I don’t take vacations very often. I kind of thrive on being hyper and having an unending list of things to be working on and to be worried about. I work a full-time job and while doing this blog is fun and exciting, it’s also like working a second job. I’m also working on a one-man storytelling show for the first Sunday in August, so I’ve always got something to do and a deadline is always looming overhead. Even my New York vacations have been somewhat working vacations because I’m always worried about getting the proper photos for the return blog and I make updates on social media when I’m on them.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy blogging and writing but I thought it might be fun to actually stop, leave the whole social media world for a little bit and just try and put worries and stress away for six days in March. I had discovered what seemed to be a little magical town in Mexico called San Pancho that looked like the perfect place to accomplish this relaxing idea of a vacation. So I made the reservations, put in a vacation slip at work, said goodbye to my social media friends on facecrack and Twitter and I was all set to go to Mexico.
The trip started off great, but three days into the Mexican vacation it took a twisted and very unwelcome turn. The day after it got weird, I happened to see this Tweet from Jen Doll, a New York writer (read about her upcoming book here and pre-order it on Amazon right here) on my Twitter feed:
I laughed at that Tweet because years ago I once got arrested at the Cincinnati airport for telling a rude American Airlines employee to go fuck herself and found myself sitting in the Boone County Jail in a cell with bugs crawling up and down the walls and a toilet overflowing with puke, shit and piss. As I sat there in that redneck jail one thought kept going through my mind: “This is going to be such a great story to write about!” So I enjoyed that Tweet and it pretty much defined the second part of my vacation! Read along and you’ll find out what I’m talking about!
My Mexican Bungalow Part I: The Inside Story
My travel arrangements were made and prepared by my personal travel guru, Sheila Maher from Suzi Davis Travel right here in Peoria. I’ve been friends with Sheila since high school and she’s been booking my travels since the ‘80s and she’s the best at finding great hotels. plotting the airline details and finding destinations for all of your traveling needs. She found me this lovely place to stay at in San Pancho. I decided that since this was going to be an official vacation I wasn’t going to try to document every single minute of the trip, but I do want to share some photos of this fabulous and comfortable bungalow-styled house I was going to be calling home for the next six days in March! I went inside the arched wooden door and discovered a charming house inside! As you can see, it had a large inside front room, a full kitchen, a large bedroom and a bathroom with a walk-in shower. ¡Muy fabuloso!
My Mexican Bungalow Part II: The Outside Edition
This bungalow is unbelievable, check out the outside patio in the back of the house. The perimeter of the patio was lined with comfortable tables, chairs and couches and in the center was a little blue tile wading pool. This place is like a little slice of Mexican paradise! I was really excited at this point. I unpacked and went out to explore San Pancho!
The Village of San Pancho
This is a genuine Mexican village and I love the architecture and art in this ocean-side town. It’s a little bit of a time capsule feeling when you see the pay phones on the streets. The whole vibe of the village is one of relaxation and it’s totally a stress-free zone. And the weather is perfect too! And when I found out that Peoria was scheduled for five to nine inches of snow that weekend, it only added to my elation!
Bark Bark, Cluck Cluck...Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Dogs roam freely around the village and there’s also chickens and roosters loitering around, clucking and crowing. This will be a notable part of this story in a little bit, so keep it in mind and keep on scrolling!
I’m not a big sunshine guy, but even I was impressed with this magnificent beach. It was even better at night time!
It’s A Small World!
I was wearing my “Peoria, It’s Not So Bad” t-shirt and as I was walking around on the beach someone yelled out, “Hey, are you from Peoria?” It was this guy and his wife (I didn’t write their names down, hey I was on vacation!) and it turns out he was born in Peoria! He lived in Peoria till he was two-years-old and I found out his grandfather was the man who founded the Schradzki’s clothing store which started out downtown, then had a store in Sheridan Village and was lastly located in the Northwoods Mall. Time to cue this up!
They had lots of great cafes and restaurants in the village. One of them had grilled pizzas and this was a grilled mushroom and ham pizza that’s served with a trio of homemade chili sauces to top it off with. It was so tasty and delicious and I never expected to find such unique homemade pizza in a Mexican Village!. As I was eating it a wandering dog came over to my table so I gave him a few pieces. He followed me around for about an hour after that! I had my own Mexican pet for a while!
The Prophetic Tweet
Okay, now it’s time for the prophetic portion of the trip. Remember I mentioned seeing this Tweet from Jen Doll on Twitter? It triggered off memories of horrific situations that I had where the only thing that got me through was thinking: “Wow, if I live through this, it’ll be such a great story to write up.” Well, on Saturday I got invited to a cookout from a couple I had met in a cafe, I went and had a great time and then around midnight I went back to my Mexican bungalow, passed out (yes, tequila was involved) and woke up to a real-life a Mexican nightmare!
The next set of photos are a little disturbing, graphic and gross. If you’re eating you may want to come back. If you’re on a diet, they’re perfect because I guarantee you’ll lose your appetite after gazing at them. Okay, here we go!
The Last Leg Of The Vacation Goes Somewhat Awry...Pun Fully Intended
On Sunday, March 25th, the nightmare began around seven in the morning. I woke up and as I got out of the bed my leg felt funny so I looked down and while it felt funny it looked like something the complete opposite of funny as you can see from the horrifying photos above. I had no idea what was happening with my leg, I hadn’t bumped it or anything the night before, so I could only assume that some insect or creature had slimed its way into my Mexican bungalow and bit my leg in a copycat Beyoncé move. Immediately thoughts of flesh-eating diseases and toxic-venom infections began swirling around in my mind like so much summer pus.
In the midst of freaking out I did have a moment of clarity and remembered that I had seen a sign down the dirt road from my house that said, “Hospital.” As bad as the leg looks in that photo, it wasn’t too sore, so I got dressed and walked to the hospital. San Pancho is a small village and within minutes I was standing in front of the hospital building. It was a small, humble looking white adobe structure with an archway entrance. Hopefully a doctor was inside that could help me and my swollen mess of a leg.
I walked through the open archway into a dimly-lit hallway and saw a chubby grinning man sitting behind a window. There were also three Mexican men sitting on a wooden bench in somewhat dirty white nightshirts. I guessed they were patients at the hospital. The trio were all staring glumly at the floor, which was pretty dusty. I walked up to the window and asked the chubby man if I could see a doctor.
He looked at me, squinted his eyes and said, “No Inglés,” while continuing to grin like a Mexican Cheshire cat who had just ingested three pounds of primo Spanish catnip.
“Is there a doctor here that speaks English?” I asked him. I had planned on trying to learn basic Spanish before this trip but never got around to it and now I was regretting that move.
“No Inglés,” he once again repeated to me.
Then all of a sudden I heard a sound behind me like a rooster crowing and wondered what the hell it was. I spun around and realized why it sounded like a rooster crowing...it’s because there was indeed a rooster crowing behind me. Inside of the hospital!
I looked at the rooster who was crowing defiantly while hopping around, glanced at the three Zombie-like Mexicans on the bench and decided to take my swollen leg and exit, stage left. Muy rapido!
The house I was staying in is owned by a couple who live next door, but they were away, so Tina, their real estate agent handled the transaction when I got there, three days earlier. She’s an American who lives in the village and she gave me her card and said if I had any questions or problems to call her. I hobbled back to my Mexican bungalow and decided I did indeed have a problem worthy of a phone call!
I called Tina and told her about my leg. She asked me if I knew that there was a hospital right down the street.
“I’ve been there,” I told her, “they don’t speak English and there’s a rooster walking around inside.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she answered back.
I was perplexed as to why she was sorry...then I wondered if the rooster belonged to her? Well there was no time to get into that, I told her I really needed to see a doctor. She told me her car was broken, but she’d be over in a few minutes on a golf cart. She said that there was an Emergency section of the hospital on the side and they could look at the leg there. Tina also informed me that there was a nicer hospital about 40 minutes away in case we needed to go that route. I had a gut feeling that’s where I would end up.
Within minutes Tina pulled up in her golf cart which is a standard operational vehicle for the village. I showed her my leg and she looked horrified and said she’d never seen anything like it. I got in the cart and we chugged back to the hospital. The Emergency room was on the side of the building. She parked and we got out and went inside.
Inside was an L shaped room painted white but it was pretty dusty inside and a counter ran against the far wall. No one was behind the counter. There were wooden benches on the wall opposite the counter. We called out and knocked on the counter and after a couple minutes a sleepy looking Mexican woman slowly came over from around the corner.
Tina spoke to her in Spanish and told me to show my leg to her. I pulled up my leg and showed her my swollen, blistered calf and then Tina and her spoke a little more and she walked back around the corner and was out of sight again. Tina said the woman told her she wasn’t sure where the doctor was and they were going to try and find him and we were supposed to wait. It didn’t really bolster my confidence in this place when it’s the Emergency Room and the doctor was M.I.A. We sat down on a bench and then something happened that really made me want to get out of there mucho pronto. The door was slightly ajar and a dog pushed it open and trotted back behind the counter and was roaming around. First there was a rooster and now a dog, I was starting to wonder if the hospital also doubled as a Veterinary Clinic.
I turned to Tina and asked how I could get to the other hospital she had told me about. I wanted to get out of that hospital before they hooked me up to an IV of Gravy Train!
Tina set me up with a local man who lived in the village named, Rafael. He had a nice van and agreed to give me a round trip ride to and from the hospital for 40 bucks, which I was happy to give to him to get the leg looked at without a rooster crowing in the background. The only problem was Rafael didn’t speak English but Tina said he was a nice guy who knew where the hospital was. So she gave me a hug, told me to call her when I got back and I got in the van with Rafael. Rafael drove out of the village and got on to the highway and then proceeded to drive like a mad man while chattering at me in Spanish. I tried in vain to get him to understand I don’t speak Spanish, but after a while I gave up and just nodded at him. For the next half an hour we were traveling on a two lane highway between 80 and 90 MPH passing anything in front of us and nearly colliding with oncoming cars and trucks. Every once in a while Rafael would turn to me and say something in Spanish, sometimes punctuating it with a laugh. The only good thing about this terrifying and strange ride was that it took my mind off of my swollen leg for a while because I was sure I was going to be a number on a death toll from that highway in Mexico that morning!
Eventually we steered in to a resort town and before I knew it we were parked in front of a hospital and we got out and made our way inside. Rafael led the way in and he seemed to know where he was going. Within minutes we were in the Emergency Room and happily everyone there spoke English. I was feeling relieved as I filled out the entry forms and explained the problem with the leg to the twenty-something Mexican man behind the front desk. He grimaced when I showed him the leg and said it wouldn’t be long till I could see a doctor.
Rafael and I took seats in the waiting room and he said something in Spanish and I was feeling grateful to be in a real and clean hospital. Maybe now this nightmare was finally going to come to an end!
After a few minutes the man who was seated behind the front desk told me to walk through the door next to the desk and have a seat and the doctor would be with me shortly. I went in and it was a small paneled room with a modest looking metal desk and a padded stool behind it. There was a folding metal chair in front of it, so I took a seat and after about three minutes the doctor came in, said hello and sat on the stool behind the desk.
He opened up a brown file folder and was reading the papers in it. He appeared to be in his mid 30’s and he was thin with a close-cropped beard. After reading the file for a couple minutes he looked up and asked me what the problem was with my leg.
“I went to bed last night around midnight and it was fine,” I explained, then I rolled my pant leg up and showed him my swollen, blistered leg. “Now it looks like this.”
He rolled over on his stool, leaned in to the leg to get a close look and then his face twisted up, he quickly rolled away on his stool and said, “Eeeeewwwww! That’s bad!”
That certainly wasn’t the most professional bedside manner I’ve ever encountered from a doctor. It kind of sounded like how Stormy Daniels must’ve felt like when she had sex with Donald Trump. His voice sounded familiar and kind of creepy and then I realized who he sounded like: He sounded like the actor, Peter Lorre. So here I was with a doctor who was extremely squeamish and skittish at the sight of my swollen leg that sounded like the horror film actor, Peter Lorre. Perfecto!
He opened a drawer and took out a box of plastic gloves and put a pair on his hands and slowly and somewhat reluctantly rolled back to my leg and poked it a little bit with his index finger.
I was hoping that maybe now we were on the right track when he threw out this astute medical observation: “Hmm...what do you think this is? Was someone kicking you last night?
Oh my. Looks like I just traveled over 50 miles with a lunatic driver to have the doctor ask me what I think the diagnosis is. And my leg hardly looked like it was the result of someone kicking it.
“I’m thinking that maybe I got bit by a spider or something while I was sleeping,” I threw out.
He nodded and then said he’d be back in a minute. I thought for a second maybe he was just the real doctor’s assistant but he came back with some gauze and a box of needles. He popped the blisters on my leg with the needles with his face scrunched up like a little girl who’s terrified of a mouse crawling around in front of her. At least in a few minutes the blisters were gone and he wiped the leg dry with some gauze material.
He said it didn’t look infected and started writing out prescriptions for me and telling me what they were. He wrote out three and the only thing I recognized was an antibiotic.
Then he handed them to me and said there was a pharmacy next door. He told me I was free to leave and wished me the best of luck with the leg.
I was surprised that that was all there was to the visit. He didn’t do any tests or take any cultures and I still didn’t know what the hell had happened to my leg.
I got up and now we were both standing facing each other and I said to him, “The main thing I’m concerned about is that I’m not going back home for two days and I’m a little afraid about an infection setting in.”
He looked at me sagely, nodded his head and said, “Oh...amigo...that would be very bad!” Then he turned around and walked out of the office.
Well, that didn’t lift my spirits and it was a little disappointing that we traveled all this way and didn’t even find out what had happened to my leg. But at least I did get antibiotics which I hoped would stave off an infection till I got back to Peoria. Oh and I do have to compliment the hospital on being one hundred percent void of roosters and dogs!
We drove back to the little village of San Pancho at break-neck speed and Rafael dropped me off at my Mexican bungalow. I tipped him ten bucks and told him gracias. At least I made it back in one piece. I then proceeded to make an ice pack with a towel, elevated my leg on a pillow on the couch and proceeded to watch almost every video on YouTube the next two days in an effort to keep my mind off of it. And I also had a nice supply of beer that I had bought on Saturday, so that helped ease my nervousness as well.
Luckily the leg didn’t get any worse, but it didn’t get any better either. On Tuesday I hobbled on to a plane in Puerto Vallarta at three in the afternoon and at 10:37pm I was back in Peoria with an Uber driver taking me to the Proctor Emergency Room.
They were a lot more thorough there and the doctor actually was able to look at my leg and not make a face like a child who’s puppy just got run over by a dump truck. The expert ER team gave me several IV’s, they took culture tests and lots of other things. All in all they said it could’ve been much worse. It wasn’t badly infected and they said it would take a few weeks, but it should eventually be back to normal. Here’s some photos from the healing process so far.
This is two days after my Proctor visit. The blisters are still there, but the swelling has gone down somewhat.
Here’s the leg on Easter Sunday. The blisters are now gone, the swelling is down and the discoloration is from blood that has coagulated and is leaving bruises.
And here’s two photos from about three hours ago. It’s been eleven days since it happened and it’s still pretty messed up. It is healing though and the blood coagulation has made my leg some sort of an abstract piece of art that changes on a daily basis. So I've got that going for me.
It’s been quite a ride with this leg, but I do have to say I was very impressed with San Pancho and the people there. It’s a lovely little Mexican village and I may go back for a return visit. But if I do, I’m getting one of these to take into the bungalow to sleep in!
Thanks to the team at Proctor Emergency Room, they did a great job and really eased my fears! And thanks to Lauren Petoskey from Dr. Chambers-Damm’s team at OSF Health Care for the examination and update yesterday. We’ll see you all tomorrow!