I still remember quite vividly: she was a middle-aged lady; an affable looking mulatta.There we were, preparing for the usual barrage of questions from Professor Mirdo Espinoso, when one of my classmates ran to our cubicle. “Dr. Mirdo!” he shouted, “there is a female patient in the private room who has become acutely ill, complaining of sudden onset of chest pain.” Led by Professor Mirdo, we all rushed to her assistance.
Dr. Mirdo asked the lady a few questions,then decided to take her blood pressure. I was a third year medical student at the time, looking on with little understanding of what was transpiring and even less knowledge of what to expect.
Our much admired teacher, a second degree specialist in internal medicine, considered one of the best in Cuba, had just started wrapping the cuff of the sphygmomanometer around her arm when she unexpectedly fell flat on the bed from her seated position. In seconds, she became as pale as a fish and, shortly after, she darkened into a deep blue reminiscent of the seas adjacent to Gros Piton.
Then she started gasping for air. Moments later she was unconsciousness, unresponsive, pulseless, her pupils bilaterally fixed and dilated. Professor Mirdo stood next to her, his head bent; his shiny bald cranium was all we could see. Impotently, he dropped the blood pressure monitor and walked away quietly.
That experience shook my confidence in the medical sciences. I grappled with the thought that someone could descend from full alertness to lifelessness in a matter of minutes. Even more impactful for me was witnessing our greatly admired professor of internal medicine rendered totally incapable of saving her life or, at the very least, prolonging her death.
The autopsy results came back later that same day. She had died of a massive pulmonary thrombo-embolism; a large clot which had travelled from her leg up to her chest and blocked the pulmonary artery, preventing blood from leaving her heart.
From then on, I became a wimp. If I felt any tingle or twitch in my leg, I would get a panic attack. My heart would race like a stallion, beating out of my chest; and I would become short of breath like I had just finished running a fifty metre dash.
That was then. Four years later I decided to face fear head-on. I made overcoming fear one of my primary objectives. So serious was I in this fight against fear that I even decided to fight other people’s fears. I armed myself with positive thoughts, strong convictions and an unwavering trust in God and yes, Jesus Christ our Lord! I also discovered that acts of charity make the human spirit stronger, fearless even! ‘Love over Fear’ – a very simple equation, is a cure for any neurotic condition.
In Saint Lucia we live in a country where intimidation and threats of victimization force people to remain silent. For a similar reason, many continue to stay away from politics. They are afraid that their opponents will offer for public consumption the dinosaur bones hidden in a dark place at home. So, despite three years of economic recession and skyrocketing youth unemployment, everyone is still standing on the side line.
Wake up my people! This ship is quickly sinking. We need all capable hands on deck. Men and women of all areas of expertise are urgently needed to save what remains of our Fair Helen. But first,
dear brethren, you must overcome your fears. Clear that hurdle, and, as a people, we will be one step closer to securing a bright future.
Dr. Andre R. L. Matthew MD is a member of the United Workers Party and is vying for the position of deputy political leader at the party’s convention next week.