Jul 29, 2006

Yepci returns home

Luz Maria's daughter, Yepci, returned home after 16 days in the hospital. She had to undergo surgery twice, once to stop internal bleeding and again to treat the five bone fractures she suffered in the automobile accident. Yepci has one arm in a cast, but she is able to walk and is slowly recovering from her ordeal. About four or five of the children from our Sunday school have
taken it upon themselves to visit Yepci since she's been back.

She was treated at the large public hospital in Barinas. In Venezuela's health system, the hospital bed and services of the doctors and nurses are completely underwritten by the government. However, the families of patients are responsible for purchasing all the necessary medications and materials used for treatment. The family of Yepci's taxi driver (who was also seriously injured) assumed responsibility for paying for most of Yepci's medications, according to the Venezuelan sense of honor. However, we had to pay about $150 for the materials used in Yepci's second surgery.

Unfortunately, Junior, a young man who asked to have Pastor Paul Pfotenhauer pray over him while the volunteers from Minnesota were here, had to leave the hospital without the operation he needed because his family could not afford similar costs.

In addition, the demand for medical services exceeds the available resources in public hospitals, so it is also the family's reponsibility to ensure the round-the-clock care that the doctors and nurses are unable to provide. Luz Maria and her daughter Charli took turns keeping vigil at Yepci's bedside. Luz Maria would spend at least 12 hours there, then Charli would stay for 12
hours. Of course there were many other family members on hand to help out, but it was a grueling schedule for 16 days, especially because one week was the time in which volunteers from the United States were visiting our mission project.

Yet Luz Maria was glad to devote as much time as she could to our visitors. At one point she asked me if in the United States we used the expression, "The show must go on!"

This past week we visited Luz Maria's sister, Denise, (whom everyone calls Pina) at a private clinic where she is being treated for a kidney infection. Private clinics are available for those who can afford them and offer a higher standard of care.

The Venezuelan government has initiated a program, called MisiĆ³n Barrio Adentro, of building and staffing small community clinics to provide the same level of care to the poor and relieve some of the burden on public hospitals. Some of the staff for these clinics are doctors on loan from Cuba. Such a clinic is under construction in La Caramuca.

Pina and her husband run a very successful restaurant, La Mazorka, in the town of Barinitas. The team of volunteers from Minnesota had dinner there after their whitwater rafting excursion. Pina was pleased that members of the team were willing to try traditional Venezuelan cuisine, including chiguirri, a large rodent that is considered a delicacy here. According to some sources, the chiguirri is the world's largest rodent, typically achieving a mature weight of around 100 pounds. It looks like a cross between a beaver and a wild pig.

Pina once prepared a meal of octopus for Luz Maria and me, but I was not converted into a lover of seafood.

As we were taking the bus back to Barinas from Barinitas, Luz Maria and I noticed a business that sells outdoor swingsets. We resolved to check their prices on our next visit to Barinitas. We had made swings for the children in La Caramuca out of wooden planks and rope with a metal pipe between two trees for support, but they wore out the ropes after a couple of weeks.

Our thanks to everyone for their prayers for Yepci during this difficult time.

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