By José Alejandro Rodríguez
From Juventud Rebelde
(Editor’s Note: José Alejandro Rodríguez is a frequent contributor to Progreso Weekly. He recently underwent a surgical procedure in a Havana hospital that saved his life. We are delighted to know that his recovery is going well. What follows is his version of events.)
HAVANA – On a stormy day, the doctors tell you that your myocardium is failing, exhausted by anginas and other stresses. And they also find a perverse sweetness in your blood that has been simmering for a while in your arteries and is killing them gently, in a plot with body fats; it’s called diabetes mellitus.
Whether a genetic predisposition, mere chance, or the result of clumsy habits, the disease is irreversible. Nature has sent you a bill for your freewheeling ways. You must start all over again and learn the codes for a healthy life. Learn cautious habits and let the doctors repair you.
Sugar and cardiac insufficiency begin to reduce your menu – by prescription from the good doctors – to the meager proportions fit for a Salesian monk, along with pills. All very boring. The suggestions of “pour the salsa,” the joys of the palate and the libations are excesses that will remain only in the affective memory.
Exams, analyses, needle pricks and a treadmill that speeds up your steps until you get tired. Ergometrics is positive. Dr. Ángel Gaspar Obregón tells you clearly, with the authority of a modern-day Hippocrates: “If you appreciate your life, you have no alternative but to undergo an arteriogram.”
You’re admitted and prepared. You learn to relax. You have to collaborate a lot that day. You’ll do it for yourself and your folks. Keep cool. Wielded by Dr. Obregón and his brilliant team, an implacable catheter penetrates your groin and moves up the artery up to the coronaries, right there at the entrance to that indefatigable muscle, the heart, that pump that irrigates life and can become a deadly bomb.
Convalescing in the ICU, you think you’ll die from the pain in your swollen groin. Your case was complicated; couldn’t be otherwise. But you’ll get better, say Tita, Regla and Mailenis, the nurses who wake you up with smiles. Somebody loosens the bandages with extreme care and patience, so you won’t hurt so much.
Back in the recovery room, your girlfriend kisses and hugs you, as if you had returned from a dangerous jungle exploration. You passed a test given by Fate. Will an orthodox materialist continue to ignore the mysteries of Fate?
Like a survivor at sea, floating on a wooden plank, you have been saved. Your life and everybody else’s lives are in the hands of doctors like Obregón, Irina, the fabulous Julio César Hernández, Alejandro and the nurses who monitor your pulse and heartbeats and prick you lovingly, with a very Cuban love.
You ask yourself, how can I ever forget these guardian angels who beg me to take care of my health and follow medical advice to the letter, so I can continue to improve?
You’re ashamed of your imagined weakness when you look around you:
Inocent Iznaga, the Cienfuegos Goldfinch, fighting for his life at 81, from one dialysis to another, surrounded by the veneration of his family, a great family where everyone claims the right to take care of him. The Goldfinch, the glory of country singing, who writes for me a “décima” that I will always cherish. The silent Goldfinch, his eyes half open as he remembers his days of singing.
In the other bed, Manuel Currá. More than 50 years working in the La Estrella factory. Now with a urinary catheter and other complications but a voracious appetite and eager to return to Aldabó to join a game of dominoes and beat the other old-timers in the barrio. Manuel, a humble widower, from a small family that’s huge in love. His daughter, Fina, and his granddaughter, Gretel, take turns every day to visit him, always in good humor.
What can I think then, in the face of such greatness? How can I weaken in a place where death is defied, face to face, and patients, visitors, doctors and nurses plot affectively for survival? What more can I ask for, surrounded by my people? What wouldn’t I do to deserve such trust?
A latest-generation stent now activates my coronary and preps up the heart. It’s priceless, but it will never be as valuable as the many hands, minds and hearts that have cared for me.
Some people have attributed feeling to the myocardium, that muscle that irrigates or stops life. But it’s been known for a long time that the soul is behind the forehead and the beating of diastoles and systoles is a servant of the brain – the long-suffering and hardest-working of all organs.
Summing up: I have no option other than take care of myself, with discipline. As of now, I will wish good health to all around me. Yes, let good health flood the universe. Health that belongs not only to you but also to yours. Health to eat in and carry out. I say this from my heart.