Trickle Down Despair: Lessons From a Peruvian Hospital Bed

Over the next few days, my vision blurred as my temperature soared and I slipped into a fever induced delirium. Thankfully, I don't remember much of those days as I lay in a pool of sweat in Peru. Some memories mercifully fade. Others, regrettably, do not. Half carried by friends, I stumbled past the armed guards at the hospital entrance, stepping over those who were left to die at the threshold. Far too often, the Grim Reaper was the only welcoming hand for those who could not bribe the doctors.

To draw my blood, a woman took a dull needle and jabbed it into my arm. After 20 minutes of searching she pulled it out and then honed it on a sharpening stone beside her. After a quick swipe of the needle with an alcohol soaked cotton swab, she tried again.

There were no medications in the hospital. Fortunately (for me, at least) there was a private pharmacy across the street for those with money. Anything I wanted or needed I had to arrange for myself. Including toilet paper. I spent many lonely weeks in dreary Peruvian hospitals staring at filthy, uncaring walls. To pass the time I flicked the ever-present air bubbles from the IV line which dripped burning chemicals into my veins.

The only reason I was treated was because I had money. Where was the supposed socialist dream of "universal health care"? In Peru, they say the severity of an illness can be described in two ways. "You are so sick you wish you would die" and "you are so sick you are scared you are going to." I survived both. Yet something even more caustic than dripping IVs has haunted my dreams ever since. Of all the horrors I witnessed and endured in Peru, none has penetrated me more than stumbling over a poor peasant woman who was left to die at the door of the hospital -- barred entry at gunpoint because she could not pay.

The country was bankrupt. Socialism drove the landlords into economic exile. Eventually their money ran out, leaving the poor peasants behind to pay the price of Velasco's infernal socialist designs. I stepped over a woman who paid that price. Lying in a lonely hospital bed, I realized government is not the solution to our problems. In Peru, universal health care led to universal misery.

General Velasco was right -- landlords never again ate from the "poverty" of the peasants ... and neither did the peasants.