“It seems life is still determined to do me harm. I write this letter from the Hospital de la Charitá, ward Boyer, bed 22, from where I have just had an operation on an intestinal haemorrhage. I’ve suffered twenty horrible days of physical pains and incredible spiritual dejections. There are, Pablo, in life, bitter times, of dark blackness and closed to any consolation. There are times more, much more sinister and tremendous than the tomb itself. I have never known them before. This hospital has shown them to me and I won’t forget them.” (letter from César Vallejo to Pablo Abril, 19th October 1924)
Mr Marciano Amaya Pretel, from Anriqsha, in the province of Contumazá, is a colleague of ours, Voluntary Coordinator of many years in the rural libraries and also a coordinator in the Community Programme.
Like any good walker, one afternoon he set off into the country, tripped and fell down a ravine... he injured his kneecap and had to be taken to the Regional Hospital in Cajamarca. But this was not the worst of his misfortunes.
Marciano, like Vallejo, also learnt things in the hospital: he learnt that if you have no money, even if you have comprehensive health insurance, it’s of no use because the pins, the bits and all those instruments needed to reconstruct the kneecap, and the best medicines, are not just available like that, they cost, and they are expensive....and they are not available in Cajamarca either.
He learnt that if there is no “magic wand” to hand, the operation can be delayed even though the pain increases; that if you don’t have a little extra help, your family can’t even come to ask after you because the response they get will just be a “don’t you understand!?”
He learnt that however ill you are you have to wait or shout if you need help because the buzzer systems in the rooms no longer work; he learnt that any old rusty wire can be used to hold a drip bottle in a hospital where, at the same time, they don’t let your family near you because ”they contaminate the environment”. He learnt that a used sheet can be used for the next patient, because, well, nobody will find out that it was used on another bed the day before...
The experience which Marciano went through reminds us once again of the deplorable conditions in which the people are “treated” in the public health service and our indignation grows ever more in the face of these abuses.
To Marciano, our continual regards and the most sincere wishes for a speedy recovery so that you may return to your long walks, to visit your children from the Community Programme and your Rural Libraries.