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78# It's the little things

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

- I... I... I CAN'T.. I.. I...

- It's okay, just breathe. It's gonna be okay.

- I... I... I CAN'T... MY... MY... I CAN'T MOVE MY....... B....BODY!!!

El Tunco is a town which activity depends solely on the surf. When the conditions are good, all is well in the world. Waves of tourists flow in, restaurants are full, businesses are running and beach boys stay sober. When the surf is bad, there is nothing to do. And every person in town prays for the next swell.

Hurricane Sergio hit Central America on the first week of October 2018. Grey sky became the norm, aa thick curtain of rain ensued. Day or night, heavy or light, the rain did not stop. Sandra and I watched the rain from our hammocks. A constant downpour that reminded me of that famous scene in Forrest Gump. Yup, it was that bad.

The hurricane caused floods and landslides, ruining all possible outdoor activities. Trees, cattle, trash; torrents carried everything from the mountains to the sea. Unidentified floating objects were spotted among branches, plastic and more trash. The deep blue ocean waters turned brown. The hurricane ruled over El Tunco, stopping even the internet. Grey days followed grey days, long, dull and wet.

On the second week, the town vibe turned morose. Surf addicts fell into alcohol, substance abuse and deep lethargy. The only person who didn't stop was Chino, la Guitarra's gardener. He was running all day, cleaning up after each storm. His huge biceps made the rake look like a wand in his arms. Sandra and I teased him about his muscles. On the tenth grey day, Sandra's patience ran out. "That's it, fuck the rain! I'm going surfing.” She jumped out of the hammock and reached for her board.

The next morning Sandra was not in her usual spot. I knocked on her door at noon and found her in bed, gasping. She had been puking for hours...the water! There wasn't one single doctor in El Tunco nor a decent pharmacy. I brought her medication from the store but everything she attempted to swallow went right back out. She laid there waiting, in fear of the next outburst.

I setup a movie and laid in the bed next to hers. She was half asleep, half puking. Her condition deteriorate little by little, her body cleansing it out. In the evening she ran out of bile and things turned ugly. A violent dry outburst twisted her hands backwards then her feet. Intense cramps took over her body. She started shaking.

In an instant of clarity, Sandra realized she couldn't move her body anymore, then panic seized her. Sandra wasn't tranquilo anymore, she was bawling, shaken by fear and pain. I screamed for help, stretched out her limbs and tried to calm her down. Hey grey eyes were wide open, pale and looked into nothing. She started ventilating. I grabbed her face and yelled: "SANDRA LOOK AT ME!!! Follow my hand. Inhale up, exhale down. Inhale up, exhale down. Yes, slowly. It's gonna be okay.”

Chino the gardener stepped in and called a cab. I packed Sandra's passport while he carried her outside. The cab driver was overwhelmed by the situation. All his windows were tainted, even the windshield except for a patch the size of a football. He drove fast on a pitch black and slippery road. Then Sandra jerked from another cramp. He pushed on the gas and almost hit a cow in his hurry.

“SLOW THE FUCK DOWN! YOU'RE GONNA KILL US ALL !!!” I screamed. Chino and Sandra laughed. Hang tight, we're almost there.

We parked in front of the hospital. I ran inside to get a stretcher but Chino didn't wait. He lifted Sandra out of the car, slammed the door open with his foot and carried her to a bed like a baby out of burning house. He dropped and commanded immediate attention. So badass... I was glad he came along.

The nurse set the intravenous tube while I filled out the paperwork. We waited for the medicine to work its magic. Each drop from the tube added a taint of color to her body. She breathed deeply, no more pain, no more fear. Sandra was finally able to relax. An hour later a smile lit up her face. She was back. Sandra tranquilo had returned.

Seeing my friend deteriorate without being able to help was the worst. I wasn't a doctor, nor was I able to carry her. Gracias Chino. I felt guilty and useless. Angry at myself for not acting earlier, for not seeing it coming. In fact, it could have been a lot worse.

Later on, Sandra told me I had helped her immensely. Every time she opened her eyes I was there. She felt reassured, which alleviated the pain and tuned down her anxiety. And I did all that without even knowing, just by being there.

We often don't realize the impact our presence has on others, especially during hard times. The little things make a big difference. So even if we do nothing, we are helping, simply by being there.


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