MARACAIBO, Venezuela — Seconds before William Lopez was set to be connected to a dialysis machine at a state-run clinic in the western Venezuelan city of Maracaibo in April, the power went out.
Missing dialysis treatment, which removes toxins that build up in the blood of people who suffer from kidney failure, leaves Lopez feeling dizzy and nauseated. Like any chronic kidney disease patient, he could die if he goes too long without treatment.
Unable to complete his treatment that day, Lopez had little choice but to return home.
When he arrived, the power was out there as well.
“The impotence that I feel makes me want to cry,” said Lopez, 45, one of 11,000 Venezuelans whose dialysis treatment has been thrown into disarray by a wave of blackouts in the oil-rich but crisis-stricken South American country.
“Some people go to sleep while they are in treatment. I do not, because I am scared I will never wake up.”
Electricity has largely been restored to the capital city of Caracas after two nationwide power outages in March and April.
But many other parts of Venezuela now have power for only several hours per day under a rationing plan put in effect by President Nicolás Maduro.
Few places have been harder hit than sweltering Maracaibo, the country’s second-largest city, which still experiences power cuts lasting 10 hours or more per day. That has led to water shortages, making it hard to provide the minimum 120 liters (32 gallons) of water doctors say is needed for a full dialysis session.
Dialysis requires consistent supplies of power and water to provide the recommended treatment of three or four hours, three times a week.
Venezuela’s public hospitals for years have provided free dialysis treatment, thanks to abundant oil revenue and generous health care spending. But since the economy crashed along with oil prices in 2014, new equipment rarely arrives and the existing machines are not maintained, doctors say.
Maduro says health care problems are caused by U.S. sanctions that blocked funds in foreign bank accounts that could be used to pay for imports of equipment and medicine. He says the recent power outages are the result of Washington-backed sabotage of the electrical system.
His adversaries say that those problems were created by incompetence and corruption, and that he has refused to recognize the severity of the situation.
The information and health ministries did not reply to requests for comment.
Lesbia Avila de Molina said she woke up feeling ill one recent morning after receiving just one hour and 40 minutes of treatment the prior day due to the lack of power and equipment shortages at her Maracaibo clinic. She said she feels like she is choking when she does not receive full treatment.
“I just ask God that if I die, it will not be of choking,” said Avila, 53, as she lay in a hammock at her home in a working class neighborhood in western Maracaibo.
While speaking to a reporter, she turned pale and began to sweat. Her husband, who was laid off from his job at a nearby auto parts factory two months ago, took an old refrigerator drawer for her to vomit into.
She said at the privately owned dialysis center where she goes for treatment, only 18 of 35 dialysis machines are working.
The situation is similar at the 136 state-owned dialysis clinics across the country, said Carlos Marquez, the president of the Venezuelan Nephrology Society. Many of the country’s 1,600 machines are not working, he said. The health ministry does not publish figures.
Some private Maracaibo dialysis centers charge patients $70 for a three-hour session, said 48-year-old kidney disease patient Antonio Briceno. That is equivalent to nearly a year’s salary at a monthly minimum wage.
“I should have been born rich to be able to buy myself a new kidney,” said Aidalis Guanipa, 25, who lives with her 83-year-old grandmother in Maracaibo. They get by on her grandmother’s pension and from sales of homemade sweets.
“I have not had dialysis for two days because there has been no electricity. I am scared.” (Reuters)
The baby daughter of a young British woman who was murdered during a violent robbery in Greece was found crying and tapping her mother’s body in an attempt to wake her up. Police who were called to the scene of the crime in Athens found the 11-month-old baby girl “patting her mother with her hands and trying to wake her up,” according to Ta Nea, a Greek newspaper. Caroline Crouch, 20, who was British but born in Greece, was murdered in front of her baby when a gang of three robbers broke into her home in Glyka Nera, an affluent suburb on the outskirts of Athens in the early hours of Tuesday. They allegedly stuffed a piece of clothing into her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and held her nose so that she could not breathe. A post-mortem found that Ms Crouch, a student, died from asphyxiation. Greek police described the crime as unusually brutal. The robbers killed the family’s pet dog but left the baby unharmed.
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If Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. indicts former President Donald Trump or his company on any number of financial misconduct charges, it will almost certainly be before he leaves office at the end of 2021. And Vance's life would be much easier if those charges are filed this summer, Politico's Playbook reports. Trump is preparing to leave his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, and spend the summer at this golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. But "it isn't just the Florida heat he's leaving behind: He could lose a key piece of political protection," Politico says. Florida's statute on extraditions to other states includes an obscure clause that would appear to give Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a Trump ally, the ability to intervene and potentially block any transfer to New York. "New Jersey's extradition statute is similar to Florida's, giving the governor the power to investigate an out-of-state warrant," Politico reports. "But its governor is Democrat Phil Murphy, who is no fan of Trump's, and would not likely intervene to stop Trump's extradition." Palm Beach County law enforcement is preparing contingency plans in case Trump is indicted while staying at Mar-a-Lago, two top county officials tell Politico. But if an indictment is handed down over the summer, Florida officials are off the hook. More stories from theweek.comThe real reason Liz Cheney lost her jobGeorge P. Bush applauds Liz Cheney's ouster, claims she doesn't 'stand up for conservative Republican ideology'A short history of White House cats
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