A visit with a young Cuban doctor, working in a remote community in Venezuela’s easternmost state, Delta Amacuro.
And where are you from?” That was the inevitable greeting in the presence of a young woman, small in statute, but undertaking work of a huge dimension. Her name: Edenys Reyes Galán. She was 27 years old and I met her at the doors of the Los Manacales Popular Medical Office (CMP), in Casacoima, one of the municipalities of Venezuela’s easternmost state, Delta Amacuro.
Cheerful and active, the young doctor, a Comprehensive General Medicine specialist, immediately answered: “I’m from Bayamo, the land of the Father of the Cuban Homeland.” Just thinking about the difference between that lively eastern Cuban city and this isolated place, surrounded by mountains and thick forests, I admired her sacrifice and dedication to what she did every day.
I discovered that she had been in Venezuela for 22 months, a year of which at this CMP in an extremely poor community, where she lived accompanied by a young man from the Into the Neighborhood Sports Mission. The two of them had the noble mission of attending inhabitants of the remote area, in which the “health house,” as some called it, was like a light in the dark.
Minutes later, she invited me to have a coffee, and we moved to the small kitchen of her home, which consisted of two bedrooms, plus the area where she cared for her patients, and the dispensary, converted into a kind of pharmacy. In the very well looked after backyard, stood a beautiful fruit tree and many flowers, in a tropical Cuban garden style.
Edenys tells me that one of the most difficult tasks she faced upon arriving was to complete a community health diagnosis, which consisted of walking for days, visiting each and every house, along inhospitable and unknown roads, where she had no idea that there were houses.
“We treat 10-15 patients daily, who come from distant places, but this is the only option they have to receive medical services. Previously they didn’t have any, and the main illnesses are still due to parasites they ingest from the water, and bad hygiene,” she explains.
“Now they at least know what measures to take to make the water more drinkable and look after themselves a little better.”
Respiratory problems are also recurrent, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, adolescent pregnancy, the doctor continued, while insisting that she must devote as much time as possible to educational talks, be it in people’s homes, or meetings organized with the support of the Communal Council, which are less frequent due to the distances between homes.
“I notice that the talks have had a great impact, especially among young people and adolescents. At first I had to take initiative, and learn a lot from their customs and ways of being, of talking, of living together, and I had to be very careful, win them over, make them feel that I am part of the family and that I just want to help them,” she stresses.
For the young collaborator, one of the most sensitive tasks she performs is the rehabilitation and care of bedridden patients, or those unable to travel to see her. Accompanied always by the Sports Mission teacher, she travels several kilometers a week to wherever she is most needed, and help injured or disabled people to recover and become reincorporated into society.
She clarifies: “This is perhaps one of the most difficult and humane actions that we carry out. Sometimes in the afternoon, after those long days, one is very tired, but we feel good due to their appreciation. A smile from one patient is enough to sleep peacefully, and wake up the next day with more energy. We can’t rest as long as there is someone who needs us.” Continue reading