Friday, July 10, 2020

Our COVID-19 Antibody Test in México

An Interesting and Informative Experience!

Punta Mita Hospital Emergency Room
     Near the end of February, before the COVID-19 pandemic had been announced to the world, I caught a cold. It started with a slight sore throat and a runny nose, like any winter cold. It’s always seemed strange to me that, even living in warm, sunny México, I usually catch a cold about once a year.
As soon as I noticed the sore throat, I took some Emergen-C and a Cold-Eeze lozenge. It was especially frustrating because we had been so careful when we flew down to Puerto Vallarta from Tucson in mid-February. Sitting on a plane full of people for five hours is a sure way to pick up a bug, so we took Emergen-C three times on the day we traveled to try to prevent getting sick. This was in addition to the 2000mg of vitamin C and other vitamins we take daily. But I guess we should have taken Emergen-C for two or three days to build up our immune system.
Then the cough started. The intense chills lasted a full day. I took ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the aches and headaches. The cough intensified until Vicks Formula 44 syrup had little effect. I resorted to using a Ventolin inhaler every four hours for the cough, which worked better and eased my breathing. Bed rest, Vitamin C, and zinc helped me heal.
Jon, my husband, caught my cold a week later. His case wasn’t as severe but the symptoms were similar, minus the chills. Though most symptoms disappeared in less than a week, my cough lasted for three or four weeks.
Remember, the coronavirus infections had not been labeled a COVID-19 pandemic at that point.
Ready to Go for Our SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test

     Three months later, as we educated ourselves with reliable COVID-19 pandemic information, I began to wonder if we had already had the dreaded infection back in February and March. Could we have acquired SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and possible protection from the virus? We continued to be cautious when out in public to avoid contracting or spreading this virus, but hopeful that we were carrying protective antibodies in our blood.
We recently learned that the antibody test is available in the area where we live, Nayarit, México. We deliberated about whether it was worth it to go to a hospital and have the test administered. After all, if we didn’t carry the antibodies in our blood, a hospital is a risky place to go—we might contract the virus while at the emergency room having the test done. We decided to do it.
SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test Package at Punta Mita

     Two hospitals near our home offer the SARS-CoV-2 Antibody test, St. Luke’s in Sayulita and Punta Mita Hospital. We decided to go to Punta Mita because it was significantly less expensive, has good reviews, and we could turn the afternoon into an adventure in the town of Punta Mita with lunch on the beach.
     I made an appointment over the phone for Jon and me to both have the test done. I spoke with Dr. Franco and made it very clear that we wanted the antibody test, meaning we had already had COVID-19 months ago, not the test for the virus. He assured me that they had the serology antibody test. The price was quoted as $116 U.S. dollars or 2297 Mx pesos for each test, including a 16% tax. We were told to come to the emergency room reception area when we arrived where they only allowed one person at a time. All people with respiratory symptoms that could be active COVID-19 infections entered a different part of the hospital.
Punta Mita Hospital Reception Sign

     We masked up and entered the emergency room reception area. They allowed Jon and me to come in together but others were asked to wait outside. After the technician tested our blood oxygen level, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and asked if we had any symptoms of COVID-19, we were declared healthy and could proceed with the test.
Jon Having His Finger Pricked to Draw Blood for the Test

Jon's Blood is in the Well, Serum Wicking Up the Test

Jon's Test Shows Negative for COVID-19 Antibodies

     We were impressed with the staff, the procedures, and the facilities at Punta Mita Hospital. The technician explained that Jon’s serology test results for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Antibodies was negative because the line stopped at the “C” on the stick, meaning he has not had the COVID-19 infection in the past.
If a line appears at the M, it indicates the person has IgM antibodies. If a line appears at the G, it indicates the person has IgG antibodies. From my reading, I have learned that if a person tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, meaning they have had the COVID-19 infection at least two weeks previously, giving the body time to produce both of these antibodies, a line will appear at the G and the M.
My SARS-CoV-2 serology test was negative for antibodies also.
As we left the hospital, I told Jon I was disappointed. I had felt sure that we had Covid-19 back in late February and early March. I had been hopeful that we had developed antibodies against the virus and, therefore, most likely had protection against getting it again. Jon agreed with me. He was discouraged, too.
It’s possible that the test results were false negatives, meaning the tests themselves were faulty. I have read that not all SARS-CoV-2 Antibody tests are created equal and many have been found to give false readings. But we will trust the results. We will assume we do not carry any protective antibodies in our blood. We will continue to be extra careful when we are in public, washing our hands often and distancing ourselves from others. We still plan to live our lives as close to normal as possible while avoiding the risk of spreading the virus. We will still dine out at reputable restaurants, enjoying life every day. We believe living in fear is unhealthy.
Entrance to La Pescadora Restaurant in Punta Mita

     We walked the half-mile from the hospital to “restaurant row” on the beach in Punta Mita and had a wonderful meal at La Pescadora where the staff followed all precautionary steps to keep us safe from the dreaded virus. We enjoyed the cool ocean breeze on that hot afternoon, the view of the sea, and the entertaining wind-surfer getting a wild ride in the strong wind, as we were on the fringe of Tropical Storm Cristina.
The Bay View from La Pescadora Restaurant in Punta Mita

     Thank you for reading my books and blog articles. If you are interested in reading more about Serology Testing for COVID-19 from the CDC here's the link

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico June Newsletter & New Book Release

Beaches in the Mexican State of Nayarit Are Closed, But…

The Ocean is Full of People Playing
     In Sayulita, the ocean is often full of people, locals and visitors, playing, cooling off, surfing, and paddleboarding. Some people sit on blankets having picnics. It’s wonderful to enjoy a meal at a beachside restaurant with an unobstructed view of the ocean as umbrellas and beach chairs are still prohibited at this time.

     But once every week or two, groups of police and National Guard or Marines come to the beach and ask people to leave. It is a peaceful yet sad scene as disappointed beach-lovers slowly pack up and head into town. We don't yet know if our governor will open our beaches in July... likely he won't.

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Life in Sayulita During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Beach Scene Picks Up in the Afternoon Lately

     Much of Sayulita appears quiet, at least on the surface, since the beaches are technically not open yet and many businesses are closed. But when we get out and take a walkabout, we see people socializing and construction going on as if nothing is happening in the world. Pandemic?
Volleyball on Fisherman's Beach (No Masks)
          In Sayulita, most of the internationals are gone, having flown away as soon as they could get flights. We see very few people wearing masks here. The locals walk around to do their shopping and errands, few wearing masks. Most restaurant employees and food delivery people wear masks, as required. A few Norteamericanos who remain here wear masks when out shopping, but most don't. Most cashiers at the tienditas (little grocery stores) do not wear masks. The bank has signs posted at the ATM requiring masks, but most people don’t wear them, though people in line do space themselves apart. It actually looks odd when we do see someone in Sayulita wearing a mask.
     We think we may have already had COVID-19, but we may never know for sure. That nasty cough and cold with chills Jon and I had in late February before the label of "COVID-19 pandemic" was used? Thinking back, we had flown from Tucson to Puerto Vallarta on February 17 and then gone to Nuevo Vallarta on February 19 to have INM fingerprint me for my Permanent Residency visa. Who knows where we picked up that infection, or what it was? Does it really matter? Once the symptoms started, we stayed in bed, took Cold-Eeze and Emergen-C to build our immune system, Tylenol for the aches and pains, and used Ventolin inhalers for the cough. I hope we’ve already had the coronavirus infection so we're finished with it. Though we are careful to wash our hands often and distance from people in public, we don't plan to live our lives hiding behind masks from the virus. This worldwide infection could go on for years.
Intercam Bank ATM has Signs Requiring Masks
     A trip to Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta revealed that businesses are taking the pandemic more seriously. Signs are posted, masks are required, people in line stay separated, and sometimes temperatures are taken. Only one person per family is allowed into the store at a time unless you are elderly or handicapped. Jon was told we couldn’t go in together, but he quickly informed the security personnel that he is 70 years old so I was allowed to go in with him. The Mexican people give extra care to those of the "Third Age"--anyone over 60 years old. I guess I was allowed in as Jon's helpmate, though he doesn’t seem elderly or handicapped to me!
Masks and Separation at Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta
     We’ve stayed home a lot, as recommended, doing home projects, yoga classes with Jim Gallas through Zoom or with Adriene on YouTube, and Zumba with Debora P through Zoom to keep our mental and physical health good and our weight down. We're happy that we have a large garden patio for exercise. We exercise at home four days a week and walk around town every other day.
Practicing Yoga is Good for Jon's Parkinson's
     It has been a good time to hire the locals to help us with projects at our home since they are in need of work. They don’t wear masks and neither do we. Some would say we are irresponsible in this behavior, but as a pharmacist who has been coughed on for 30 years, I believe exposure to viruses and bacteria, in general, is how we build our immunity, not hiding from it. (Don't get me wrong--we wash our hands more often than most people and practice safe distancing) Our housecleaner still comes to clean once a week. She doesn't wear a mask and neither do we. This is common in Sayulita.
Painters Paint Our Golf Cart-port Wall (No Masks)
The Painters Give Our Garden Wall a Fresh Coat of Paint
Our New Air Conditioners Were Installed (No Masks)
     Condo construction in Sayulita has continued throughout the pandemic, giving men jobs. Most don’t wear masks. One shocking construction project popped up unexpectedly at Playa Los Muertos, piers poured right up to this popular beach at the ejido cemetery. A peaceful demonstration was successful in shutting the job down, but for how long?
Condo Construction Filling Every Available Space
Another Condo Stair-stepping Up the Hill with Ocean Views
Construction at Playa Los Muertos Up to the Beach
A Peaceful Demonstration Shut Down the Job!
     Some restaurants are opening for sit-down service and we eagerly go there for dinner, partly because we miss them, partly to support the many families who depend on the jobs in this tourist town. Some of our favorite restaurants are closed permanently.
El Break Cafe is Open with a Nice Ocean View
This is All That is Left of Miro Vino Restaurant
     We have donated to the food bank in town twice and they expect to need to feed families here at least through July. A free food line serves food to the needy every afternoon at 2:00.
Free Food For the Needy People Out of Work
Fisherman's Beach is Full of Idle Boats
     Fishermen's Beach is usually full of idle boats since there are no tourists here to pay for fishing trips. Some fishermen can be seen going out at times to feed their families.
     Our biggest home project was to order an adjustable bed with a Memory Foam mattress from Lunela. While we waited the two weeks for it to arrive from Leon, Mexico, we had the bedroom repainted. We were so excited when it arrived, as it will help minimize some of Jon's Parkinson's disease symptoms, particularly pain and restless legs. 
Jon Unpacking and Preparing to Assemble the New Bed
Testing the Bed with Its Zero-Gravity Position
Waiting Two Days for the Memory Foam to Expand
Bella is Happy that We Are Home So Much
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(In Sickness and In Health #2)
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

The May "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" Newsletter Has Been Published!

My Mexican Permanent Residency Visa and a NEW BOOK RELEASE!

I’m officially a permanent Mexican resident!
Hola from Sayulita, México!
I was so relieved when I was notified in April to go to the Mexican immigration (INM) office in Nuevo Vallarta for fingerprinting to complete my Permanent Resident Visa application! The office was open, but only one woman was working at the desk, so the wait was about two hours—but they were open and processing applications. She fingerprinted all ten fingers and then told me to come back for my card in two weeks.
     With so many government offices closed during the COVID-19 lockdown period, I was skeptical about whether my card would actually be ready in two weeks. But on April 27th, my representative read more...

New Book Release!

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Terry L Turrell, Author

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

19 Things I'm Grateful for in Mexico During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sayulita Beach was All But Empty During Semana Santa
Life is changing throughout the world, even here in Sayulita, Nayarit, México. Families carry out their daily activities as usual, or at least as normal as they can under the circumstances. Most of the international tourists have returned to their home countries or canceled their vacations to this beach town. Many Americans and Canadians who would typically be here until May have flown away early. Sayulita is eerily quiet, some say this is how it was twenty or thirty years ago.
When the visitors disappeared, many local people’s income all but evaporated. Many restaurants and bars have closed, but a few are still open for deliveries and pick up only. Food banks have sprung up to help families who have lost jobs.
We will stay. This is our home. We love living in Sayulita. We will help where we can, we will enjoy the peacefulness of this unusual time, and we will be thankful for at least one thing every day.
Gratitude eases the sadness. Gratitude helps minimize the stress of this scary time. Gratitude gives us hope.
We are thankful that…
1. we have daily sunshine, providing us with warmth and vitamin D to help keep us healthy.
Our View from Home of Sunshine and Wild Parrots
2.  we retired in Sayulita, a Mexican village with a beautiful beach and so much to offer, even when it is not currently a tourist town.
Sayulita "Selfie Street" is Deserted, but Beautiful
3. we live outdoors, our home open to the garden and sunshine. Thankfully, we aren’t cooped up inside a house in a cold climate.
View of Bougainvillea and Jungle from Our Terrace
4. the traffic is almost non-existent. It’s fun to watch the cowboys ride their horses along streets in town without meeting cars and construction trucks.
Cowboys Riding through Sayulita with Little Vehicle Traffic
5. we participate in online Zumba classes with Debora P and other Zumba teachers through Zoom two or three days each week to help keep us physically and mentally healthy.
Virtual Zumba Class at Home through Zoom

6. we attend yoga classes online through YouTube with Audra Rose Stanley and Zoom with Jim Gallas, helping to keep us strong physically and maintain inner calm during this stressful time. Bella enjoys yoga class too.
Bella--Always First to do Down Dog During Home Yoga Class
7. we shopped at Costco five weeks ago, stocking up on food and wine. Now that alcohol sales are prohibited in our town and much of México, we're especially glad we bought extra wine and still have a little left.
Rationing Our Wine After Mexico Stopped Alcohol Sales
8. we shopped at Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta four weeks ago to buy two additional air conditioners to keep our house cool this summer as we may not be able to travel this year.
Purchasing 2 High-Quality Inverter/ACs at Home Depot
9. Jon, my husband, is skilled at installing the air conditioners, including running the electrical and drain lines, only needing a local company to charge the units with refrigerant. Jon has Parkinson's disease, so this ladder work makes me nervous, but I can't keep him from his fun.
Jon Installing the New Air Conditioner Interior Unit
10. it’s inexpensive to live here, partly because the U.S. dollar to peso exchange rate is high, 24.99 at the time of this writing. This means that, as an example, the air conditioner we bought when the exchange rate was about 20 pesos per dollar would have cost about $650 US dollars. Today it would have cost $520 US dollars at an exchange rate of 24.99. Other factors that make it inexpensive to live in México are our low utility costs, extremely low property taxes, lower grocery costs, and lower prices when dining out.

Current Exchange Rate Makes Our U.S. Dollars Stretch Further
11. Bella, our dachshund, keeps us laughing with her football-retrieving antics.
Bella Loves to Play Fetch with her Football
12. we have water! The city water had been turned off in our neighborhood for over two weeks in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—not a trickle coming from our hose. Our tinacos didn’t run dry but we were conserving and I was becoming concerned about washing hands, dishes, and cleaning the house. Neighbors were having to purchase truckloads of water to fill their cisterns and tinacos. After daily calls failed to get action, Jon finally walked to Sayulita’s new water department and showed them on the city map the streets at our end of town that were without city water. Within two days, the problem had been solved and we have more water pressure than we’ve ever had since we moved here. Sayulita still uses water-conserving measures, but we know we will receive water to our house at 4:00 PM every day, allowing for garden irrigation and filling of our cistern.
We Finally Have City Water Flowing After 2 Weeks Without!

13. some restaurants in town are open for carryout orders and most of those will deliver meals, as well. Some days walking to town to pick up lunch or dinner is the only exercise we get, but it feels so wonderful to get out!
For Reuben Sandwiches & Chinese Chicken Salads To Go

14. meat markets and small grocery stores are open in our village so we can stock our freezer and fridge.
Crock-pot Pot Roast with Beef & Veges Purchased in Sayulita 

15. Our children and grandchildren in Oregon are safe and financially secure. We’ve enjoyed video-calls with all of them in the last two weeks. 
Grandkids Playing--From the Swing to the Trampoline!

16. I’ve had plenty of time to write my books and blogs.
At My Desk in Sayulita

17. my new novel, "Pickle Jar Test: In Sickness and In Health #2", will be released this month! Look for this eBook on Amazon worldwide.

18. so many readers have recently downloaded my novel, Just Another Manic Moment: In Sickness and In Health #1.

19. we live four blocks from the beach. Last night we stood on the beach and ate a frozen juice popsicle, enjoying the view of the ocean while we waited for La Rustica to prepare our take-out order of pizza and salad. Life is good in Sayulita!
Sayulita Beach on Cinco de Mayo

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