"A candle in the street…" / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo,11 February 2015 — After nearly three months of going to a clinic to set a date for a surgical intervention (outpatient and minimal), good news! Finally I got a date for a month later. I felt happy, because in all the hospitals here it’s normal to have little availability of operating rooms, for many reasons, such as contamination, leaks, damage to ceilings, walls, etc.

And now with everything planned and in order for the moment, yesterday I went to an appointment with the anesthesiologist which was scheduled for 8:00 in the morning. I went to the information desk to find out where the appointment would be. They sent me to the fourth floor, Room G.

Once there, I realized that the room was empty. I checked out the entire fourth floor, from one end to the other, asking every person in a white coat who crossed my path; no one knew where to send me.

Some suggested I go down to the third floor and ask. It was all useless, I went up and down the stairs a couple of times, because there was a line at the only elevator of six that was working.

Back on the fourth floor, I decided to wait for the surgeon who would operate in the morning, to explain what happened. When I saw him coming, I stepped forward to intercept him, as there were several patients waiting for him. It was then that he explained to me, not to keep looking for the  anesthesiologist, because he wouldn’t be operating due to an accident in the operating room, and to return to the clinic in 15 days to see what could be done.

I left the hospital surprised and disappointed, because I had already been preparing physically and mentally for the moment. I even had to postpone an exposition abroad and delay the longed-for visit of my granddaughter to Cuba, two things very important to me. In addition, why when I filled out the form for the operation did they ask me for a telephone number where they could find me?

On arriving at the hospital parking lot, where fortunately a car was waiting for me I learned from the parking attendant himself, who had worked there for a few years, that the operating room in question had caught fire a few days before and that’s why it was closed, and also there was only one anesthesiologist for the whole hospital because, normally, the person who come for pre-operative consultations sometimes don’t get done until 3:00 in the afternoon because he is the only one for the room and the consultations.

I left the hospital thinking that, sadly, I myself had experienced a joke that I often used on my friends: if you get sick here, then get a ticket and go to Haiti or Venezuela because there you’ll find a good Cuban specialist to see you with all the necessary equipment, because public health in Cuba is “A candle in the street, darkness in the house.”*

*Translator’s note: A common saying that means you “show off your good works” away from home, bt don’t help your own family. Rebeca is referring to Cuba’s healthcare “missions” abroad; the export of doctors is a major source of hard currency for the country.