Mother-in-Law's Emergency | The Average Venezuelan Hospital Experience

in Rant, Complain, Talk2 months ago (edited)

On Wednesday, my wife's mother had a near death experience. As a mater of fact, she might have died for a few seconds, sending us all into an emotional whirpool.

Everything started at home early at night and ended in this seemingly attractive building. The Hospital Universitario Antonio Patricio de Alcalá, the main health center in Cumaná, the capital of the State of Sucre (a-506-year-old city).

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Inside this building, things changed as if you were submerged in a horror movie, one where you do not know which characters will come out alive and which ones will just not.

Nurses Station

(every object here looks af it they were 506 years old)

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Four Hours Before

After dinner, my mother-in-law had what might have been an alergic reaction to canned tuna. With her history of alergies and respiratory problems, anything might happen.

She went over her routine to deal with the shortness of breath (antialergic, nebulization, inhaler). After a while, she started to get desperate (her anxiety and depression problems do not help in these cases). We knew it was going to be a long night.

In today's Venezuela, you cannot afford to get sick at night (in fact, you cannot afford to get sick. Period). You have to order your body that in the event of a physiological emergency, it must call for help during office hours!

There used to be a time (as it is still in most countries) where we could just get on our family car or call a friend who had a car and go wherever we needed to go (you could choose an Ambulatorio (outpatient hospital), the hospital, or a private clinic). If no friend was available, you could just take a taxi. There were taxis 24/6 (Sundays were a different story).

Now, with less vehicles in the streets and with a dramatic gasoline crisis, finding a car, even for a medical emergency, is very hard for the average person.

So here we were, almost midnight, and all the contacts my wife tried were either unavailable or their cars had no gas. My mother-in-law was beside herself. She wanted us to try every neighbor's door either to get some other medication (since hers did not work) or get a ride to a medical center. My wife tried several doors while I held her mother, who was now having a serious panic attack. She started to yell that she was going to die. She begged us not to let her die like that. It was a very hard moment. It is so frustrating not to be able to provide something as simple as transportation for a medical emergency.

Finally, one of our friends offered to help and now my mother-in-law somehow owes Rodrigo her life.

He took my wife to the nearest ambulatorio, but that one was closed. Just like that. Closed at night. The most obvious solution was to go the central hospital.

I stayed home with @manujune waiting for their call to plan accordingly. Our friend dropped my wife at the emergency room. Just a room without many pieces of equipments or medical supplies to respond to emergencies. Patients are told to go to nearby drugstores to get whatever is needed. He got the first medication they asked for and was asked to go out again to get another medication (for a nebulizer). Then, I asked him to pick me up so that he could go home with his family.

We got that medication and by the time we arrived my mother-in-law's condition had worsened.

She was not coherent, not talking; she was very restless and they were having a hard time trying to insert an IV. There were two male doctors and one nurse, but the doctors were busy filling up forms and the nurse was not enough to control the patient. My wife and another lady whose son was a patient next bed, were strugling to contain my mother-in--law. I tried to help, but a few minutes later, she was having a stroke.

She was going purple and at some point my wife yelled. "She died!"

It was a horrible moment. The doctors reacted and started CPR.
They got her back, but she was not the same. She struggled to breathe and her body looked as it it was twisting; she had lost control of her limbs and eyes.


They said they had to intubate, but they did not have gloves. I had to run get them. There was an open drugstore across the hospital. I went ahead, got the gloves, and ran back. They had moved her to the 8th floor.

Nurses station


We saw same issue with the understaff ER, but more shockingly, the indifference on the part of the nurse. My wife and I were desperately trying to hold our patient while the nurse debated whether she should keep trying to insert the IV and the two male doctors kept filling paperwork (all by hand, on recicled paper--which here means paper that has something written on one side and they use the other side because the government "can't afford" stationery).


There was another patient in the room. A man diagnosed with malaria and dengue. His wife was sitting on a chair next to his bed. She ended up being another angel in this story.


There was the usual religious image (recently beatified doctor, José Gregorio Hernández).


I looked out of the south window across the hall from the room. It was very dark, just a few lights from an apartment complex. Our patience was running thin. My wife started to argue with the nurse, who had just left the room waiting for the patient to be willing to "collaborate."

It was an ugly argument I joined in because they acted as if we, the relatives, had the responsibility of making their work easier or giving them some sense of motivation to do what they had freely chosen as a profession. They were not being professional. At least this nurse was not. She said something about another patient of her having just died next room. As if that somehow would serve as consolation for us, make us sympathize with her, or put our crisis in perspective.


Fortunatelly, there was a change of shift and another nurse took over. This one knew how to deal with patients and relatives.


The IV was in and the patient miraculously started to improve. So much so that they cancelled the intubation.

We spent most of the night walking back and forth keeping an eye on her. The other patient's wife offered the chair she was sitting on to us, which was a great gesture. That chair, though, would be violently removed from the room some hours later when the morning nurses arrived.
Aparently, this is the only hospital in the world where visitors are not allowed to sit. They expect you to just stand up all day long for as long as the hospitalization lasts.


I started to explore every corner of the floor. There was not a single waiting room, not a chair or something resembling it for anyone to sit. Some people were actually sitting on the stairs or the floor on the hall (That was also forbidden).



This elevator was out of order.


There were rooms like this. There were supposed to be bathrooms. but there was nothing there. In fact, the bathrooms available for all patients and visitors to use were so filthy my wife was unable to enter. She was blown away by the stench.


This sink was in the room, but the most dramatic thing is that there is no water in the whole hospital. Every patient or their relatives have to bring their water.


The walls show significant damage caused by humidity as well as high probablity of mold or some other kind of fungus.


It was a very long day. My feet and back were killing me. My kidneys were complaining and sending distress signals that I had to ignore.


Our patient was getting better. She was herself again, after some hours of incoherence and erratic behavior.

The new day brought lots of noise and light, more patients and more nurses, some more deaths, and the hope that we would leave this mad house to tell the tale.


I can understand people's faith in saints and gods under these circumnstances. They see their deliverance as a miraculous intervention of some benign force amid so much adversity.


The morning doctors came. They ordered some tests, which had to be done in private labs because they hospital lab can only run a limited number of them.

I started to run errands, back and forth around the hospital and across the street to the most expensive lab in town, but being the closer to the hospital, that was the only option for me.


When I came back after the first errand, they had finally given my mother-in-law a different bed, one with a matress. Not exactly a clean one, by the way.
My wife still had to go home and get some sheets and pillows.


I guess if someone offers you a mattress like this one, you'd rather sleep on the floor. But, when you have been submerged under so much crap, you end up thanking them kindly. Someone else got this one, I guess.


Some of the times I ran to the lab I had to go down and upstairs (8 floors) because the only functional elevator was too crowded. The lines were just too much for someone who had to be quick about the errand.


At least the view is good. So much potential in a country like mine. So much holding us down. Most of it, our own making.


It looks nice from the outside, but what happens inside ain't pretty (and this represents the whole health system across the country).

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To be continued...

Thanks for stopping by


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I hope your mother in law is feeling better.

Thank you for showing the wonders of healthcare under a socialist regime. In North America, we're marching on our way there because we still have too many foolish people who can't see the results of this destructive ideology. They have taken advantage of the pandemic to gain more power. This is a global phenomenom, and I'm afraid it will lead us to a bad place. Here's hoping that conditions get better in Venezuela and one day you have the freedom to prosper.

Thank you very much.
It saddens me deeply that many countries are flirting with socialist ideas just based on what theoretically it promises. We know what it delivers and it will always be closed to this, in one way or another (most likely in all ways possible).
But, I guess people need to experience things first hand to believe.

Tío gracias a Dios, tu suegra pudo recuperarse pronto y volver a casa! estar en esos hospitales es terrible. Fueron momentos de mucha angustia. Cuando me avisaste en tu nota de voz le pedí a Dios porque los ayudara a salir proto de ahí y que la señora no se complicara y saliera bien de toda esta mala experiencia. Es desesperante la situción que vivimos actualmente los venezolanos, pues la mayoría no tenemos seguro médico los estudios y profesiones no nos han servido de nada 😩 Triste realidad de la revolución socialista que se vive en el país.

Gracias, hija. Esa es la parte más frustrante: el saberte profesional, el haber hecho todo lo posible por servir a tu país y poder darle a los tuyos lo que necesiten y encontrarte en un país desprofesionalizado, donde reina la mediocridad y la imposición de la conformidad.
Una de las cosas más llamativas del personal médico es su pésimo trato con el público y su comportamiento poco profesional (entre ellos--informalidades, vulgaridades, indiferencia a las peticiones de pacientes, etc).
EL profesional siempre tiene más de dos opciones: hacer el trabajo gustosamente; hacerlo a regañadientes (amargándose y amargando a otros), o renunciar.
Por el tipo de ingresos que el personal medico recibe y las condiciones de riesgo bajo las cuales trabajan, ninguno de ellos debería aceptar trabajar. La pelea tendría que ser con el empleador.
Sin embargo, ellos han decidido enfrentarse a diario con los pacientes y sus familiares, supongo que como una manera de drenar sus frustraciones.

Thanks. That is the most frustrating part: knowing you are professional, having done everything possible to serve your country and be able to give yours what they need and find yourself in a de-professionalized country, where mediocrity and the imposition of conformity reign.
One of the most striking things about the medical staff is their terrible treatment of the public and their unprofessional behavior (among them - informalities, vulgarities, indifference to patient requests, etc).
The professional always has more than two options: to do the job with pleasure; do it reluctantly (becoming bitter and embittering others), or quitting.
Due to the type of income that medical personnel receive and the risky conditions under which they work, none of them should agree to work. The fight would have to be with the employer, which is the State.
However, they have decided to fight patients and their families on a daily basis, I suppose as a way to drain their frustrations.
 2 months ago  

Terrible stuff that you had to go through! The hospital looks like one from a horror movie, not somewhere you actually have to go.

It’s wild you have to go to the lab or pharmacy across the street instead of inside the hospital itself. It is indeed socialism run wild like the other person commented.

Hopefully it wasn’t a stroke she had! Has she lost any motor functions or gait? Hope that it improves and you never have to go back to that place, it seems like it’s just a death center sadly.

It is, and we saw quite a few shocking cases.
I will try to post an update later today.
SHe recovered quite well, actually. Her motor function seem ok, although she has been having lapses and has been a bit off with time and places.
Thanks for stopping by

 last month  

That’s good! She might have had a TIA which is a miniature stroke but usually doesn’t have long lasting effects. That’s what it sounds like to me!

And is the stuff our daily routines are made of. An utter descent into madness. I hope that we can throw this imbeciles in charge into these places and have them locked in there for the same amount of time they've been in control of everything.

I hope a crisis like this doesn't come up again. It's the worst of the worst to be powerless facing these situations.

It is indeed. I agree with you. Part of the punishment for their crimes should be to subject them to the kinds of penuries they have imposed on the people they swore to protect and uplift.
Of course, it plays against any attempt to do justice that most of their followers, even if they go through hell, they seem to go willingly and happily.

Well, dumbness is a human behavior. I don't think that's never going away. Neither the cliques claiming power in this country. Hopefully, these pests will get all their due in time.

And is the stuff our daily routines are made of. An utter descent into madness. I hope that we can throw this imbeciles in charge into these places and have them locked in there for the same amount of time they've been in control of everything.

I hope a crisis like this doesn't come up again. It's the worst of the worst to be powerless facing these situations.