Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Update on my uncle's medical condition

June 5, 2007

Just a few hours ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Tony's wife and she confirmed that his health is deteriorating. She has been unable to get an official document from the authorities regarding his diagnosis and has hired a lawyer to pursue this matter. She has also been working through official channels to obtain this information and request that he be released and sent home on probation.

Our common goal is that he receive the treatment he needs to address the symptoms that have manifested themselves. These include a tumor in the prostate and colon problems (described by the Cuban medical staff at the prison as ulcerating colitis). They claim that a biopsy of the colon is not feasible at this time because the colon walls are too fragile. He is supposed to be seen by the proctologist—who happens to be the only one in the province—once a month and take medications to alleviate the symptoms. To date, he hasn’t received the medications prescribed.

The information conveyed by the prison authorities is that the prostate tumor is benign. However, until the tumor is actually removed and a biopsy is conducted, it would be impossible to know for certain. NGOs have attempted to get him anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the symptoms, but neither Tony nor his family have received these. Medical personnel have given him steroid injections, but this treatment has been ineffective.

Another major symptom is his lack of appetite. His daily diet consists of a couple of spoonfuls of banana puree (fufú de plátano). To avoid worsening Tony’s condition, the doctor has taken him off red meat.

Without an official diagnosis, it is impossible to know exactly what is going on with his health, but all symptoms suggest that cancer might be the problem. We know that he at risk of inheriting colon cancer from his parents (both died of it). Also, the prison conditions, available medical treatment, and diet aren't making matters any better. Finally, the presence of the tumor (which should have been removed) and the absence of a biopsy are cause for alarm.

Tony’s family seeks to get him the medical treatment he lacks in prison. Because he is unlikely to get adequate care in Cuba, we want him to be granted permission to leave the country, preferably to the United States. Since 1994, he holds a US visa, so he should have no trouble gaining entry either through family reunification or political asylum. His wife, an active member of the Ladies in White organization, is concerned that the recent publication of his memoir — 690: Vivencias de terribles pesadillas — will motivate the prison authorities to neglect his ailments.

June 11, 2007

I just spoke to my mother and received more details about Antonio's condition. He suffers from chronic diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. His diet consists exclusively of the banana puree mentioned earlier. One of his kidneys is malfunctioning. Due to the poor lighting conditions in his cell, Tony is almost blind. He has suffered from myopia almost his entire life, but his eyesight has worsened dramatically and the authorities have neither examined him nor provided him with new corrective eyeglasses. During his initial medical exam, he was diagnosed with a heart condition, but has never been treated for it. Tony has developed a psoriasis-like skin condition. Once again, he has received no adequate treatment for any of these symptoms.

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