14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 October 2019 — The denunciation of Yaima Caballero Peralta is hard, very hard. “They killed my daughter.” This was reported all day yesterday on social networks. “Yesterday I spent 24 hours in the day, 23 making complaints and now I need a break,” she tells 14ymedio on Saturday via phone.
Her story is bleak. Last Monday, October 7, she took her daughter Paloma Domínguez Caballero to get vaccinated in Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, without imagining that a nightmare would begin, one that still hasn’t ended.
“I went with my one-year-old girl to get the vaccine that is given to all children of that age against measles, mumps and rubella [MMR]. We went to the Enrique Betancourt Neninger policlinic in my area. Before giving the vaccine, the family doctor always examines them and determines if the baby is in a position to receive this vaccine because she has to be completely healthy to be able to receive it because they are very strict in these cases so that there is no adverse reaction,” the mother told this newspaper.
She explained that after that physical examination the doctor was able to determine that the girl was “totally healthy” and they give her the authorization to get the vaccine. “About 10 am she was vaccinated and two hours later the nightmare began. She vomited the first time at 12 noon and then again and again. I got scared and called a doctor friend who recommended I go to the polyclinic to get gravinol to relieve these symptoms,” she said.
When she arrived at the polyclinic the vomiting was decreasing but she says that the girl’s skin “began to get a little red” and she decided to go, without a referral, to the Luis Díaz Soto hospital, known as “The Naval” [as in ‘navy’].
There they did a urinalysis and blood tests, and after half an hour “the tests came back fine,” explains Caballero.
“The doctor who treated us did not want us to go home because she had a fever and now there is a lot of dengue fever out there so despite the good test results it could be something was not going well and that is why he suggested that I go to a pediatrician.
So, also by her own efforts, she went to the Borrás-Marfán Hospital in El Vedado, and there they treated her little girl “with the best care” and when the doctors arrived “they were alarmed that the color of her skin and the swelling of her feet” were due to the vaccine she had been given.
“As of that time no other cases were known and they thought it was that her body had rejected that vaccine that we all know are viruses, all are made with viruses. Well, there they decided to keep her under observation for 48 hours and they admitted her, but little by little I saw that she was getting worse,” she said.
“She started having diarrhea, vomited again and although she drank a great deal of water she didn’t urinate anything and that’s why the swelling,” adds the mother, who is trying to get away from her neighborhood these days, from her routine and everything that reminds her of her daughter.
An hour after being admitted they gave her an IV to hydrate her because she was dehydrating. “Then the fever started because the dipyrone they put her on did nothing and I had to lower the fever with a compress that I applied to her for about two hours.”
Caballero says that doctors never stopped checking on her daughter. “But nobody saw how much it was getting worse, I was scared, very very scared the tell truth,” she confesses.
At five in the morning on Tuesday a doctor passed by who could “see how badly she was doing” who called everyone and they decided quickly to put her in intensive care.
The news fell like “a bucket of cold water” but says she said was filled with courage and went with her daughter as she watched her get worse and worse.
“She was swelling all over and her feet were changing color from red to purple. She had very smelly diarrhea several times in a row and I could see that her arm where she was given the vaccine was red and it was swelling too much and it was very hard and it hurt. It caught my attention and they told me to put cold packs on it but it was getting worse.”
The doctors told her she had to wait outside because her daughter had become “very serious and was in critical condition.”
The wait became “an agony” thinking that she would not see her daughter again. The specialist came out to ask her for permission to open the girl’s arm to drain the infection inside. “Of course I accepted, whatever they did, as long as she was saved.”
She improved a little after the operation but, a few minutes later, “she stopped urinating again and her kidneys were failing and her feet were swelling more and more.”
At seven o’clock on Wednesday night, doctors gave her a blood transfusion and dialysis because “she was very sick” and “her life was in danger.”
“It was only an hour, maybe, when they told me she had died but there was no explanation, only that they had done everything possible and I believe them because I did see them coming and doing everything, even the impossible.
“All the specialist there came together to help her but, well… I had to go in later, like any mother, and say goodbye to her and pick up my things and I decided to have her cremated.”
The mother asked for an autopsy to study and determine what caused her daughter’s death. They told her she would only have to wait two hours at a funeral home in Alamar.
“Many hours passed and finally my little girl’s body arrived and from there we could go to the crematorium and then to her funeral. I am waiting for the Ministry of Health to give me some explanation or, at least, condolences. As of now we know only that she was killed, that’s it. But here I am, standing… I don’t know how.”
Paloma’s mother insists that she has no complaints against the doctors who treated her. She also considers that “it is very unfair” that the nurse who vaccinated her daughter was fired from her job because “she is very competent” and she “does not manufacture the vaccines.”
A few hours after Caballero gave her testimony to this newspaper and almost three days after the death of his daughter, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday that a commission is investigating the causes of the “unfortunate” event.
The health authorities admitted in a statement published on their digital site that between October 7th and 8th three one-year-old children were diagnosed “with an adverse event” associated with the MMR vaccination and that all those children had been vaccinated on 7 October at the “Betancourt Neninger” Polyclinic in the municipality of Habana del Este.
The statement added that “immediately after” the symptoms appeared, “they were admitted and received medical attention by professionals of high scientific level in the pediatric hospitals Borrás Marfán and Centro Habana.”
The health authorities also report that “through active research” that included all children vaccinated in that health district, two more children were detected “with symptoms” and were also admitted.
This vaccine is given in Cuba twice during childhood. The first when the child turns one year old and the second at age six. The latter is almost always injected at elementary schools to first grade students.
In 2018, more than 95,000 children were immunized on the Island with the triple viral vaccine (MMR), a figure that the United Nations Children’s Fund highlighted favorably. Currently Cuba has a vaccination coverage of over 98%, with 11 preparations that protect against 13 diseases. At the same time, the “anti-vaccine” trends have not gained space in Cuba as they have in other nations in the region.
In 2002, three deaths occurred on the Island that were classified as errors during the campaign for the elimination of measles when using a non-sterile dissolvent and in 2004 there was another death due to non-compliance with the rules for vaccine delivery, according to reports by that entity.
However, these data can only be read in official reports sent to international health-related organizations; they were never published in the national press. As a general rule, the Government hides and maintains a strong secrecy around any event derived from medical malpractice, the poor state of drugs or unfavorable reactions to a drug.
In the face of the silence of the health authorities and the official press Paloma Domínguez Caballero is writing letters to send to “every place possible” to get an answer.
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