2 Weeks, 3 Deaths
I have visited a few different hospitals in the United States since I have siblings that like to keep life “interesting!” I have even had to take Mason to the Emergency Room by myself while on a camping trip. And while a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in El Salvador I visited a hospital and got to see what a hospital in a developing country was like. Even with all of the “preparation” I received with my life experiences, it didn’t completely prepare me for the past 2 weeks here in the Philippines.
On Saturday, July 27 we visited my cousin Diana in the hospital after she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. And then 2 days later she passed away from an infection, bleeding and water in her lungs. That was on Monday, July 29…she was 30 years old.
On Saturday, August 3, we received a phone call at 6am from a roommate of our driver saying that he is in the hospital.
It wasn’t clear why Fabian (our driver) went to the hospital and we had to ask interpreters to understand what was going on. Apparently he had a stroke (blood clot) and needed to be transferred and the hospital was waiting to be told want to do next. Fabian is married and has a 2 year old daughter and 8 month old son. He works for a driving company and was assigned to be our driver when we arrived in the Philippines 9 months ago. He worked for us 7 days a week, taking us all over the Philippines…he was like a member of our family.
I got to the hospital and quickly realized that things are done differently here. First off, they weren’t going to let him into the “public hospital” since he didn’t have the right card or license that said he could use the hospital. Luckily his roommate was smart enough to bring Fabian’s ID badge for our condo that indicates that he works in the area. So, he got into the ER. I got to the hospital around 9am and was able to talk to a doctor there. I was told that the right side of his body is weak and that he has some kind of blockage to the left side of his brain. I asked what the next step would be, and the doctor said that his brain will start to swell and will need surgery and he needs to be in the ICU, but there are not any beds available at that hospital…he needs to be transferred. OK…lets’s transfer him, doesn’t seem that difficult. A representative from the company Fabian works for shows up at the hospital and gets things going, so I am not needed, but I wanted to make sure he got on the ambulance and got transferred. Before he can be transferred, the ambulance that will be used needs to be paid for. Then a phone call needs to be made to the “receiving hospital” to make sure there is a bed available for him. Also, he needs to be cleaned up before they transfer him…and that is a job for family members. In our case it was the job of his roommate since his wife (who stays out in the province) was on a bus trying to get to the hospital. And someone needs to buy all of the items needed to clean up the patient…his company paid for the items needed.
At noon I finally left since I really wasn’t doing anything except for watching people. I thought that he would be transferred any minute since there were 3 ambulances sitting in the parking lot. Well, at 6pm we finally got word that he was finally transferred. Not to the hospital that I was told he was going to earlier that day, but a different one. The next morning around 10am we got a phone call from Fabian’s wife asking for 80,000 pesos (about $2,000 USD) so Fabian could have surgery. We said ok without much hesitation, having just recently witnessed our cousin pass away due in part to a lack of quality health care. At this hospital it was nicer, but still odd. We were not allowed to sit inside the lobby of the hospital because Mason is 4 years old. Only 7 year olds and up are allowed inside the hospital, so the kids and I sat outside and waited for Matt to take care of things. We met Fabian’s wife and mother-in-law and Matt got more information from the doctor on the status of Fabian. After having paid the 80,000 PHP, we later found out that it was just a deposit for brain surgery to relieve swelling, and the whole bill would be 500,000 pesos (about $11,500 USD). Matt was also told that half of Fabian’s brain was already dead. If he did survive surgery (50/50 chance according to the doctor) he would likely stay comatose and never function again (and would be a perpetual financial burden on the family). This news was devastating to everyone. At that time, a decision was then made to transfer Fabian to a charity hospital where resident doctors would perform the surgery at a reduced rate. Matt was then refunded the deposit, but the charity option later fell through and the surgery was not performed. Fabian finally passed away on Tuesday, August 6, at 3pm. He was 45 years old.
On Thursday, August 8, Matt texted me and told me of a co-worker that was at the hospital, apparently he had a brain aneurysm….this co-worker was 32 years old. We received word that he passed away on Friday, August 9. We went to his wake on August 10 to give our condolences.
Matt and I just returned from the burial of our cousin Diana. She will be at a nearby cemetery for the next 5 years. If the family wants to keep her body there, they will need to renew the spot in 2018. If they can not afford to renew, the body with be disposed of. It was heart breaking to see the children, husband and mother of our cousin Diana weep as she was finally laid to rest. These deaths have made us realize how fragile life is and how quickly loved ones can be taken from us. We need to live each day to the fullest and live in a way that will have us be prepared if/when we were called home.