La Familia Baez: Vanessa

October 21, 2011

J and I were smack dab in the middle of a 20-minute intensely charismatic Pentecostal revival prayer…or something. I was less praying and more nervously gawking at all the jerking and shaking and muttering of tongues going around. Not going to lie, for someone who grew up in a very conservative Chinese church, it was a little disconcerting.

In any case, amidst the chaos, J got a text message from Joana Baez to please call immediately. As it turns out, Vanessa, the fourth youngest child of the Baez clan at 12-years-old, was suffering from possible appendicitis. The two oldest, Joana and Jessica, had already had surgeries to remove their appendixes, so we had reason to fear the same situation for Vane.

We rushed over to the house, packed Joana and a sobbing Vanessa into the car, and drove off to the nearest emergency room at a public hospital. “Healthcare” is free in this country, but for those who wish to receive any sort of real care, they can choose to purchase their own insurance and pay to go to better hospitals. Obviously, this was not an option here, so off we went to the hospital for the poor. Which was more a sorry excuse for a building than a place for medical treatment.

The above photo shows the original state of B’s bedroom in Boston on move-in day. I was horrified. Imagine that times five spread in FOUR different places in the preliminary examination room and hallway. The walls and ceiling were practically covered in black growth. It also smelled like rotting feces, and the bathroom had no sink. Right outside the building was a ditch filled with trash and dirty water; prime breeding grounds for dengue mosquitoes was my first thought. Welcome to free healthcare in Paraguay.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a busy night and Vane was taken in right away. An hour later, it was determined she did not have appendicitis, so a blood test was taken and she was given a few painful shots in the butt (pain killers, I think? I wasn’t sure…). When the blood test came out clean, they decided it might be a UTI or a kidney infection, so a urine sample was ordered. We were told we could come back the next day for results or if we wished to wait an hour, we might be able to have the tests read then. We waited.

In the meantime, we moved to a bench outside, where the doctor was yukking it up with his crew, smoking, and having a grand old time. It was so bizarre. I went across the street to buy empanadas and juice boxes at a tiny stand as the girls hadn’t eaten dinner, and when I returned, I watched a swarm of giant cockroaches scuttle out of the waiting room. Deeelightful.

Eventually a print-out of the urine test was handed to us and Joana took it to the doctor, who was still hanging outside. In between draining his cigarette and gossiping with his buddies, he managed to inform us that the test had come out clean so we would need to return the next day for an x-ray. And like that we were discharged. No continuing care instructions, no further paperwork, no pain meds.

Ah, life in a developing country.

P.S. Vanessa felt completely fine this morning and after consulting with another doctor, it was determined she didn’t need an x-ray and is free to continue on her merry way. Praise God that prayer works even in the face of the most aggressive affronts of mold and poverty.

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