Fear, the Psyche and My Friend’s Fever in Cuba

Carlos Fraguela

HAVANA TIMES — Three weeks ago, my friend Ariel had an extremely high fever for three days in a row. His temperature never dropped beneath 38. Everything seemed to indicate it was a cold caused by one of the many new strains of virus around. I realized I had no choice but to look after him.

The lay doctor in me told me of the danger of a fever over 39, which is why I took him to the polyclinic in my neighborhood, knowing they would prescribe an injection of dipyrone, to bring down the fever. I was wrong. My friend, who had been thinking about how to avoid getting the needle, convinced the doctor he didn’t need it.

My friend is a strong person, but he has a wild aversion to needles. Minutes before going into the polyclinic, he had said to me, in a very serious tone, that he is “allergic to needles”, something that made me burst out laughing. Though I don’t like needles either, my rational side helps me overcome this fear when I have to do it for health reasons.

He had to ask for time off at work because the cold he’d caught made him cough so much he couldn’t even talk. It is a virus that is killing malnourished people and people who have a poorly-trained immune system around the country.

As it turns out, my buddy again came down with a fever of 38 and a half two days ago, and I, who hadn’t forgotten I’d lost sleep taking him to the doctor the last time, told him there was no escaping the injectable dipyrone this time around. He grudgingly allowed himself to be taken to the doctor.

I know you won’t believe me, but, when I told the doctor that my friend had a fever, the incredulous doctor laid a hand on his forehead to check his temperature and said: “You’re colder than a frog’s belly. Look, go home and continue taking your cold medication.” I am very slow figuring things out, which is why it took me a long time to realize that the fear of getting a shot had brought down his fever immediately.