‘Sadly, For Us, Cuba is Over,’ Says a Canadian Tourist

Christian Maître recounts his wife’s time in a precarious hospital in Santa Clara after suffering from appendicitis

Christian Maître and Caroline Tétrault back at the airport. / Courtesy Ch.M. / Ici

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 25 April 2024 — “Sadly, for us, Cuba is over. I am sure that the world is full of very beautiful places to see.” This is how Christian Maître, a Canadian from the city of Shawinigan, in the province of Quebec, expresses himself in an interview with the radio station Ici . His vacation on the island was about to end when, one day before his return, scheduled for April 4, his wife suffered a sudden abdominal pain that changed everything.

Caroline Tétrault had lost her mother in mid-March, a victim of cancer. The whole family had planned a trip to Cuba at the end of that month they decided to go, expressly, in tribute to his wife. In total, 22 people enjoyed the trip without any major inconveniences other than the shortage of some foods. Until April 3, when Caroline began to complain of severe abdominal pain, which was initially dismissed.

Rest could not calm the discomfort, so they notified the hotel doctor, who referred them to a “small hospital” in Cayo Santa María. The diagnosis was very quick: in 10 minutes it was decided to transfer her to Santa Clara, where she had to undergo surgery for appendicitis.

Caroline Tétrault had lost her mother in mid-March, a victim of cancer

“The ambulance trip was very unpleasant, because she felt unbearable pain and the discomfort was total,” says Maître in statements to Le Nouvelliste. But the arrival was not much better. The tourists have not revealed the hospital to which they were taken, but from the videos they took inside everything indicates that it is the Arnaldo Milián, also known as the new hospital by the people of Santa Clara, who go there to undergo some examinations and analyses, because it the largest hospital and the one with the most resources in the province.

For Canadians, however, the impression was devastating. The place seemed disused and without light, they point out. “Finally we reached an illuminated hallway, but you could hear the background noise of a generator, there were dogs, it looked like the scene of a horror movie, but with doctors in white coats,” says Maître.

“When entering the operating room, in the hallway, the ceiling was like it had been torn off, I even closed my eyes thinking to prevent it from falling on her. When I let go of her hand, I thought I was seeing her alive for the last time,” he says emotionally.

On the contrary, he does not have a bad word for the medical care. “The doctor tried to reassure me about the procedure, he told me: ’Here we don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the resources, but we have good staff.’ And that is 100% true. They saved my wife’s life – she had peritonitis due to her appendix exploding – so I couldn’t say otherwise,” he says emphatically. They took a liter of infectious fluid from Caroline.

Maître himself reveals that he had to go out to buy juices and ice cream for his partner, but there were difficulties in finding cash

After the procedure, things were not going to improve. At that moment they found themselves lacking food to follow the patient’s recommended diet, which the hospital could not provide. Maître himself reveals that he had to go out to buy juices and ice cream for his partner, but there were difficulties in finding cash, since the black market did not accept his cards or his currency.

Although there are no signs, next to the hospital there is an extension of the Los Flamboyanes – several blocks down – a small store where people can buy food for doctors and relatives who look for the diet prescribed for admitted patients and where it is likely they should have gone.

With Tétrault’s discharge, things did not improve, since then he had to buy antibiotics, also non-existent and on the black market. “Some acquaintances who went to Santa María, also on vacation, were able to bring medicine from Quebec. We also went to another resort to get more dressings and dollars. In addition, three people from Quebec sent us personal things. Luckily I had outside help,” acknowledges Maître, who admits that without it it would have been impossible to get through those days.

Maître and Tétrault, now at home, are recovering from the illness, scare and stress, but they still have to pay between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars

Maître and Tétrault, now at home, are recovering from the illness, the scare and the stress. They still have to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 once they resolve pending issues with the insurance, but they do not recommend anyone travel to Cuba.

The case coincides in time with that of Faraj Allah Jarjour, the Syrian who lived in Canada and died on March 22 of a heart attack while on vacation in Cuba, but his body has not been found and the body sent to his family was that of another person. The Cuban Government has apologized for this matter, which continues without any explanations or knowledge of where the missing body is.

In Canada there is an alert to travel to Cuba with caution due to the shortage of medicines and food, but Canadians continue to massively choose the Island and they are its largest market, far ahead of the second, which is Cubans living abroad. Last year, almost a million Canadians visited the Island.


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