Life sure throws us curveballs sometimes.

I was feeling reasonably well this holiday season. I had very few symptoms and a pretty good energy level, perhaps 70 to 80%.  I even decided to go on a family vacation to Cuba for New Year’s. It started out great; however, the day after we arrived, my son began throwing up and complaining of stomach pain. The following day he was rushed to hospital for an appendectomy.

The only pediatric hospital near Varadero is in Matanzas, and what a shocker it was. The decrepit old building looked more like an abandoned factory than a hospital, with dirty floors, sheetless old mattresses, mouldy ceilings, decaying tiles, and the list goes on…  This is not one of the state-of-the-art hospitals Michael Moore boasted about in his documentary Sicko.  No, this is an example of a Cuban hospital that has fallen into egregious disrepair. It’s the real health care Cubans receive. It’s also a part of Cuba that few tourists ever see or experience.  If you want to see what I’m talking about, take a look at the video below.

Our son needed emergency surgery, and this is where it was going to happen? We were told there was a pediatric hospital for tourists in Havana, but it was an hour and a half away-  too dangerous for my son to wait that long. We had to make a life and death decision but we felt we had no choice, really.  Our son had acute appendicitis and it couldn’t wait.

The surgery only lasted an hour, but it felt like we had been waiting for hours. A nurse was kind enough to update us every so often, but we still felt apprehensive. Our son was having surgery in a hospital that didn’t have toilet paper, soap or even hot water in its restrooms. What conditions was he being operated under? Would he be more susceptible to infections afterward? Was their equipment sterilized properly? Our heads were spinning.

We got to see our son soon after the surgery. He was groggy, but looked okay.  The surgeon and anesthetist both came to see us then. They reassured us that everything had gone smoothly and our son should recover normally. They also addressed our concerns and fears about the hospital itself. They told us that even though the state of the hospital is abysmal its doctors are excellent. True, Cuban standards may not live up to those of some developed countries, but Cuban doctors are internationally renowned for their professional training and competence.

I returned to the hotel to be with our daughter that night and my husband stayed at the hospital with our son. I also had to call the insurance company to make sure the hospital bill was going to be taken care of. This proved to be a roller coaster of exotic proportions!

I returned home with my daughter as planned. The boys had to wait another ten days. Surgeon’s orders.

The strain of this ‘vacation’ prompted the dreaded return of many old symptoms a few days after I arrived in Montreal. This time, instead of fearing my unexpected visitors, I decided to welcome them into my ‘home’ with open arms, in hopes they would bid their farewells as soon as possible.

I am confident my body will heal itself when it’s good and ready. I just have to be patient. My energy level is about 30-40% now, so I need to go back to the basics: pacing, pacing and more pacing.

A curveball indeed!

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2 Responses to Curveballs

  1. Glennis says:

    Hi Fatima,
    Wow. Not the best way to start off the New Year! I hope your son is well now. I know, it’s a unique and significant challenge to balance all things in life with a chronic illness. Hang in there.

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