Paula Garcia Tufro

Paula (ADVIMA, Guatemala): Paula was studying for a Master’s degree in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown, at the time of her fellowship on Guatemala. Her full name is being withheld at her request.

Preventable Death

16 Jun

I was going to start my blog today with a summary of my work the past few weeks, but have decided to save that for the next blog and take this opportunity to put a human face to the situation being experienced by the communities that have suffered and continue to suffer negative consequences stemming directly from the construction of the Chixoy Dam 28 years ago.

Two days ago, as I headed back to Rabinal after coming to the capital to meet with some U.S. attorneys that have come to join the cause on behalf of the affected communities, we learned that one of the leaders of ADIVIMA had had to travel 4 hours to Rio Negro to pick up one of the community members who suddenly fell very ill.

Arriving at the remote community at 3am, he drove from town to town trying to find a hospital that would take this person in. After being turned away from a number of hospitals and clinics either because they were not yet open or because they couldn´t take him in, he made it all the way to Salama, another 4 hours away. That is how isolated these communities are, and how much they are lacking in medical attention and /or medical kits on site.

Yesterday we learned that this man had died. He was one of my supervisor´s brother. He was among the people of the Rio Negro community who returned to Rio Negro after the massacres and refused to stay in Pacux, the “model” community which was created by the military as part of its policy of forced resettlement.

Not only is his death tragic for the family and the community, but it is also yet another example of what is lacking in these communities. This man did not die due to a strange or uncurable disease. He had an appendicitis attack. And while I know many people that have had that ailment, and all of them had recovered fully afterwards, this man did not have access to immediate care. He had no access to medicines or a doctor, and had to wait 8 hours before being accepted into an emergency room.

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Normally, the appendix is open to the intestine, but it can become blocked by hardened stool, swollen tissue, or parasites.

Appendicitis occurs when bacteria grow in the blocked appendix and cause it to become swollen and infected. If the infection progresses, the swelling can cut off the blood supply to the appendix, killing the tissue. The wall of the appendix then ruptures and the infection spills into the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis. The only treatment for appendicitis is removal of the appendix (appendectomy). If it is not removed, the appendix is likely to rupture and spread infection (peritonitis) to the tissue lining the abdomen. The removal of the appendix usually is an uncomplicated surgery with little risk.

This was a preventable death. All this man needed was access to a hospital and that, among many other things is something that he lacked. His community´s isolation and the lack of any initiative to provide these communities with access to health care cost this man his life.

Posted By Paula Garcia Tufro

Posted Jun 16th, 2007

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