In the News
Every morning before I begin my day’s work I read the national and international news online. In general I read that day’s stories, but some mornings I’ll fall down a rabbit hole of old news articles, one to another, until I’m in a different decade or three years ago. On occasion, I’ll write a small piece by way of a response to an article or several I’ve found, although I can never predict which articles will inspire me to do so. The responses occupy an idiosyncratic intersection between the electronic cavalcade of news stories on the internet and the imagination of a creative writer who reads them by chance, usually at some later moment in time, in her northern California city. I think about what Schopenhauer said: “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” I wonder how we might, in our “Information Age,” see better.
I wrote this small piece last year:
Some Would Call It
Quelino Ojeda Jimenez fell twenty feet from a ladder while at work at a construction site for his job with Imperial Roofing Co. in Chicago, Illinois. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with severe trauma to the spinal cord; he lost the ability to breathe on his own or move his limbs and speak. The patient was cared for at the Advocate Christ Medical Center and his hospital bills surpassed $650,000.
Quelino Ojeda Jimenez immigrated from an impoverished mountain village (eighteen straw-roof homes) in the southern state of Oaxaca to the US at the age of 16. He sought work in the north to support his family of ten (two parents, six sisters, wife and three-year-old child); the irregular immigrant did not possess an employment authorization document to work in Illinois, and his American employers did not carry workers’ compensation insurance for him.
The Advocate Christ Medical Center transported Quelino Ojeda Jimenez (without his permission) for four months later via air ambulance to a clinic in Oaxaca after several private long-term care facilities in Chicago refused to take him. (“Undocumented Worker Who Became Quadriplegic is Moved to Mexico Against his Will” February 6, 2011.) The hospital did not notify family members or his friends of the deportation. “They threw him out like…garbage,” Horacio Esparza, a disability rights advocate said. The cost to the hospital for the medical transport was an estimated $60,000.
In time, the quadriplegic would recover some of his ability to speak. He said, “I didn’t want to come back because here there’s no medicine….I need therapy, I need a lot of things.” The nurses at the rural clinic did not have sufficient air filters for the mechanical ventilator the patient needed in order to breathe, so they cleaned and re-used the ones in their possession, they said.
In the photograph Quelino Ojeda Jimenez lay in a hospital bed and a large white plastic collar, like a vice, cinched his throat to secure the breathing tube that snaked out from it to the free-standing respirator. The Chicago Tribune printed the photograph and the article—“Quadriplegic Immigrant Dies After Chicago-Area Hospital Returned Him to Mexico”—on January 4, 2012. The quadriplegic was 21 years old. The law firm of Elfenbaum, Evers and Amarilio—specializing in labor and employment law—published a short brief eight days after Quelino Ojeda Jimenez’ death on their website recommending his former employer be charged with felony workers’ compensation fraud. “Some would call it murder,” they wrote.
Berkeley, California 2015