In search of lost empathy

Copyright Ben Perkins (aka Mr. Moraima)
Copyright Ben Perkins (aka Mr. Moraima)

(A guest post by friend-of-the-blog and sometimes-collaborator Moraima García)

As a long-time reader of the blog, I have to confess I was more than a tad skeptic when Juan announced where he wanted to take the blog, talking about trying to be optimistic. After all the destruction, can hope still live? No, I said to myself.

Then … my grandmother got sick and I saw the other side of polarization.

My grandmother is 86 years old and quite healthy, despite having borne nine children and living a really tough life working the fields in the mountains of Yaracuy. Now she is showing her age, and we know that from here on out, every year with her around is a bonus we are tremendously fortunate to enjoy.

Recently she suffered quite a serious episode, an infection that caused severe dehydration and low blood pressure, made her unconscious, and made us think the worst was coming. Since she lives in the barrio of Las Adjuntas, it’s quite challenging to find medical attention, but there is a fire station nearby, and in Venezuela they also provide emergency medical services.

That is where my sister went when my grandmother was taking a turn for the worse. They came up the stairs to check on her, administered fluids, and recommended waiting to see if she would improve. They asked to be called if things got worse.

They did, and later that night the firefighters went up the hill again (fifty six steps, I’ve counted them) … and took her down those same stairs in a stretcher to get her to a hospital.

They knew finding a taxi past 10:00 pm was going to be difficult and expensive, so they let my mother, aunt, sister and cousin ride in the ambulance with them. At the public hospital, doctors recommended going to a private lab that could quickly run some tests to find out the type of infection that was causing the problem. Running them at the hospital was going to take until the following day, and waiting was not a good idea.

The firefighters took my sister in the ambulance to the private lab, waited there with her until the results were done, and then drove her back to the hospital to avoid the risk of a woman alone taking taxis or public transportation in the vicinity of the Perez Carreño Hospital, which is not the safest area in the city. While they waited, my family shared a few black beans empanadas they had brought with firefighters, a good thing since there wasn’t any place to get food at that time.

With the test results, the doctors were able to finally figure out the course of treatment. They released my grandmother at around 2:00 am. The fire fighters’ ambulance was there, waiting to take them all back to Las Adjuntas … and up the stairs the stretcher went.

We are happy to report my grandmother is doing really well.

Beyond our immense gratitude to these public servants that did their jobs and much more, what this story made me think was that, despite all the chaos and polarization, there are countless people in Venezuela doing their job to the best of their abilities, and even going out of their way to help one another. As I wrote this, I remembered the doctors that, while being brutally repressed, still stopped to aid the government bureaucrat that had fallen victim to the effects of tear gas.

This is also Venezuela. I know that, for example, seeing the Tupamaros sitting at a table to have a “dialogue” with the MUD can make a lot of people fall into despair. Still, we need to remember that the minority of thugs currently holding the country hostage does not represent all of Venezuela. They don’t even represent the half that still voted for them a year ago.

I’ve heard people saying that a natural disaster would be something that could bring the country together, but I hope it does not need to come to that. I hope that small acts of kindness and solidarity, like the help my grandmother got, can remind us that Chavistas are not from Mars and the opposition is not from Venus. We are all from Venezuela.