By Liz Gazcón.
Nurse Hilda Lameda, 61 years old, died on October 3 in the emergency room of the Central Hospital in Barquisimeto, capital of Lara, after 12 hours of agony, traveling to and from three different health centers that did not have snake-bite serum or ambulances to save her.
Lameda was bitten by a snake during a power outage in the Pico’e Gallo town, in the municipality of Torres. Relatives claim they were not sold any gasoline at the station when they asked to fill up the car that could take her to the Carora Hospital, located 78 kilometers away, where they would have reserved a dose of serum for her. When they decided to go to Carora, they did not find the treatment offered by the local Epidemiology Department a few hours earlier, and the lack of gasoline delayed the departure to Barquisimeto, capital of Lara state.
To protect the fridge during the blackout
On Friday, October 3, at 8:00 pm, Lameda was bitten by a snake on his way home. That night she was visiting his brother, but she left earlier than planned because the power cut, and she feared for her fridge, which could be damaged if she did not unplug it in time, her cousin, Jose Gil, told El Pitazo.
“She went out to her house to unplug the refrigerator. As she arrived, she felt the discomfort in her foot, and that is where the snake was. She got home, and the next-door neighbors helped her while she collected clothes to go to the clinic. My brother and a nephew took her on the bike in the rain as best they could,” her sister, Zuleima Lameda, told El Pitazo.
The staff on duty at the rural clinic gave her two drugs for the pain, while the family of the sick woman coordinated the transfer in a private car that charged 40 dollars and enough gasoline for the trip. Hilda’s brother and the treating physician went to the National Guard command and to the gas station in town to request fuel without getting any response.
“At the pump, there was a TV on and a fan, and we knocked and knocked and no answer. There was a noise inside, and at that moment, they turned off the light, so there were people who did not want to help,” denounced the sister of the deceased.
Lameda remained at the clinic between the Friday night to 1:30 am on Saturday. Her brother and a nephew had to take her to Carora on a motorcycle because her condition was worsening: the inflammation caused by the snake bite had spread from her foot to her knee, said nurse Noraima Alvarez in a voice note.
“On the Lara-Zulia highway, arriving at a sector called Papelon, they fell into a hole, and the two motorcycle tires exploded. Hilda lasted hours there, lying on the asphalt. I called my son and asked him to look for Hilda, who had been bitten by a snake; he had a little bit of gasoline on the motorcycle, and he did it. When we arrived at the hospital in Carora, a doctor told me that they had nothing, that they did not have serum, when Dr. Fanny Ortiz (head of epidemiology in the municipality of Torres) had said that they had a serum kit. I asked them to inject her with at least that dose so that I could take her to Barquisimeto and look for the serum because she was already in bad shape and no longer spoke to me. When they send her to do some tests in a clinic, she comes back vomiting blood,” added the sister.
The nurse remained in the hospital in Carora for two more hours, while her brothers got the gasoline to drive 100 kilometers to Barquisimeto.
Family members indicated that Lameda was rushed from the Carora hospital to Barquisimeto at 4:00 am. In Barquisimeto, she got rejected at two other assistance centers.
“We arrived at the Social Security in Barquisimeto, and they did not have any serum either, they just gave her a painkiller, and we took her to the central hospital. She was no longer breathing. At the central hospital, there was a kit, but it was too late. They gave her two doses of serum at once, and it gave her like a stroke, she died,” declared the sister in tears.
Lameda devoted half her life to caring for patients at the outpatient clinic in the town where she put down roots and was known for helping anyone who needed an injection, a cure, or had a health emergency.
After her retirement, the village clinic closed because there was no one to take care of her. “She did not have any children, she dedicated 30 years to her work and her house in the country…She helped everyone. She was a good woman who dedicated herself to her work and served so many people. That is a deep sadness, regrettable pain all that my sister went through,” lamented Zuleima Lameda.
She also commented that the death certificate omitted the serum situation as one of the causes of death and only included that it was cerebral edema.
The transfer of the body of Lameda from Barquisimeto to Carora was another difficulty. The funeral insurance that the nurse paid for years had no gasoline to move the hearse. His loved ones had to raise $200 for her last ride.
An investigation was opening
The National Assembly (NA) opened an investigation on October 6 regarding the death of this nurse who is adding to the fatal statistics of the complex humanitarian emergency in Venezuela, assured the representative for the state of Lara, Guillermo Palacios.
“They could not give her the proper attention due to the lack of snake-bite serum, they could not transfer her to Carora because the ambulance does not work,” he condemned. The Lameda family also filed a complaint with the Carora Prosecutor.
“We want justice for this and that it does not happen again with other people. They must have that serum in Quebrada Arriba, here in Carora itself. It is too sad, a death like that. She did not deserve it,” said a neighbor, who demanded action from the authorities.
They also urged the authorities to guarantee fuel to the inhabitants at the village when emergencies arise because they have been denied fuel on previous occasions. “Tomorrow, it could be a child or someone else,” they said.