He came to check on a piece of furniture he had built for our room and to help with our phone lines. Now, with the baby, we can’t be isolated when our phones die, or power is out, or the reception goes caput, so he, who we shall call Mr. R, is our go-to-guy. He has worked with my dad for years, calls us by our first names and always takes a moment to show us love.

When Mr. R arrived, I walked up to say hi with my baby in arms, my husband next to me. He greeted the kid, smiling with a “está grande.

“My sister just had her baby, a week ago,” he said, and we smiled; he didn’t. “She went in for a check-up, and she was leaking.”

By that, we assumed her water had broken — Mr. R wasn’t specific.

“She was ready to give birth?” I asked.

“The insurance company (hadn’t approved the budget) yet. She’s a school teacher, so it was that or a public hospital. Her doctor told her to come back on Tuesday, and we assumed everything was fine. This happened on a Friday.”

My baby kept on smiling and being cute, as babies do. But there was a shadow in R’s eyes and I just knew a happy ending wasn’t coming.

“She went in on Tuesday and the doctor told her the baby died the day before.”

He wanted to charge for the delivery, so he waited for the insurance company.

And it’s not so much what he said, but how. I felt out of place trying to comfort him while holding my happy daughter.

“The doctor just didn’t tell us she was ready to give birth. We would have taken her to a hospital.”

“But how? How could the doctor be so irresponsible?”

“Well,” he shrugged. “The baby pooped in the womb and got infected.”

This, by the way, is a medical emergency; if a baby is overdue, or has experienced stress before birth, he may defecate prior to delivery, hence risking breathing in meconium, right into the lungs.

“The doctor said nothing after my sister started leaking amniotic fluid” said R. “He wanted to charge for the delivery, so he waited for the insurance company.”

And he just kept repeating it, alone among us: “If he had told us she was ready, we would have taken her to a hospital.”

***

Hours after hearing the story, I was still shaken with what we’ve become. The current crisis is not only destroying our quality of life, it’s destroying what defines us as human beings. Babies are dying, mothers are dying, and no one is held accountable for anything.

The insurance delayed its answer to avoid paying and the doctor delayed the baby’s delivery to charge them.

And justice will be forever denied to them because this family doesn’t even consider the possibility of the system doing its job.

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