Ten days ago I started coming down with a cough and a cold. I went to the pharmacy to buy some cough syrup, vitamins and acetaminophen, to prepare for my first cold of the summer. They had nothing. As the most important thing is to stay hydrated, I became resigned to curing myself with water. On the fifth day it wasn’t gong very well so I went back to the doctor who listened to my lungs and diagnosed me with asthma. As I had no fever, muscles aches or headaches, he ruled out H1N1 and ordered a spray.
Twenty-four hours later I was still breathing badly so I went to bother a friend who is a doctor and who always ends up saddled with me. She didn’t have to do any more than listen with a stethoscope to my back to tell me:
- Of course the spray hasn’t done anything, you don’t have asthma, it’s settling in the lungs… in two days you’ll have pneumonia if you don’t start taking antibiotics.
Luckily I'm already well, a gift between friends yielded:
- two tubes of vitamin C - one tube of vitamins - a strip of Dipyrone, an anti-inflammatory.
I have to take the bull by the horns once more against the Cuban health system. Talking to people I know, for example, a doctor is not authorized to prescribe medicine that they don’t have at the pharmacy. For example, if you have a cold and the pharmacy doesn't have anything to buy, neither cough syrups nor vitamins. Then the usual thing would be to ask the doctor if the medicine can be bought at an international pharmacy or to ask a family member abroad, but the doctor is not authorized to give that answer.
In a case where it’s not possible to get the medicine, not even in CUCs and you don’t have family abroad, then it’s assumed that you have the right to appeal for the medicine through Law 232, which says that the state will arrange to buy and distribute it. I have two friends who have been in this situation, neither of the two managed to even start the paperwork because the doctor who saw them thought the case wasn’t sufficiently important to be presented to the pharmacological commission that reviews it and then elevates it to the ministry, where they review it again and approve it. In the first case the person died from chronic heart failure and the second person is losing their sight for lack of a vitamin.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.