Jeff Otte was on vacation and desperate to get medical help for his wife.
As WDAF News reports, in May, Jeff and his wife, Cindy, went to Mexico to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The couple from Kansas City stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen. At the time, they hadn’t heard about the tainted alcohol that took the life of a 20-year-old woman in 2016 and later led to a travel warning from the U.S. State Department.Screenshot/WDAF News
After enjoying two shots of tequila at their hotel, the Ottes went to Señor Frogs, where Cindy ordered a margarita. But after taking only a few sips of her drink, Cindy began to feel strange. In the video below, she told WDAF:
“I went to the bathroom, came back, and all of sudden, I had like a personality change, I started laughing and laughing and laughing, and then I got really paranoid for a second, then I had this zoom … tunnel vision, and I grabbed my husband.”
Cindy then collapsed, falling “lifeless” on the floor of the bar.
Panicked, Jeff called a cab and took his wife back to the hotel. As he told WDAF, it soon became clear she wasn’t going to recover quickly:
“She kept getting worse, so I tried pouring water on her thinking she’d come out of it any minute, maybe she’s just sick, then she said ‘hospital.'”
But getting his wife to a hospital proved to be more difficult than he anticipated:
“I called probably three or four times screaming at these guys, ‘Hey, I need a doctor!’ Of course I didn’t know the hospital number, there was no 911. It was a very hopeless situation. I didn’t know what to do.”
Even after Jeff was able to call for an ambulance, it still wasn’t easy to get Cindy the care she needed. Like the couple whose premature baby was held hostage by a Cancun hospital, the Ottes were about to learn that medical bills in Mexico can be different for tourists.
It started with the news that just the ambulance trip was going to cost them $850. On arriving at the hospital, the Ottes were told it would be $2,000 upfront before Cindy could be treated. Once that was paid, Cindy was diagnosed with dehydration, but not for a potential poisoning.
Jeff said he was convinced the hospital wouldn’t help his wife without the payment:
“Had I not been able to come up with the money, they wouldn’t have seen her, and if she went into cardiac arrest, she would have died.”
Cindy was out for about six hours before she regained consciousness. She was given fluids and medicine for nausea, then encouraged to stay at the hospital for the night … at the cost of another $2,000. She declined and returned with her husband to the hotel.
Cindy told the Kansas City Star the “scariest event of my life” was compounded by the attitude at the hospital:
“They didn’t care if I was going to die. No concern for my health, and they didn’t treat me until the $2,000 was cleared.”
Looking back, Cindy now thinks she was deliberately targeted for the poisoned alcohol, probably by someone who planned to rob them. She told WDAF her expensive jewelry may have drawn attention and remembers something odd that happened when they arrived at Señor Frogs:
“I wore this watch out, and I think this watch did it. A little girl did come up to me and put a bracelet on me, so someone thought maybe she tagged me.”
Now safely home again, the Ottes are hoping their story will serve as a warning to others. Jeff told WDAF: “It was a really hopeless, helpless feeling trying to get anybody to help us.”