Friday, August 12, 2011

Hippocratic Oath?

I wish I had the words to describe the health care conditions here.  And I don’t know the half of it I’m sure.  I hear things from people we know and from the Pastoral Team themselves.  And I’ve had a couple of first hand experiences.  I want to tell you about one.
Two nights ago, two women came to the door needing help.  This is not an unusual thing.  Folks know that if they need help, we will do our best to do so and if we can’t help, we try to steer them in the direction of someone who can …

So these two women did not want help for themselves.  Instead, they told us the story of their neighbor: an old man who is quite sick. He has cirrhosis of the liver.  His niece – his only family from the sounds of it – does not want anything to do with him.  She lives right next to the man but apparently does not look after him.  So the neighbor ladies have been feeding him breakfast and supper and checking in on him on a regular basis. 

These women had become very concerned about his condition they so had taken him to a local doctor for a checkup.  This local doctor looked him over and she gave him a referral to be admitted to the hospital in Santiago de Maria.  The doctor said that at the hospital, they could ‘drain’ the fluid buildup in his stomach and potentially save his life.   By the time they were done taking him to the doctor and then back home so they could look for transportation, it was late. They couldn’t find anyone to take him to the hospital and since they knew about us and knew we had a vehicle, they came here and asked if we would take him.  

Cecilia and I talked and we decided we needed to do this for them.  So we all piled into the truck and headed down to where he lives just below the cemetery which is not too far away.  It took about 15 minutes for them to convince him to go – he didn’t want to – but eventually they all came out – several people supporting the man as they made their way down the roughly 50 yards of the uneven path leading from his home to the truck.  It took a couple of men to help him into the front seat of the truck.  He was obviously bloated and in pain.  His left hand and fingers were inflated like a balloon.  His stomach was obviously bloated as well and his calves were like rocks.  He could barely move.

And I’m not saying this to be rude, but he smelled horrible.  Now mind you – I dearly love the people I work with who live in the country.  Many of whom often do not smell very good – but we hug them and take no notice because of our love for them.  But this man smelled sick.  It was not a lack of personal hygiene care – although I’m sure that is minimal (and I say that feeling badly for him, not as a criticism) – but he smelled very ill.  I don’t have words to describe it. 

Unfortunately, it started to rain shortly after we took off so we had to close the windows.  Thankfully within about 15 minutes the rain stopped on the other side of the mountain.

So we got to the Santiago de Maria hospital about 6:30 p.m. and I could at least drive in to the parking lot so he could be closer to the entrance.  The women were able to get a wheelchair for him and as they were struggling to get the man out of the truck, a young man came out to help.  Turns out he was the relative of another patient waiting to be seen.  So they took him in and Cecilia and I drove out to park in the street and wait.  Only ‘family’ are allowed in - and at that, only one or two of them.  The women were not family, but they had his personal information so could be with him as his guardians. 

Cecilia and I waited outside for about an hour and a half.  Cecilia talked to the guards to convince them to let her in to get an update – to see how close he was to being admitted.  She found out that there was only one family left ahead of him.  So she came back out and we waited a bit more.  About a half hour later, all three of them came out: the two women holding up the sick man.  The doctor on duty would NOT admit him!  In spite of the referral and the obvious bloating – they would not admit him.  As one of the women muttered under her breath “it’s better to just die at home.”

What an incredibly sad thing to say.  But she got no argument from her friend or Cecilia. 

My question of disbelief: what kind of doctor would not admit such a sick man?  He even had a doctor’s referral!

As Cecilia said: “Such is health care in our country”

And the next day when Blanca was here and after telling her what happened the night before.  She literally said the same exact thing. 

This is such a different world than from where I come from.  And unfortunately – throughout the entire world there are LOTS of other countries who experience the same lack of care or worse.  

What a travesty.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Urgent Request

In our travels this week with the Heartland delegation, we visited not only their sister communities of El Tablon Centro and Cerna, but Casa de Zacate as well. From our conversations with the 3 Directivas - and phone calls to the Pastoral Team from leaders of a couple other communities - we have discovered a vital need. By the end of this month, everyone who farms should be planting their new crop of beans. The problem is - the people do not have beans to plant. Part of this is due to the last 2 year's horrible crops. They didn't produce enough to eat let alone to have sufficient amounts to set aside for the following planting season.

The government had a seed (beans) giveaway recently - but hardly ANYONE in this municipality was given the seed. For example: only 3 out of 45 farmers from Santa Cruz, 3 out of 80 in Tablon Centro and 6 out of 25 in Casa de Zacate received their 'packet'. None out of the 48 families in Cerna nor the 44 families in Alejandria received any government seed.

So now the majority of people cannot plant. They are very worried they will not have food next year. The Pastoral Team considers this a crisis situation.

Scott Valentine (Clive, Heartland) made a suggestion - a good one. That I immediately communicate this need to Compa
ñeros and see if we could get this information out to all our sister churches as well as our non-partner supporters.

I have faith in the folks in Iowa (and beyond) that they can raise the funds. The problem is the need for a rapid response. The planting should be done within the next three weeks!

Ideally, the farmers would need about 100# of seed to provide a family with thier food needs for the year as well as enough to sell for a bit of income with some leftover to safeguard for the following year's planting. But
the Pastoral Team's thought is to try to raise funds for 40# per family farm. This quantity of seed would potentially provide enough beans for a family to eat for a year.

40# of seed costs about $50. There are roughly 1000 families in all the cantons of Berlin. That would be roughly $50,000 which we need by August 22nd.

The Pastoral Team has already started calling the Directiva of each community to ask how many families did not receive the government packet of seed and to organize and create community lists for disbursal. From this we will know exactly how many families are in need of this support.

In a related topic: Currently, InterVida (an NGO) is helping communities develop Seed Banks but they are not yet fully operational. In the event that more funds are received than are needed to relieve this immediate crisis, they would go toward faciliiting additional seed banks in communities that do not yet have them. A seed bank would help a community avoid this kind of crisis in the future.

We thank you for your efforts and await with hope your rapid support. Follow the usual manner of getting funds to the mission. Send checks to the Presbytery of Des Moines, 2400 86th St., Suite 20, Urbandale, I
A 50322. Please include in the memo section or in message to designate "Bean-Seed".

Kathy and the Pastoral Team