Tensions are running high on La Linea. On Thursday four men were shot here in a gang related incident. One died before help arrived, and I've since heard that two others died before they reached the hospital. Violence like this is so common - news services often don't bother to report it. Another day, another death - #real life Guatemala.
The ladies on the Line are very afraid. They whisper frantic questions about L, not wanting anyone to overhear because no one is really sure who their friends are. On Friday, one of the younger girls was nearly hysterical. She hadn't been able to pay all of that week's extortion, and the gang was due to collect. In reality, the only solution is to get dressed and walk away, but the deception of this place and the elusive freedom they believe they'll win here, is enough to keep them trapped. I know there are people who believe that selling sex can be a powerful, liberated choice. I disagree. The sex trade is always about exploitation, and it is always destructive. Always. There is no liberation here.
L. is still waiting for the surgery to fix her shattered arm. Surgical patients/families are required to provide blood donations before any surgery is performed. L's family have to find three donors. So far, they have one. Several people cannot donate because they are excluded on health grounds (in case you're wondering, I can't donate because I'm still dealing with Mono), but the rest, the vast majority, are demanding payment for their kindness. I am heartsick but not surprised. We've faced the same attitude and demands many times. I'm currently pleading with several people to have mercy on L and help her. We shall see.
If we do find donors, the fun won't be over. The three donors have to donate together. They must get in line at the hospital at 5am. Guatemala City's insane traffic means that for most people that will be a one way journey of a couple of hours. Once there, they must wait. Eventually, a hospital employee will emerge from inky darkness to hand out numbers to the select few. Those who don't get a number have to leave. No life saving donations from you today. Take another two hours and go back home.
Thanks for trying.
In a country where there is a chronic, system-paralyzing shortage of blood, I am shocked into silence by an administration that would make it this hard to bleed. I've shaken my head so hard this week; I think I've given myself whiplash.
Super fun news is that L's wounds to her belly and arm are now showing signs of infection. That's what happens when no one bothers to clean a surgical incision. It is often left to family members to care for the hygiene needs of their patients, but it is the trained staff that deals with surgical wounds. L's daughter in law complained that the nurses were giving only the most cursory care, but nobody seems to have been worried. Brenda, L's daughter in law, has started washing the wounds. She thinks it's looking better. I truly hope so.
If donors are found, the hospital says L will have her surgery on Friday. Let's just wait and see, shall we?
….I wrote this on Monday. On the plus side, it was fairly short, but, the negative is that I never got to post it, and now it’s going to grow.
By Monday afternoon, L’s son had managed to plead three people into being willing to donate.
On Tuesday morning, two of them backed out.
A friend and I went to visit L on Tuesday afternoon. She’s been moved to a large, open ward. The police officer hovers close by. All of her visitors gave me lavish excuses why they couldn’t possibly donate blood for her. All of them. I can’t imagine what this is like for her as she lies in that nasty bed surrounded by people justifying why they aren’t willing to help her. However, they did let me know that people line up at the blood bank at the crack of dawn, willing to sell their blood to those in need. The going rate is Q200 (which, in case your wondering, is an enormous sum of money for the average Guatemalan). The willing family members also knew the going rate and weren’t going to do it for anything less.
So I paid them, and I’m still shaking.
Waiting patiently...as ever
(There are private blood banks here. We’ve donated at them in the past. My brilliant idea was to just buy blood from rich people. But no, the public hospitals won’t accept blood from the state of the art private blood banks. Nope. It’s not as good as blood from a hungry, exhausted poor person that’s been made to wait in line all day).
Before sunrise on Wednesday, three of L’s family and friends showed up to donate. Each had to give a sample to be tested. Each sample was rejected.
Today (Thursday), three more people showed up. I guess the money is a really good incentive. They also started standing in line at 5am. All but one of those donors was rejected.
Tomorrow they will try again.
We really don't know what else to do. The family is stuck. I am stuck. More important than anything else, L is stuck, lying in a bed, suffering and in pain, with the entire public medical system willing to wait and delay for as long as it takes for needy people to jump through outrageous hoops.
Bless her, she was trying to smile here, really!
Tomorrow the family will try again with new donors. Those of you given to praying, please pray? Please? This is now two weeks since her attack and a week since we were able to purchase the plate for her arm.
There is no mercy here, and it is the poor who always, ALWAYS, endure that reality.