Not so long ago, a woman in my community died. I don’t know all the details of the story. I only heard a witnesses account, and I only understood what I gleaned from the conversation. But, it’s too good of an example of health access and religion in Paraguay to let it pass untold.
The woman had diabetes and that’s what killed her. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are common health problems in Paraguay. There may be genetic component (I’m not sure) but it has a lot to do with the diet and life style. Food is saturated in oil and fat and most meals are nothing more than a medley of carbohydrates with a chuck of fatty meat at the center. For many, life is centered around sitting, and dirt bikes have made is so many people don’t even need to walk to go to the corner store or their neighbor’s house.
I don’t entirely understand what happened. The doomed lady at first felt very ill and had to lie down. She sent her younger child out of the room so the child didn’t have to see her that way. The person telling me the story, started calling around to ask if anyone with a car could help take the sick woman to the hospital.
In Paraguay, ambulances aren’t the norm. There are ambulances, especially connected to private hospitals. Public hospitals also have them, but those ambulances don’t cover the hospital’s whole territory—I’m still murky on how that works. The closest public hospital to my site is a half hour bus ride away, but they can’t help with everything. The closest major public emergency center is about two hours away by bus. Basically, in an emergency, you need a ride. Cars aren’t super common. More people have dirt bikes, but a two-hour ride on a dirt bike is not really the best idea understanding the dangerous traffic conditions of the route. Not to mention, holding on to a dirt bike when you’re sick must be hard.
So, the lady trying to find a ride for the ill woman called several people—the old go-to’s, people with cars known to give rides, the taxis. No one could help. When she returned to the ill lady, the woman was dead and her skin colored with blood leached out underneath.
The woman telling this story, was actually telling the woman I was visiting that afternoon. And the woman I was visiting responded to the story by saying something like, “When you need help and there is no one, it’s your time.” The three of us nodded in agreement to that comment; it made perfect sense.
Each person has his or her own system of beliefs. But, in Paraguay belief in the Christian God helps explains a lot of things. Life isn’t always fair. There is suffering. There is joy. God helps relieve feelings of injustice and despair by providing one reason for why things are the way they are.