Just about an hour drive west of San Miguel de Allende is another UNESCO World Heritage town, Guanajuato. But unique from every other town you will find in Mexico, Guanajato is more “European” than Mexican. The town was originally founded all the way back in the 1500’s. Having been built around the silver mining trade, the town still has some active mines. These mines lie buried within the steep hills, flanking the main thoroughfare. If you’re looking for a destination to stay fit, this is it! Most of the roads run beneath the town, making it an idyllic walking (or rather “climbing”) city.
Arid weather is typical for this beautiful, unique colonial town in central Mexico. At over 6,000 ft elevation, warm days and cool nights are consistent at this time of year. Cool enough for jeans, but warm enough for a tee shirt.
On a gorgeous clear, dry day in Guanajuato, I decide to go for a walk for some exercise to the Presa de la Olla, or dam, built in 1749 for the purpose of supplying fresh water to the town. It’s a pleasant walk through some old colonial homes. I first reach the end of the dam where there’s a big wall with “organic seepage” coming from below the wall where it meets the sidewalk. Still, I can hear laughter coming from the other side, so I want to see what’s going on, and if there is a possible photo op. A three foot ledge halfway up the wall offers a vantage point, so I stretch my legs for the reach in hopes of getting the shot. On the other side is the lake with funny looking gondola-type boats gliding across. I stand on the ledge for a while, photographing the families as they hopelessly attempt to row in sync across the lake.
When I turn around to continue on, I step off the ledge, my foot slips and I lose my balance. It’s one of those “slo-mo” scenes that feels like it takes me forever to hit the ground. I have my camera in one hand and a large bottle of water in the other. My mind doesn’t have time to decide which to let go of to brace the fall, so down I go, landing on my right elbow. Not only is the pain excruciating, nauseating, and palpitating, but I have landed right in the “organic seepage.” My jeans are now muddy, I have a hole in my mesh tennis shoe, and a six inch gaping wound on my forearm, bleeding profusely through the caked organic matter. Meanwhile, the camera has captured it all….
One of my biggest frustrations with the Canon G7X is the pronounced “Record” button that often causes the video to be accidentally activated. Later that night when I am reviewing photos, I see the trees overhead flying by, catch my black visor blur by on the screen, and hear a painful THUD followed by a breathless “OH!” I swear, watching that video playback evokes the pain all over again, in spite of the blurred “Blair Witch-style” footage.
Meanwhile, back on the scene, a man and his daughter are standing nearby. They run over to help, continually asking me if I am alone? “Si’, but estoy bien…I’m okay.” I get up on the ledge to sit down and collect myself. I get out the Purell wipes in attempt to clean myself up. But I am rattled, and can’t seem to regroup. I can’t help but worry…Is my elbow broken? Worse yet, is my CAMERA broken? The lens will not retract, stuck half open. I sit there for a while, then realize the man and his daughter are not leaving until I do….so I limp off with a wad of tissues plastered to my still bleeding arm.
Back at the casa, my brother Don takes one look at the wound and asks “When was your last tetanus shot?” “Who knows…twenty years maybe? Besides, isn’t that just for rusty stuff?” A quick bit of research returns the answer…the number one reason for the vaccine is exposure to the bacteria typically associated with rusty objects…also found in “organic matter.”
After much coercion, I agree to go to the private clinic. Following a good douse with novacain, the gentle doctor cleans out the wound, medicates it, and wraps it in gauze. But my original reason for going to the ER was for the tetanus vaccine. Turns out, the clinic does not stock tetanus vaccine. The Doc gives me a prescription for the shot, along with recommendations on where I might find it. The ER visit costs me $35 US, along with another $20 US for antibiotics, pain killers, prescription –strength antibiotic cream, and gauze bandages. But no shot.
A long evening of cab rides to clinics, and I finally give up when one administrator suggests driving an hour to nearby Leon. In the end, it is determined that since it is just a surface wound, one that was cleaned soon after injury, a booster is not likely required. Had it been an anaerobic puncture wound, I would have no doubt been on the bus back to Leon.
My Spanish is not good enough to ask, so I am left wondering if or how the vaccine gets incorporated into Mexico’s healthcare? Or that of other countries, for that matter. What are the statistics on the related disease, lockjaw? According to the all-knowing internet, it caused about 59,000 deaths worldwide in 2013 – down from 356,000 in 1990. The US sees on average, 31 deaths per year.
My point to all of this is a lesson learned. Don’t assume you are fine as long as you stay away from rusty stuff. It can be the dirty stuff as much as the rusty stuff that’s problematic. And keep your travel vaccines up to date, even if “travel” is only a bus (or RV!) ride away…