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Adventures in Colombian Medical Tourism

. 3 min read

Having spent two months and two thousand dollars on pills, drills, razors, and lasers, I left Colombia feeling like a new man. Health insurance be damned.


It all began on a sunny day in April as I was strolling down the streets of Medellín, chewing gum, and admiring the city's lush foliage. That's when I felt a piece of gravel embedded in my gum, except to my horror, it was actually a chunk of my molar that had cracked off from an untreated cavity.

Shit shit shit. Shitty shit shit.

Panic set in as I retreated back to my apartment to google nearby medical offices and quickly stumbled upon Colombia's extensive medical tourism industry. According to the Medical Tourism Index (MTI), Colombia ranks in at #2 in the world. Furthermore, the first techniques developed for corrective eye surgery prior to Lasik were pioneer in the 1950's by doctors in Bogotá. My confidence in the country quickly rose, leading me to capitalize on the opportunity.

Vision

A local's recommendation led me to the offices of Dr. Diego Aristizábal to begin my month-long series of weekly visits. The first exam was a routine checkup to get the basics out of the way, no different than a yearly eye exam and cost ~$60 USD. I was then required to schedule an appointment to get the thickness of my corneas measured to validate my eligibility for Lasik. The process involved staring into a machine as various sensors scan and measure your eyeballs, which was painless and cost ~$140 USD. Luck was on my side - my astigmatism was not an issue and I was indeed thicc enough to proceed.

The actual surgery cost me $1,100 USD for both eyes, or around 3.4 MILLION PESOS. And since the office only accepted cash or wire transfer, I arrived on the day of my operation feeling thug as fuck as I slapped my brick of bills on the counter before being escorted into the medical bay.

Damn it feels good be a gangsta.

Dear reader - if you're squeamish, skip the next paragraph as it goes into gruesome detail of what it feels like to get your eyes sliced open. You've been warned.

The procedure began with a concoction of eyedrops to clean and numb my eyes. Keeping them closed for 15 minutes, the solution stung and worked its magic effectively. I was then put into a wheelchair and rolled into the operating room, where a small device was placed under my eyelids to prevent blinking, and a tiny suction cup was affixed to keep my eyeball from moving. My job was to stare at a solid green dot and not look away for any reason. I felt a slight tingle as a mechanical scalpel slid across my eye, followed by my cornea being lifting up like a hatch to expose the pupil and iris. The only way I could possibly describe what this looked like was being sucked into a wormhole - starbursts of white, green, and red lights erupting into a symphony of shapes and patterns with no focal point. A loud pulsing hum signaled the laser firing, which didn't hurt, but resulted in me being able to smell my eye burning. It was over in a matter of seconds - my cornea was then lowered back into position, and a thick coating of cream was smeared over the entire surface. The process was then repeated for the other eye, with the entire operation taking less than 10 minutes. Isn't science incredible?!

The first 24 hours post-surgery included mostly sleeping and listening to audiobooks in bed. I was required to put in two different types of eyedrops every hour for a month (which was tedious but made life so much easier). Night vision was slow to return - all lights flared out of focus at night for a while, but this returned to normal a month later. These days I forget I even had the procedure done - everything went swimmingly and I'm really happy with the results!

Surgery Freebie: Mini-jockstraps for my face :-D

Dental

April had been consumed by visits to the eye doctor, so little time was left for getting much needed dental work done. We transitioned from Medellín to Bogotá at the end of the month and I began a second round of routine visits, this time to a small dentistry office in Bogotá (that also only accepted cash). Here's a breakdown of all the work I got done for only $717 USD:

  • Molar Restoration
  • 4 Cavity Fillings
  • 2 Composite Veneers
  • A month's supply of in-home whitening treatments
  • 4 laser whitening treatments at the office
  • And a cleaning

The value was phenomenal with no compromise in quality, and my Spanish had improved drastically over the whole ordeal. If you've been considering getting any type of cosmetic surgery done, Colombia definitely has my vote of confidence.