New Earth Peru Blog: A Jaunt To The City…

 

Written by Greg Paul

This post was originally written on December 18th 2015. Because of the portal changes and other reasons, we have delayed a bit on publishing it. Stayed tuned for more updates over the next few days – Greg

So as you will know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, our baby girl Aurora, born here in Peru, had been sick… well although I’ve not written any more on this, the fact is that she never properly recovered… she got better then worse, better then worse, and on and on, every time lulling us into a false sense of security. Then around the 20th Nov took a serious dive (now weighing in at 4.5 kilos, a half kilo less than two months earlier)… We took her to the nearest hospital in Chazuta but they did nothing but prescribe a medicine that made her worse (not to mention the additional stress on her heavily dehydrated body from travelling there in the first place), and so upon returning home, we resolved (after what was then a total of 6 trips to two different hospitals each a waste of time) to take her to Lima where we were told there would be better care… the problem however was that she may well not have made the trip alive. So we decided to first go to the central city hospital in Tarapoto to prepare her for the journey. This was Sunday 22nd and had we known earlier that Peruvians don’t get sick on Sundays, we would have taken her on Sunday’s before! They did the usual tests and found a ‘virus’ and ‘anaemia’ but no suggestion as to what the virus was. By the time we got out of the hospital at midnight, she was sufficiently hydrated to make the journey. But having by now had little sleep for several days, we were ill prepared for what lay ahead…

So after arriving at the Airport (with a baby who would make anyone cry upon looking at her) we discovered that the flight we had intended to catch had been cancelled and we would have to wait about 5 hours for the next one. One would have hoped that the airport staff would have had a modicum of compassion, but after promising to help us ‘in 30 minutes’ we were still left sitting in the check-in desk three hours later, and having not bought a ticket before arriving were told initially (and get this) that regardless of circumstance it would not be possible for us to fly… that it was not ‘policy’ to issue tickets at the desk! Anyway, after several hours and a few choice words, one of the airlines agreed to sell us some tickets (taking advantage of our situation by charging a higher price), and a little later still we were in the air…

Upon arrival (fortunately our good friend Luiggi was there to pick us up), we headed straight for what we had been told was the best emergency room in Lima. But they refused to admit her, stating that it was not an ‘emergency’ because we had engaged premeditated travel rather than taking her to the nearest ER! So off we went to the central children’s hospital… where again, they had no intention of admitting her (if you could have seen her you would have been astonished). At this point in time I have less than $400 in my pocket, and had not yet the chance to call upon anyone for assistance so public hospitals were the only option…

It had been a long time since I had been in a place with so little compassion – even the soulless folks in the UK have more light in the eyes… Lima (or at least the parts I had seen by this time) I can quite honestly say is the closest thing to hell I have ever witnessed first-hand. In the end the children’s hospital agreed to admit her. It turned out that their reluctance was owing to the fact that they had no beds, and it wasn’t until we told them that she was born ‘Peruvian’ that they agreed to find a bed.

So by now it’s gone 11pm and mindful that Luiggi has to get the car back to its owner, and given that only one parent and no children were allowed to accompany Aurora, we headed out to find a hotel for Maia and I… The only one we could find in walking distance of the hospital charged by the hour, had plastic mattresses and we had to leave the tv on all night to drown out the unsavoury sounds.

Maia’s first whore-house (not a picture caption I ever envisaged writing!)

Now I am a pretty strong person (as humans go), but with one child in a hospital whose survival was very much uncertain and the other in a whore-house (and NO noticeable prospect of a let-up in circumstances) I was in a pretty much in a permanent state of holding back the tears for some two days (the only reason I didn’t let it all out being the need to be strong for Maia)…

This is the first time in a number of years that I had had any kind of real psychological challenge… I had not the faintest idea how we were going to get through this. Having committed to the level we have to our chosen path in life, when things like this happen there is NOTHING to fall back on but one’s own capacity for calmness in the storm.

Fernando, a delightful Peruvian man of about my age who lives in Lima and had visited us in Aguano a month or so earlier, had met us at the hospital to assist with translation and the like (my Spanish still not sufficient to handle fine details) and also accompanied us to find a hotel… it had been Fernando who helped me carry our bags to the top floor of our now brothel home (past a dozen different screaming hookers), and as a conscious parent of two girls of equal age to my own, was particularly troubled by the scenario. Both he and Luiggi would of course have offered us a room in their houses but they were a long way away and we needed to be near Emma and Aurora so this was not an option. Fernando was immediately on the phone the next morning to offer to come and help us find alternative accommodation. I remember lying in the bed that night, listening to the muffled sound of oh’s and ugh’s behind the full volume television half crying for the wellbeing of my children and half thinking how grateful I was that we at least had a bed… that there were likely other people and other children in the cesspit which is Lima that were not so lucky!  We were however without drinkable water or edible food (and I personally had not eaten properly for 3 days)…

The next morning, we relocated to another hotel… significantly better than the last, ‘Hotel America’ was by far the best hotel within walking distance of the hospital, but it was still a bastion of the sex trade – this was simply the nature of this part of Lima, so we were going to have to get used to it… Over the course of our 9 days here I came to find a certain amusement in the sex trade element – the sounds were significantly less in this hotel but nonetheless every hour or so one would hear aah, ahh, ooh, ooh for a minute or so, and then 3 minutes later the shower would go on – it was like a well-oiled machine by which one could set their watch… there was almost a certain comfort in it regiment!

Also on day 2 I was fortunate to remember why I enjoyed our last two years in England so much – to be a shining light in a world of other shining lights (much like our time Bali) is very nice but can get a little boring after a while… on the contrary being a shining light in a world of darkness affords a certain exhilaration – the effect one has on those around them is significantly greater, and life seems that little bit more fulfilling. So Maia and I spent much of the day smiling and talking to everyone we passed, and having an awful lot of fun playing silly games and the like… but fun was never permanent for Maia whilst we were in Lima – eventually she would remember that her Mama was not there and that she wouldn’t be able to see her properly… you see Maia was never allowed into the hospital proper – children mixing with pathogens and all that – which meant that there always had to be one of us inside the ward with Aurora and one of us outside with Maia. Emma and I were little more than ships that pass in the night – during the time of the greatest challenge for our family, we would have to each handle it very much alone…

Day 3 I finally found a meal that was only partly repugnant to my digestive system – which, would you believe it, was KFC! It’s difficult to imagine that the healthiest meal we had been able to find in 3 days was a fast-food franchise but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it! The next day we did however finally find a proper restaurant and get our first truly healthy meal…

Maia was really the champion of this journey – despite only being able to see here Mama for 1 hour a day; despite spending all day every day traipsing round a hell-hole; despite having to sleep with me every night; despite a great many things, she just kept on going. We had a lot of fun Maia and I – somehow turning a nightmare of an experience into one of many fond memories.

The next morning, Emma was very much at breaking point – whilst the doctors and equipment at this hospital were second to none (in Peru at least) the care of the nurses was very much the opposite, and on top of the normal things you would expect from a group of pissed-off public servants who appear to despise their jobs, there was a quite obvious flavour of discrimination toward Emma, and absolutely zero consideration for the general family circumstances, and to top it all off, for the 5 days Emma had been in the hospital, she had not been able to get any sleep – she had a chair to sleep in, and Aurora a cot, but both of our girls have slept together with us since the days they were born, so Aurora would not sleep alone in the cot and the nurses would wake Emma up the moment she fell asleep with Aurora in the chair because, get this, “it wasn’t safe for a baby to sleep on a mother’s lap!”

This day was however very much a day of angels… we still had no money to buy so much as a pot to piss in (and money is definitely the currency in Lima!) but people have surfaced that really make a difference…

There was Dr Pascuale, the kind wise man, who was the private family physician of my friend Fernando who, upon hearing of our circumstances from Fernando, offered his not inconsiderable services as one of the most well-respected doctors in the city free of charge! I was on the phone to him in the evenings, sending him test results, etc. and then directing the doctors in the hospital according to his considerably more sage advice… however I didn’t have to do this for long as we soon discovered that Francisco (the lovely English speaking intern doctor who was responsible for most of Aurora’s day-to-day care) was in fact a former student of Dr Pascual’s, so they began communicating directly!

There was also Emma the receptionist at our new hotel – what are the chances of the first Peruvian woman you meet that is good to you having the same western name as your wife!

And then of course there is saint Fernando – Fernando was introduced to me several months earlier by a friend, and had come to visit us in Aguano… being very much in alignment with our project here, we had kept in touch and made many plans for future collaboration. Fernando has lived in Liam all his life, but having woken up, left his former career behind to create books and other products that nurture “love and wisdom for children”. Fernando had been there to support us with a great many things since our arrival – always dropping everything should we need…

Later that day, Emma too rediscovered the magic of being a shining light in a world of darkness… and that evening discovered a thread of commonality with the otherwise emotionally bereft crew of nurses – that thread being Reiki… Emma is a Reiki Master/Teacher and, it seems, all the doctors and nurses are fully conversant with Reiki in Peru! Despite their interest however, they don’t get trained by the state to practice it, so when Emma began giving treatments to the other mothers in the ward they were very interested… I think everyone had a session! Several hours and a great deal of female camaraderie later and a sense of feminine solidarity had at last begun to build!

The next day was an interesting day… first of all, Aurora has all of a sudden tested negative for everything – she was, according to doctors, the definition of perfect health! They were however confounded by this and were not releasing her – in fact they instead ramped up testing to try to find out what it is she had or did have… 1. Because they had never seen anything quite like this occur before, and 2. Because given the amount of times we have thought she was ok in the past only to have her take a dive again, they (and we) were not convinced that whatever it is had gone away at all.

The other tests they wish to conduct cannot be done at the hospital, and the external laboratory that is supposed to conduct them doesn’t work weekends so we’re on hold until Monday…

In other news, we finally got some money! I was down to the last $3 and Luiggi and Fernando were unable to help with transport on the day so I took a risk and spent the $3 on a taxi (with Maia in tow) to another shit hole part of town in the hope that the Western Union would be open and that the transfer would work and we wouldn’t be stranded… it was, it did and we weren’t!

A couple of days later, after getting the all clear two days ago, Aurora had dumped all the electrolytes from her blood again…

No one knew why – “errores innatos metabolism” (a rare condition which translates as some kind of genetic metabolic defect) remained the doctors main thought as to the problem, however they are unable to test for it in the hospital – we have to go to a private laboratory on the other side of the city… I arranged an appointment for 2.30pm the same day but the hospital said they did not have an ambulance available til 4pm. This was not good enough for me and, since Aurora at least looked a lot better, decided I would take her in a taxi… Nothing is ever that simple of course, and the Doctor’s, firm in their belief that they had the authority to deny me taking my daughter to the lab in a taxi, tried to prevent me from doing so… This too was unacceptable (especially as the only reason they could give to justify their position was their insurance policy) so I determined that I would take her anyway. They brought doctor after doctor to try to convince me otherwise – I went through numerous doctors (each a little more wise and capable than the last) until there were at least half a dozen doctors stood round myself and the chief physician discussing (very calmly) what was going to happen! In the end, out of respect for the brilliant doctors in the hospital, I agreed to delay the trip til tomorrow provided they had an ambulance waiting first thing in the morning, but not until there had been 30 mins of (very diplomatic) discussion wherein they learnt exactly where and where not their notions of control had merit and where and where not they would be tolerated going forward… likewise, as I mentioned, Emma had been enduring a lot of problems with the nurses owing to bullshit hospital rules, and so having laid down some laws already, decided to address all. The result being that ALL bullshit rules were ‘waived’, all nurses were put on notice by the doctors, and Emma became the queen of her little corner of the castle!

So we were no closer to diagnosis or solution that we were a week earlier, but we had removed a great many of the obstacles to continuing stress and strife…

So to make an already long story a little less long, three days later Aurora was released from hospital (the conclusion being that the whole thing was a chain of reactions originally beginning with a misdiagnosed ear infection)! We were VERY happy to be back together as a family again after what we had collectively endured… However before Aurora could be ‘released’ there was some ‘paperwork’ to attend to…

Together again!

Normally, being the way I am, I would not have bothered with the paperwork at all and, with or without a doctor’s signature, would have picked up my baby and walked out of the door… but the doctors had been very good to us and so I decided to entertain them a little. Now as we don’t speak very good Spanish, our good friend Dr Francis accompanied me… it took us 3 hours! Running around between various counters to do (and redo) various things. For my own part, after 30 mins, I would have scorned the bureaucracy and upped and left, but this time I had Dr Francis with me and this was the first time he had every experienced the other side of the fence, so noticing that this was already becoming quite a traumatic experience for him just 20 mins or so in, I decided to run with it… and Dr Francis was a changed man for it. By the end to the debacle, he was shocked to have experienced what his patients have to go through every day (and he goes straight to the front of every queue being a doctor so it would have taken twice as long for anyone else… anyhow, I digress).

 

So having finally gotten out of the hospital, we returned to the hotel and packed bags…

Now our good friend Luiggi had hooked us up with an apartment in what was allegedly the nice part of Lima, but having driven to the hospital in the so-called nice part of Lima on our arrival 9 days earlier, didn’t have very high expectations… well I was pleasantly surprised! What we had ended up with was a VERY comfortable 2000+ ft2 apartment in what really is the ‘west end’ of Lima… exactly what we needed, thank you Luiggi!

What hot water, washing machine and a comfy bed looks like… happy days!

One day later and Aurora is sick again! She now has a chest infection… so the day was very much a mixed bag of cleaning the apartment, getting supplies, making baby food etc and calling doctors… it appeared entirely unrelated however and so we decided to see how it went (and it did eventually clear itself up a week or so later).

We spent another 16 days in Lima, wanting to make absolutely sure that Aurora was better before returning to Aguano. And I had a few other things to take care of so it all worked out quite nicely to give us all a little respite from the rigours of jungle life in our more luxurious surroundings…

In closing I feel duty bound to add, knowing as I did the whole time throughout this story (and throughout the entirety of the last several years of the NE journey) that everything is proceeding according to the divine order, I would not change a single thing about any of this (nor would I have at the time either), but it has still been HARD… harder than these words can ever convey… and so the question I would urge anyone who is thinking about taking on a similar mission to the one my family and I have adopted is, make sure you’re open to ANYTHING!

Originally posted @ New Earth Nation

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