Living in Honduras and Guatemala is sometimes hard, mostly fun but never boring. Here some of my musings on life in this colourful part of the world where you can always expect the unexpected. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Difference 24 Hours Can Make…

Doña Teresa in better times (artwork/photo by Frida Larios and Tyler Orsburn)

Only two days ago around this hour I had just come back from a trip to Chiquimula, Guatemala, to the vet. It was only sort of a coincidence that we took Doña Teresa, a lady from a small village near Copán with us to see an orthodontic surgeon because of the nasty infection a pulled tooth had left her. Little did we know that the situation was so grave that there was no option left: we had to leave Teresa behind for emergency surgery, if not she would surely die soon…

That left me and my friend Argi baffled and overwhelmed, to say the least, but also very preoccupied. The whole treatment was calculated to cost about $4,000 and where the hell would we get that kind of money from?
But since it was either taking Teresa back with us and let her die a painful death or leave her behind and have her have her surgery… As I said, there was no choice…

So there we went, back to Copán, in the back of the pick-up truck with our rather subdued dogs on our laps. The conversation went something like this:
“Did we do the right thing?”
“Of course we did, we had no choice.”
“But how are we going to pay for the operation???”
“No idea, but we’ll find a way.”
“Are you sure???”
“No, but we’ll find a way.”
“Okay, we’ll find a way. Any ideas?”
“No, not yet.”

Neither of us slept very well that night ($4,000 hospital bills kept popping up in my dreams) but probably not half as bad as Doña Teresa whom we had left without even a pair of clean underwear. But as dawn arrived, we continued our quest. Argi went to work early in the morning and learned that Teresa’s son and daughter-in-law had already left for Chiquimula. That was a good thing, at least she wouldn’t be alone when she’d wake up after her surgery. Argi spent the rest of the morning talking to doctors to find out ways to cut down costs, for example by bringing Teresa back to Copán, even though the specialist in Chiquimula would like to keep her there for at least ten days. But at $50 a day, plus medication and no money, well… how??? The local doctors as well as the surgeon agreed finally that we could bring her home after three nights in the hospital and that we could give her intravenous antibiotics here in Copán, which turns out to much cheaper in Honduras anyway. So far, all well. Teresa was doing reasonably well, although in a lot of pain and with a face swollen up about three times the size it was before she went into surgery.

I spent my morning writing my blog post and writing emails. Argi and I agreed to get together in the afternoon to synchronize our posts and start asking for money wherever we could, because so far the operation had gone well, but it was on our shoulders to somehow pay for it all. We were both on the edge and extremely nervous but especially Argi was hit very hard. She sounded awfully depressed when I talked to her several times on the phone, so I offered, the least I could do, to make her a nice dinner.
When we got together yesterday afternoon we were still $4,000 in the red, but had our petitions ready. We both posted them on Facebook and through emails and sat down for dinner.

Now, let me tell you, I don’t believe in witchcraft and I am a 100% sure that Teresa’s horrible worms are the result of a nasty fly and an infection, not of any sort of black magic. But still, I can’t stop believe in miracles.
We had just sat down for dinner (nice steamed tilapia and pasta with mustard leaves) taking our first bite when: Pling!
My computer. Facebook message. A pledge for a $50 donation!
Pling! Argi’s laptop. A $100 donation in Paypal!
Pling! Mine again. Another donation!

It went on and on. Friends started sharing our links and the whole thing went viral. When I went to bed around 10pm we had already raised about $700. That was 700 times more than with what we had started the day…

Sometimes these things take a spurt and then die a quick death. But oh, no, not Teresa’s case. Today I spent the whole day answering emails to people I’ve never met in my life but who were willing to help Teresa out. I went to the bank to pick up donations through Western Union and from friends in town and did one Paypal tranfser after the other. I just met Argi this afternoon and we were besides ourselves, piling up cash. So far we have raised about $2,000!!!! After talking to the doctor, we have now narrowed down the bills to $2,600, not including the medications Teresa will need, plus the after care. But in the end, we think around $3,000 will do, which is at least a $1,000 less than we originally thought.

We’re still not there yet, but already soooo much further than we ever imagined being only 24 hours ago. Tomorrow we’ll bring Teresa back home. Her family is already preparing the house, cleaning it and making it as adequate as possible for a recovering patient.
This adventure isn’t over yet, but we’re getting there. I can’t thank people enough for their generosity, trust and faith.
To be continued…

(Donations can be made through Paypal connected to my email adress: carinsteen at )

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