Life Is Cheap…. RIP Diego Mendieta

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Today I read the sad story of Diego Mendieta, a Paraguayan striker who, till last season, played soccer for Persis. He was hospitalized about 10 days ago, some say he suffered from Typhoid, other sources say it was Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Jakarta Casual and Inilah tell the sad background story of the passing away of Diego Mendieta. Diego Mendieta was apparently still waiting for 4 months salary (around $12.000) and thus wasn’t able to pay the hospital bills. After moving from hospital to hospital he ended up in a government hospital, having lost 17 kg according to Persis fans on Twitter.

Diego’s only had one dying wish:

I don’t ask for my full salary.
I just want a plane ticket,
so I can go home.
See my mom
and die in my own country….

His dying wish was never granted and at age 31 Diego Mendieta died in a government hospital in Indonesia, far away from his mother, his wife and his 3 children.

Diego died from a disease which is treatable with the right medicines, especially when you’re a strong 31-year old soccer player. But no money. Fund raising attempts didn’t bring in more than $300 which also in Indonesian hospitals is far from enough to pay the bills. So Diego moved from hospital to hospital until he died in a way that sends shivers down my spine. One moment a successful soccer player, the other moment dying because of being deprived from basic life saving health care or getting it too late.

Unfortunately, from my experience this is not an incident. I remember I had to rush to the hospital myself in the middle of the night. I’ve totally forgotten why I had to go there, my visit to the hospital turned to be insignificant compared to what I witnessed there. While sitting in the waiting room of a small Jakarta hospital a car pulled up the entrance carrying two heavily injured people. 3 persons brought a severely injured friend who has been involved in a motor accident. They also brought in an unknown person on request of the hospital they went to before. That hospital couldn’t provide the necessary treatment for either of them and begged the friends of the one injured person to also bring the other patient to a different hospital. At least, this was their version. Their friend was injured in a severe motor accident and at that time I had the feeling the other unknown guy was the one driving the second motor involved in the accident.

Which ever version is true, what happened next was as shocking as it was confronting for me. The friends of one of the injured persons told the hospital they could and would only pay the bill for their friend. This was where the security of the hospital transformed into debt collectors, constantly pushing the friends to also pay the bills for the other person. Hefty discussions, screaming and emotions…..

30 minutes later the unknown injured person had passed away while waiting for potentially life saving treatment.

This is where it hit me, I’m in another part of the world where life is very cheap if you have no money. While people in my home country are complaining about cuts in their sometimes ridiculous arts grant or they have to go on holiday to France instead of the Maldives, one thing is sure, no one dies there because they can’t afford the hospital bill.

I consider myself a “permanent guest” or “long-stay guest” as you will in Indonesia and I usually don’t talk about local politics, somehow I feel that being a guest that’s not my business. But in this case I make an exception by applauding the first actions of Jokowi, Jakarta’s newly elected governor. Jokowi has a reputation as being a man of the common people and he’s now also known as a politician that keeps his promise and doesn’t bow for corporate pressure. In his first month as governor he introduced “Kartu Sehat” which is a health insurance card for the very poor. He also raised UMR (minimum wages) in Jakarta significantly from IDR 1.3mln to IDR 2.2mln, wich is around $200 per month. For sure you can argue that the situation is still far from ideal but at least it’s a step in the right direction, a step closer to a better society.

Basic health care, the difference between life and death, should be available to everyone, rich or poor. In my opinion it’s a fundamental part of civilisation.

RIP Diego Mendieta, RIP John Doe….