This issue has run its life . . . it is now a dead issue, as far as I am concerned . . . I sympathize with the family and the residents of Morne la Croix over the loss of the young man . . . What I want to see is a certain level of professionalism among all health practitioners . . . and also for every resident of every community to appreciate the tremendous job that doctors and nurses and health providers do, and the amount of stress they have to endure; we need to appreciate that . . .
“So if we appreciate the professionalism of the nurses and the doctors and the health-care providers, and the community can then respect the demands on them, we can have a happy community . . . I have spoken to the family and I believe that this meeting will bring closure to that episode.”
So quoth parliament’s most loquacious dropper of malapropos, shortly after he and fellow MP Alvina Reynolds had apprised the folks in Soufriere of their government’s plans for their notorious medical facility.
Not until an obviously disappointed audience member had upbraided him did the town’s MP see the need to reference Daniel Esnard. And then, only to remind the concerned inquirer that the parliamentarian considered the subject of his curiosity a “dead issue.”
He added that he had talked with the bereaved and now everything was copasetic. The back story: In the early hours of Sunday, 26 January 2014, and in circumstances still shrouded by mystery, 25-year-old Daniel had suffered a stab wound in the left side of his upper torso and one or two minor cuts to his left arm.
The incident had occurred at Victoria, in Choiseul. Daniel had gone there to accompany his younger brother safely home after a party. Daniel had no criminal record.
Last Sunday evening, for the purpose of this story, his next-door neighbor revisited the date when Daniel made his most worrisome post-midnight call to his mother, informing her of what had just happened to him. The good neighbor was waiting outside the Esnard home at Morne la Croix, seemingly within spitting distance of Soufriere’s Gros Piton, when Daniel arrived with his brother about 1.15 a.m. Even for the fit and athletic, moving between the neighboring communities of Fond Gens Libre and Morne la Croix is by no stretch of the imagination a walk in Serenity Park. Indeed it is nigh impossible if you are the least bit physically handicapped. Regular vehicular traffic is out of the question.
Viewed from certain angles the garish humble concrete abodes seem linked to one another. The concrete footpaths at Morne la Croix, paid for by the deceased eccentric Colin Tenant, and in Fond Gens Libre by the government’s Poverty Reduction Fund, can barely accommodate lovers walking hand-in-hand in the moonlight.
Getting to Fond Gens Libre (Free People’s Hole) and Morne la Croix (Hill of the Cross) from Victoria requires the traveler to confront unlit deep potholes, low-gear climbs and descents, slippery regardless of weather slopes, STEP-engineered by-ways and bridges that could easily collapse under the weight of a loaded SUV.
In both of the ominously named communities, even the older residents are lean and lithe, with particularly muscular underpinnings, doubtless from all the power walking and running. Radiant good health is conspicuously evident in their trusting eyes and ready smiles. The young men take particular pride in what they have to do daily to feed and clothe their teenage girlfriends and their mostly prepubescent offspring: walking presumptuous, pot-bellied and puffing tourists up and down the World Heritage site “where Krypton’s most famous resident had plucked for his highly impressed girlfriend Lois Lane a one-of-a-kind flower that grows nowhere else on earth.”
The ever prescient Oprah has described the Pitons-dominated area as “one of the places to see before you die.”
Daniel’s next-door neighbor recalled it had taken the wounded young man and his brother over an hour to walk to their parents’ Morne la Croix home from the scene of the stabbing.
Although Daniel was in obvious pain, he wasn’t bloody on arrival, maybe because he had folded his shirt into a pad that he held tightly against the hole in his side.
Daniel had barely stepped indoors, his next-door neighbor told me, when he lost consciousness. Another family friend drove him, his father, his mother, and two cousins to Jalousie, where they transferred to Daniel’s sister Charkar’s vehicle to be transported to the notorious Soufriere Hospital.
Rewind to 4 June 2005: Ucillia Isimbert, a 23-year-old mother of two from Fond Gens Libre had been permitted to bleed to death outside the hospital, after giving birth in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s van, parked near the front entrance to the publicly funded medical facility.
While Ucillia suffered unimaginably on her own, her frantic boyfriend Augustin Possele was seeking help from the Soufriere police and other local officials, to no avail. At one point the cops threatened to lock him up if he insisted on taking his pain-racked girlfriend inside the hospital.
Their newborn had also died soon after delivery. The family had been denied the hospital’s services because, as a nurse informed Ucilla’s distraught and desperate boyfriend, the hospital was without a midwife—another forgotten “dead issue” obviously refusing to stay dead.
To return to the latest disaster: on arrival at the Soufriere hospital (one concerned and embarrassed local doctor recently referred to it as “a dangerously under-equipped health center”) in the early hours of Sunday January 26, Daniel and his worried relatives were taken to the emergency ward by a nurse who informed them after several minutes that there was no cause for worry. The knife had not traveled very far into him.
As if to confirm her educated guess, the nurse inserted a gloved forefinger into the hole in Daniel’s side.
Indicating the first joint of her own forefinger on Sunday, Daniel’s only sister repeated for my information what the nurse had told her family: “It’s only this deep; no serious damage.”
Charkar also recalled that her brother had started bleeding from his wound as soon as the nurse withdrew her finger. When the flow had subsided somewhat, the nurse injected the wound several times before stitching it up. The patient was asked to stick around until the arrival of a physician shortly after 6.30 a.m. He examined then discharged Daniel without any expressed concerns.
The following day, crunched over in unbearable pain, he was returned by ambulance to the Soufriere hospital, accompanied by his parents. They asked to see a doctor. A nurse off-handedly informed them he was busy with another patient.
Daniel’s desperate parents expressed their intention to take him to the converted national sports stadium that some four years ago was controversially renamed for the deceased politician George Odlum, now better known as St. Jude Hospital. The original facility was destroyed by fire several years ago.
Daniel’s father asked the nurse for a referral. She assured him this was unnecessary. The patient was taken by ambulance to St. Jude. His sister Charkar may appear pretty and fragile at first glance but it would be difficult to find a more determined seeker of justice.
Charkar told me the St. Jude nurse who examined her brother had a disturbing demeanor when she asked who had stitched Daniel’s wound. “I told her a nurse at the Soufriere hospital had done it,” she recalled, “and she inquired if we had a referral. I told her we never got one. She had Daniel undergo an X-Ray, gave him some medicine and instructed us to return in a week or so, or earlier if he experienced breathing problems.”
By the following morning Daniel’s condition had deteriorated to the extent “he kept going into shock,” his sister told me. Again Daniel was returned to St. Jude. A second X-Ray was ordered. It confirmed that his condition was a whole lot worse than his relatives had earlier been led to believe.
At St. Jude Daniel underwent minor surgery to drain fluid from his lungs. That same day major surgery was performed on him that according to Charkar revealed “a punctured lung, a damaged diaphragm and pancreas, and internal bleeding.” Further surgery was required to drain fluid from his abdomen.
Said Charkar: “He was later connected to a machine and taken to the recovery room.” Meanwhile his relatives were asked to donate blood the following day.
Still by Charkar’s account, on arrival at the hospital, a nurse told them they would first have to submit to blood-pressure checks, which she refused to administer, on the premise that it was not her job. Only after the family complained to the nurse’s supervisor did she agree to do what she had claimed was not her function.
Six days later Daniel was discharged. On February 8, feeling particularly poorly, he was returned to the Soufriere hospital. He didn’t stay there very long, only a few minutes, before he was sent home again. Two days later he returned to St. Jude to have his stitches removed.
On February 12, some 17 days after he was stabbed, a cousin found Daniel Esnard on his knees near the family refrigerator. He had taken his last breath.
Cause of death? Pulmonary embolism, described in medical journals as “an obstruction of a blood vessel in the lungs, usually due to a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery.” Among listed symptons—“fluid build-up in the lungs and fainting.”
Patients with pulmonary embolism are hospitalized and generally treated with clot-preventing drugs. By all the information I received last Sunday, the only “medicine” given Daniel were pain-killers and a bottle of Antacid! Might he be living today had he received prompt and competent medical attention? It is a question that will inevitably be asked in the right place.In our circumstances, the more important question is: When?
Meanwhile Charkar and her family assured me that their parliamentary representative, contrary to his public announcement, had never “spoken to the family” and certainly they had given him no good reason to “believe that this meeting will bring closure to that episode.”
She and her family expect a court to do that, not a politician!
As for the MP’s public declaration that Daniel’s unresolved death is “a dead issue,” clearly that is not the case. But then, by his words Harold Dalson has indicated his primary interest. And it’s not the “dead issue” that had “run its life.”
What now concerns the MP “is that every resident of every community appreciates the tremendous amount of difficulty of the job that doctors and nurses and health providers do, and the amount of stress they have to endure.”
And why are local doctors stressed out? Are their patients to blame? Dare the health minister express an opinion? Daniel was buried on February 26. Remarkably (for they tend to fall over each other in the rush to be seen even at rat burials), the only visible politician at his funeral was Allen Chastanet. “He stopped to speak with me,” Charkar told me. I learned from other sources that Chastanet had also assisted the family.
Soufriere’s parliamentary representative, whom the Esnard family says was not among mourners at Daniel’s interment, recently issued the following:
“A statement I made earlier this week must’ve offended some persons who may have [sic] and continue to misconstrue, I humbly apologize to whoever felt offended by that statement.”
You have to admit—even for a politician—that’s a pretty original way to say f#ck you to “a dead issue” crying out from the grave for justice!
It turns out that the Esnards and the 23-year-old mother of two Ucillia Isimbert—who in 2005 had been permitted to die with her newborn in a parked van outside the Soufriere Hospital—were close relatives.
Meanwhile two young men have been charged in connection with Harold Dalson’s “dead issue”; one with murder, the other with aiding and abetting murder. It’s anyone’s guess whether the parents of Daniel Esnard fit and as surprisingly free of bitterness as they are, will live long enough to see justice served their son.
Charkar, on the other hand, is determined they will!