If You Have a Friend You Have Clout

Veronica Fernandez

Un hombre condecorado.

This weekend I decided to make several visits that I owed. Because the dynamics of work and household chores, time passes and we tend to neglect our good friends, though they’re not guilty for the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Though Cubans go through life with too much stress given all the shortages we face, we mustn’t overlook the value of friendship.

On leaving home, I ran into my friend Rachel. She lives across the street from my house in Cojimar (a town located east of Havana’s bay). Despite being so close, we seldom see each other, but this time we bumped into each other by sheer chance.

She immediately told me that her father had been admitted into the Naval Hospital and that she had put in a lot of effort making sure that he was attended to properly. He had been put under observation and was being kept there in the hope of some positive sign from God.

I was surprised as I listened because I was thinking about what had happened to my mother at that same hospital. I had assumed that things had improved since. But from what my friend told me it was just the opposite, bringing back the memory of everything I had gone through back when my mother was admitted.

What I’m saying is that more than three years after going through what I had to face, now Rachel explained how she had to put pressure on the hospital since they weren’t doing anything for her father.

Based on her complaint they started putting him on medications and he was transferred to the intensive care unit.

This 80-year-old man had been brought in poor condition. He was suffering memory loss and from what the prognosis they gave indicated, it seemed he had had a stroke.

Of course, her father’s condition got even worse and he fell into a near-vegetative state, so she was forced to protest more strongly to the director of the hospital for the time lost in giving him the required attention.

While this was happening, her father Alfredo had been given no sheets or blankets to cover him up, despite the chilly 64-degree (18-Celsius) temperature in his room.

Still, all they said to Rachel was that his condition was typical for a man his age.

She knew that the body of an elderly man was more vulnerable, which is why she couldn’t sit idly by watching her father slip away due to negligence and his not being treated from the moment he arrived at the hospital.

By the end of this whole ordeal, she managed to get them to pay attention to her father’s case and — thanks to friends who work in the health care sector — measures were taken to give him the appropriate treatment and care.

Her father was able to leave that awful place thanks to his good behavior and for his strength in fighting for his life.

What immediately came to my mind was the old saying that has always been popular here in Cuba: He who has a friend has clout.

Alfredo, Rachel’s father, my neighbor and friend, was a combatant in the underground struggle and a member of the July 26 Movement. He holds numerous medals and decorations for his service to his country. He was a founding member of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution.

After all this, what can we expect for others? Words aren’t enough…