting patients in hospitals pay more while they’re waiting). I know why my mom had the bleeding in the first place (the food industry which works closely with Big Pharma develop foods that lack certain nutrients and that contain poisons such that Americans are always sick). It’s hard to watch and accept all these pieces. To me, it’s a holocaust. The American healthcare system is a form of torture. People are imprisoned in their own sick and overweight bodies.

But Mexico is different. Yes, the same healthcare system that exists in the United States exists here in hospitals and in clinics (at a much more reasonable price though), but the people here know that this conventional healthcare system is flawed. Mexicans are much more open-minded about plant-based medicines and alternative healing like biomagnetism (which is a science almost no one up north has ever even heard of). They haven’t completely dissed their indigenous roots and so there’s still some wisdom in this culture that’s come from the native people who originally lived in Mexico before the Spaniards showed up.

It feels good to be able to give people real medicines that actually work to heal. Medicines with few or no real side effects. Medicines that are complex and that work on more than just one thing. In the United States, I could be sued for giving someone a little bottle of DMSO. Here, people are still allowed to help each other. There’s time to stand and talk about what ails us. It makes me think that everyone is impoverished in one way or another. It’s up to each one of us to decide what type of impoverishment suits us best.

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