Things have been advancing well with the dig. It’s very hot but we’re all in good spirits and working hard. I also am realizing how exhausting it is having a toddler with you when you’re in the field, even if you have a full-time nanny.
We get up at 7:00am, have breakfast quickly, say “good-bye” to Santi and are on the road with the four other members of the team by 7:45. We stop on the way to pick up some of the local farmers who are hired to help with the excavation. The site we’re working at is located on a series of basalt lava flows called a malpais (badlands), so it’s a jagged, rocky surface that extends for miles in each direction.
We get to the site at 8:00am, and after a steep and rocky 10 minute hike up to the top of the malpais (carrying all of the food, water, and equipment we need for the day), we’re at the site. We work till noon, break for lunch, then work until 3:30pm. After we hide the shovels and buckets and tool boxes (so none of the people who hunt or graze livestock on the malpais decide to help themselves while we’re gone), we hike back down the slope carrying out our samples collected that day. Then we drop off the workers, head back to town and the restaurant that we’ve contracted to feed the crew dinner each day at 4:30pm with just a brief stop to wash our filthy hands and faces (by the way, if you’re ever in Zacapu, Michoacan, eat at the “Deutsch Haus/Casa Alemana. It’s some of the best Mexican-German food you’ll ever taste. Ask for the owner, Martin, and tell him Michelle sent you). After dinner (around 5:30pm), Santi and his nanny usually show up, after a stroll around downtown Zacapu. Greg needs to keep working with the crew processing and cataloging samples at night. I work as much as a I can, but also need to look after Santi, so I’m not around much in the downstairs “laboratory” apartment where the rest of the crew is staying.
Yesterday was an awful day though because I got back from dinner to find Santi crying and his nanny a little worried because he had just vomited up everything he’d eaten that day. At first we thought it was just the heat (it’s in the high 80’s right now) and so I gave him a little water and he seemed find. But then he began heaving and vomiting up water and mucus every 30 minutes. After the second time I ran to the pharmacy and bought some electrolyte solution, which he drank happily from a spoon. But then he kept vomiting it all back up. Greg was back by now and we were getting pretty worried about dehydration since it’s so hot here. Greg ended up running back to Martin’s restaurant to ask him to recommend a pediatrician. Luckily there is a private urgent care clinic on the edge of town open 24 hours. After more vomiting, including the parking lot of the clinic, we were able to see a doctor.
Enter Dr. Quack, every parent’s nightmare! He seemed like a nice guy at first, but it quickly became apparent his medical degree came from the back of a cereal box. On hearing that we were foreigners only hear temporarily (in other words, we already have a regular doctor back in France) and about the vomiting he insisted on knowing if I was giving him the electrolytes from a bottle or a syringe. I told that I was using a spoon. Then he launched into a long speech about how Santi should never use a bottle now that he’s a year old and we needed to immediately go home, sit Santi down and have him watch us cut off all the nipples on his bottles with scissors and throw them in the trash. then explain to Santi (at 15 months) how he is too old for bottles. I was thinking, who cares??? And did you notice that we’re here because we’re worried about keeping him hydrated?
Next he told us it was probably a virus, which seemed reasonable. So he examined him, asking Greg to hola his arms and me his feet like some kind of medieval torture. He said his left ear was slightly inflamed but needed no antibiotics (after I told him he had been taking antibiotics just a week prior for a double ear infection that was still affecting his left ear when the doctor in France had checked him the day before we flew to Mexico). Then he suddenly opened up Santi’s diaper and began retracting the foreskin on his uncircumcised penis! If your son is circumcised, you might not know this, but that’s complete no-no because it can cause tearing and exposure to infection, as well as being extremely painful! A boy should be left alone until he can do it himself, usually by the time he reaches 3 or 4 years-old. So this nutcase tells me “Wow! It’s stuck! You need to pull it back all the way and scrub him with soap every day!” I was thinking, you jackass! It’s “stuck” because that’s how it grows and you’re the one who’s going to give him an infection. I just gave him a tight-lipped smile and a non-commital nod since he hadn’t told us how to treat the vomiting yet.
Next he weighed Santi, who came out to be 9.5 kilos. This worried us because before coming to Mexico he was 10.2 kilos, so the illness and now the vomiting had caused him to lose a good bit of weight. But the doctor was concerned because according to his american infant growth chart Santi is supposed to be 11 kilos. Actually, what the chart says is that 50% of 15 month old toddlers weigh less than 11 kilos and the other 50% more than 11 kilos. 11 kilos is the average, not the ideal weight. And since Greg and I are both small, and Santi is being raised in France (where their growth charts based on French populations shows that French babies are smaller than American babies of the same age) this is all nonsense. He told us to immediately stop feeding him Frosted Flakes, Chips Ahoy, and sugary yogurt. I kept my self control and told him calmly that it would never occur to me to feed those kinds foods to a one year-old child. That seemed to take some of the wind out of his pompous sails. He grudingly agreed that maybe the weight wasn’t a prime issue for the moment as long as he was eating well.
Finally we got to point, what treatment? Basically it was to give him Pedialyte every 10 minutes, and give him a anti-inflammatory medication. He suggested we bring him back the next day for some kind of injection if the vomiting continued, but I had no intention of letting Dr. Jackass inject Santi with anything. We were also supposed to put “Supercrema Milagro” (The Miraculous Supercream of the title) all over his butt and chest. It appears to be an organic version of Vick’s Vapo Rub, but the label says it can be used to treat everything from herpes to athlete’s foot to hemerrhoids to sciatica (see, miraculous).
The final kicker was he then insisted that we make another appointment with him to finish retracting Santi’s foreskin! He said he prefers to spread it out over three appointments because otherwise the child tends to scream a lot and it disturbs the parents (maybe a clue that you shouldn’t be doin it Dr. Jackass?). When he asked if Friday worked for us, I just responded “no”. He sat there for a minute waiting for a clarification or alternate date from me that was never coming. Finally Greg said something about Monday afternoon, but that we’d need to call to confirm first (a call that we both knew was never going to happen). Finally we escaped, deciding that if Santi didn’t get better, we’d find a different doctor, even if we had to go to Morelia (a couple of hours away).
Luckily, once we got home, Santi gulped down some Pedialyte and passed a vomit free night. Thanks to some homemade chicken soup at Martin’s “Casa Alemana”, and a visit to see the birds at the laguna park, he’s doing great today. And I also ask my scientific self if the “limpia” that his nanny did on him before we left for the clinic (it’s a Latin American folk cure where you rub an egg over a child’s body who’s sick from the “evil eye” to absorb the eye’s bad vibes and then throw the egg away over your shoulder to send the bad on it’s way) didn’t do some good as well. Well, whatever it was, I’m relieved that he’s better.