A 3-year-old little girl in Venezuela would up in the hospital for two months after scraping her knee. The problem wasn’t that the injury was serious, it wasn’t. But Ashley Pacheco wound up fighting for her life because of severe shortages of even basic medicines in Venezuela. Ashley’s parents had to stop working, empty out their savings and sell most of their belongings just to fight to keep her alive. From the Associated Press:
Ashley’s parents had been determined to shield her from the chaos engulfing their country. As the public school system collapsed , they sent her to a private Catholic preschool. As food grew harder to find, they made sure she had protein at every meal. When water began coming out of the taps with a foul smell, they boiled it before her daily bath.
But a week after her fall in mid-July, Ashley started to run a fever.
The family took Ashley to three different hospitals before finding one that would take her. By that time she had a 103 fever and her entire leg had swollen with an infection. But the hospital they entered sounds like something out of a horror movie:
In Ashley’s hospital, the janitorial staff had run out of bleach to clean the floors. Stray dogs wandered the building, and cockroaches scuttled by on the walls. The water in the bathroom sometimes came out black.
And in her emergency care room, the sink was broken, the soap dispenser was empty and there was nothing in the container marked “sterile gloves.” Yet with the hospital so crowded that women in labor were sharing beds, her parents felt lucky she had been admitted at all.
Ashley was put on anti-biotics to clear up the knee infection, but by the time she got treatment the infection had already spread to her chest. One of the little girl’s lungs collapsed. The machine to remove air from her chest was not available so doctors stuck a needle in her chest to let the air escape. While that kept the her from suffocating, her doctor warned he would have to amputate the three year-old’s leg if the infection wasn’t dealt with quickly. But the hospital was out of anti-biotics.
Ashley’s parents, especially father Maykol, are the heroes of this piece. Maykol is clearly willing to do whatever it takes to save his little girl. So he quits his job and devotes all of his time waiting in lines and scouring the city for the supplies and medicine needed to save Ashley’s life. He manages to find a small supply of anti-biotics but gets in a motorcycle accident while rushing back to the hospital for Ashley’s surgery to drain her infected leg.
A week later the family sees some improvement in Ashley’s condition and is finally hopeful she will soon be able to return home. And then something much worse happens:
Oriana [Ashley’s mother] noticed something new: red spots spreading across her still-swollen skin.
Rangel felt a wave of disappointment as he recognized the telltale sign of a heart infection. There hadn’t been enough antibiotics to stop the staph from quietly spreading all this time.
In order to save Ashley’s life, her father would somehow have to locate (and pay for) nearly 50 vials of the anti-biotic vancomycin in a city where finding even one was difficult. And the nightmare keeps going like this. After saving Ashley’s leg and then her heart, she gets a lung infection. Fighting that infection will require another medicine which the doctor tells Ashley’s parents is not available anywhere in Venezuela.
Ashley survives, thanks to the dedication of her family, but all is not well. Doctors believe Ashley’s leg may not grow normally because of damage to the growth plate of her knee and one of her heart valves has been scarred by the infection and may need to be replaced as she grows older. The AP doesn’t shy away from naming the problem that caused Ashley and her family all of this unnecessary misery:
The left-wing administration of President Nicolas Maduro calls the medical crisis an invention peddled by opponents of the country’s 17-year-old socialist revolution. The week Ashley was hospitalized, Maduro went on television and called on Venezuelans to start growing medicinal herbs.
The government has refused to let in humanitarian aid. So donations of medical supplies sit in warehouses and shipping containers in countries including the U.S., Spain and Panama.
The AP story is several thousand words and I recommend reading all of it. What’s striking is that Ashley’s story is actually better than the one many other families in Venezuela are facing. Many children (and adults) are simply dying from lack of basic medicine compounded by lack of food. It’s a situation that won’t get any better until the socialist government currently running the country into the ground is gone.