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.

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