Panama 2019 Day 11: Coping with Emergencies

I’m always impressed with the way rural villagers in Panama cope with emergencies. There is no 911 here, no ambulance on call. Most people don’t have cars. The little busses that go up and down the Panamerican highway don’t operate 24/7. The availability of spare cash waxes and wanes. The nearest health clinics are not always open.

This is Mari, #7 in Minga’s family. Minga was pregnant with her when I left in 1969. Mari is the mother of Harlennys and Luisito, and the grandmother of Darineth. Her longtime marido is Luis. Mari’s occupation is pinatera; she makes and sells charming pinatas at her own kiosk in the village.

Last April Mari was cleaning her bathroom when the mirror suddenly shattered, sending a jagged piece of glass into her wrist. The wound immediately began spouting blood — lots of it. She was home alone, her husband working, son at school and daughter and grandchild elsewhere. Mari pulled out the jagged glass and wrapped her wrist in a towel. Without taking time to grab her cedula — her national identity card which she is supposed to carry at all times — or any money or to put on shoes, she ran out of the house and toward the road where she would find other people. She was about ten minutes from the Pan American highway on foot, blood spurting all the way. The clinic in Rio Hato was closed, as it was Saturday. The next available clinic was in Anton, a larger town about 20 minutes down the highway.

A neighbor with a car saw her bleeding, grabbed her and put her in his car, and made for Anton. Near fainting, she got out of the car with his help and into the clinic. Seeing her crisis, others who were waiting called out for help, and a medical person — probably someone with at least EMT training — came out of a treatment room. She was stabilized and treated. The clinic told her she could come back to pay when she could, and the neighbor drove her back home.

She damaged at least one tendon and has had to do exercises, but has largely regained use of her hand.

Without the safety net on which we depend, somehow they cope. They are each other’s safety net, family and friends and neighbors alike.

Mari, #7 in Minga’s family.

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