During two internationalist missions, Dr. Mayte Pérez Gómez has known how living far from home and her family is in order to help others. She knows how hard is when it comes to leave, the arrival in new places and how much love can achieve.
First she was in Venezuela in 2003, later in 2017 she went to Brazil. In both places she lived from the typical tensions of each country, to the infinite love that shows the gratitude of many, those who usually find it impossible to access a medical service.
“Venezuela was a hard experience. I arrived among the participants of the first Barrio Adentro mission, and we had to get used to a context very different from ours. We lived with Venezuelans and, in addition, there was a high level of unhealthiness.
“I remember those days when at 4:00 in the morning they went to look for me and another doctor to attend a child-bearing. We worked together. At that time we were not allowed to move out of our house, but we decided to go.
"Now I think about the risk we faced, and without a doubt I think that it is a clear sign of the admirable devotion of Cuban professionals ... and the responsibility we had with patients."
With 22 years of experience, she currently serves as head of the medical department at Caimito´ Municipal Health Managemet. From there she directed her efforts when she went to Brazil.
I came back from Brazil in 2018. I was a over a year in a small town called Baixao Dos Honorato. In a doctor's office I assisted more than 1 000 inhabitants. I did not live in the same town, but beyond, although in the municipality itself, and I moved for medical consultations.
“They welcome very well. When you arrive you always feel insecure, a little confused. But, as soon as I arrived at the place where I would stay, the Health authorities visited me to see what I needed, they showed me the hospital and where I would work.
“Language is perhaps the first hindrance . Despite having passed a course in Cuba, reality is quite different; It was like starting over. Luckily, people welcome you right away; the population is very grateful, in such a way that after a while people from other places came to the doctor office to be assisted.
“Another of the big shocks was regarding the way to examine patients; they are not accustomed that the doctor touches them. In addition, in the consultation the chair is not placed on the right, but in the front; the table separated us. The first thing I did was to restructure everything, and start teaching them my work method.
“I insisted on the importance of physical chek up . I will never forget that day when a child with a retropharyngeal abscess came to my office. He had already gone to see a pediatrician. He had also been treated at the hospital, however, they only treated the fever, and did not discover the true cause of his symptoms.
“There are several examples, because the idiosyncrasy regarding the doctor-patient care is very different. In the consultation, I could never put a speculum on a pregnant woman; for that, they went to the gynecologist, so they didn't allow it.
“I had another 60-year-old patient, who asked me for a routine checkup; upon receiving the test results, I discovered the presence of anemia. She assured me that she was not worried, because she had suffered for years, but on the physical examination I noticed something , which indicated some anomaly. In case it was not enough, she had an axillary adenopathy.
“I met with her family, and explained that everything seemed to indicate leukemia, as tests later showed.
"Many of these cases show me the importance of the patient´s interview, of being able to check them, and not just writing a prescription or being just a few minutes with them to comply with the protocol," she says.
Of course, sadness and homesickness were always present. At home she had left her two children Gaby and Fernando, and her mother. New technologies allowed her to communicate with them very often , but it was not the same.
“Fernando was barely eight years old; it was almost impossible for him to talk to me. In order to face the fact that I missed them, I studied hard, ” the doctor says.
“Looking back, it was difficult to separate from my family each time , and also to get used to a new place , and even leave Brazil without being able to say goodbye to my patients.
“When they informed us that we should return, after the statements of President Jair Bolsonaro, there was no time for almost anything. If I found myself in the same situation again, I would react in the same way: I would return. I didn't think about it, because first I had a moral commitment, and my family. ”
Each word shows commitment and immense love towards her profession. When you tell those stories, you cannot hide the throat lump and watery eyes. She proudly wears her white coat, her eternal responsibility before the Hippocratic oath and humanism that has been as necessary as a last generation medicine.
For all that I have lived in Brazil, I know how much the vote of that country hurts in favor of the blockade during this general assembly of the United Nations organization where 187 countries raised their hands for Cuba.
TRANSLATION BY LMMS