Between the issues the platform presented in the last days and some personal problems, I have not been able to post the last Ulog about my trip to Punta de Piedras (the return). Now I will make a parenthesis to post about some health issues I am having, which reveals some truths about the Venezuelan health system and which might keep me away from blogging (hopefully not for too long).
There is never a right time for a kidney stone to hit you, but given the current situations Venezuelans are going through, the last thing you want is such a condition to affect you. For those who have never had problems with kidney stones, the pain of expelling one has been compared with labor pain, and it can last for days.
Many years ago, I was hospitalized (when I still have an insurance that covered any contingency) for 5 days due to a stone that refused to get out. When they were about to operate, the damn thing finally popped out. I have struggled with this malady since I was 12. I had usually controlled the production of stones with occasional diet and in case of emergencies. Even a decade ago, any hospital could help me out, any clinic had plenty of specialist and equipment, any drugstore had the medication and we could afford them. Now, nobody wants to even entertain the idea of getting sick. If one gets sick one relies on home-made remedies or friends’ and family’s charity.
Yesterday, starting at about 6 pm I had a horrible episode of a kidney stone that must have left my right kidney and started the gross and painful descend. It was sudden, with the force and intensity of a blow to the head. I did my best to stand the pain and avoid my wife the mortification of taking me to a hospital, but my body is not strong enough these days. I started to vomit (which can be “normal” during renal colic), sweat, and it became increasingly difficult for me to walk, sit, stand or lay down. No matter what I tried nothing seemed to give me comfort.
I had not strong pain-killers at home, so I just drank some “big-eared oregano” water to speed up the expulsion of the stone (it had helped in the past). With the vomits, that water did not do any effect, though. It was about 7 pm when the lights went out, a blackout. It was hot, there were a lot of mosquitoes and a piercing pain was escalating and migrating all around my body. When my wife saw my desperation, she called a friend. More than a friend, Carlos has become a guardian angel. I mentioned him in a post some months ago (Ulog #043: Taking a Sweet Break | Preparando Buñuelos de Yuca).
This is the thing about getting sick here, especially at night: no many friends have cars now (they’re broken and can’t be repaired, they were sold, or they are safely parked in their garages for extreme family emergencies only). Our cities are more dangerous at night. The roads are broken and it is easier to fall in a hole or get your car damaged at night. Hospitals are collapsed. We have only two in Cumaná and a dozen of ambulatorios, which were supposed to be small functional hospitals that would reduce the traffic of patients in the main hospitals. According to government propaganda, these health centers work perfectly. People get medical attention and even free medications.
The truth is quite different. Carlos was at our place in a few minutes. We went to the closest ambulatorio: Cumanagoto (Negative. No medications), then to the next one: Las Palomas (Negative. Close/locked/lights out), then to the next: Salvador Allende (Negative. A doctor and two nurses just looked at each other and us and regretfully informed us that for months now they have not received any supplies, especially pain killers).
I could barely stand. Carlos was desperate. He decided to take me to a private clinic. I did not have the strength to try to persuade him otherwise. Besides, he would not take no for an answer. Even though he insisted that he had enough money to cover for my emergency, you have to understand what a big deal an expense of this sort can be. Clinics technically charge in dollars and prices are outrageous for our regular incomes. These days in Venezuela most insurance provided to employees in the public administration cover only symbolic amounts, not even enough to pay for the doctor’s visit.
We got to the clinic, had to procure ourselves a wheelchair (no personnel to do that). Admission pretended to hold us requesting personal documents we were not carrying for obvious reasons (we left home in such a hurry). Carlos had to demand that they see me first, that payment was guaranteed.
I started to vomit again and that made them hurry up the admission. They gave me a “coctel” of pain-killers that made me feel better in a few minutes, but when the whole saline was out, the pain came back with a vengeance. I did not want them to give me anything else. I was thinking about how much money Carlos would have to pay. I had no choice but to accept. Then, they gave me an even stronger pain killer that knocked me down.
After two hours, although quite groggy, I was good to go home.
The pain came back at about 2 am, though, and kept off-and-on until sunrise. But it was more tolerable this time. The stone has not moved yet and now I have to have some tests done (sonogram, lab). I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. Some family members, including my son who is in Perú, sent money to help with the expenses. We were able to buy the painkillers and antibiotics, just in case. I’ll keep taking home-made medicine to try to get rid of the stone and get some healthy food for a few days with the rest of the money. That’s the kind of decision one has to make given the circumstances.
I'll be eternally grateful to those who have helped me in this difficult circumstance. I never thought that after becoming a college professor I'd be in such a state of destitution. For years I was the one helping my relatives. I'll never stop repeating it: This is how deep the bolivarian revolution and its twisted Socialism has burried us. Rest-of-the-world, do not wait for a similar calamity to befall you open your eyes. We used to say we were not Cuba, we were smarter than Cubans, now they laugh at how worse than them we became.
Thanks for your visit
The stone has just finally come out!
How can such a small thing cause so much pain!