A Delicate Operation

Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

Havana's Miguel Enriquez Hospital.  Photo: Caridad
Havana's Miguel Enriquez Hospital. Photo: Caridad

Maria del Carmen has worked for almost 20 years in a warehouse of the Ministry of Education.  Over this time she’s had to grapple with weight beyond her true capacity, producing serious spinal problems: a herniated disk and a spina bifida.  In addition to causing horrible back pain, this has also forced her walk with a stoop, making her look older than she is.

The medical team of the Havana’s General Calixto García Iñiguez Hospital is ideally suited for addressing such a delicate predicament.  On any given day, doctors who are expert in this type surgery would leave Maria del Carmen totally outside of danger, without charging her anything for performing such a delicate operation.

Nonetheless, on Wednesday September 30, the doctor who had been in charge of María del Carmen’s surgical procedure informed her that early the next day she would need to be operated on, along with other patients.

Automatically her nerves went shot, which is normal for anyone scheduled to undergo a surgery where their life is being be put at risk.  From this-if we add the inevitable fasting the day before any operation and the two more indispensable injections-we have an idea of the anxiety-filled preparation required of a patient, like this 40-year-old woman who awoke famished before being wheeled off to the operating room.

A short time had lapsed when the incredible occurred.  Her relatives and the visitors of other patients who shared the room saw her return on her own feet in the same condition as she had left. “I can’t believe it; the anesthetist didn’t show up!” was the patient’s first response.

It was not only the absence of the anesthetist that upset Maria del Carmen, but also the fact that her aunt and cousin-who had made preparations to confront the problems of a person recently operated on in Cuba-had each fruitlessly taken a day of their vacation to take care of her.

Maria added, “They say they’ll operate on me tomorrow for sure.”  So the preparation was repeated a second time, with Maria finally going into the operating room after almost two days of not eating and having undergone four preparatory injections, which sent her into a deep sleep.

But again we saw her return on her own feet to the patient’s room that she had left in the morning.

Upon entering she said, “They had got ready to operate on me first, but my doctor said he couldn’t perform the procedure on me because there wasn’t enough air conditioning in the operating room.” She sighed adding, “They said they’d operate on Monday, without fail.”

These words were once again heard by Maria del Carmen in a room full of perplexed individuals who couldn’t understand what had happened with such a delicate operation.

On Monday the doctor made good on his word, and the third attempt at an operation proved successful, thus concluding the “via crucis” of Maria del Carmen.

Like Cuban news commentator Reinaldo Taladrid always says, “Draw your own conclusions.”