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  HOME | Cuba

Cuban Doctor: Hunger Striker Still in Danger Despite Improvement

HAVANA – Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who has been on a hunger strike for more than four months, is in “potential danger of death” from a blood clot in the left jugular vein that is complicating his health, even though he has shown a “slight improvement” in recent days and is being given the most advanced treatments available to save his life.

The daily Granma published Saturday an unusual interview with Armando Caballero, head of the intensive care unit at Santa Clara Hospital – where Fariñas was admitted on March 11 – in which he describes the dissident’s condition and the treatments and attention he is receiving.

In the interview with the doctor, no mention is made of the reasons for the dissident’s hunger strike, which is to seek through his fasting the release of ailing political prisoners.

Fariñas, 48, started fasting on Feb. 24 after political prisoner Orlando Zapata died following an 85-day hunger strike.

Dr. Armando Caballero said that the thrombophlebitis of the jugular that Fariñas is suffering signifies “a great danger since it can come loose and go directly to the heart and from there to the lungs, and cause a pulmonary thromboembolism of the type that can kill a person.”

This complaint is due to complications common among patients who, as in the case of Fariñas, receive prolonged intravenous feeding through a catheter, since the risks of infection in the blood increase.

The physician said that Fariñas’ blood clot is being treated adequately, expressed his wish that it might disappear, and guaranteed that his medical team will continue doing everything possible to save his life.

According to Granma, since entering Santa Clara Hospital, Fariñas has benefited from the latest advances in medicine, has been attended by “prestigious specialists” and has received the “most advanced and costly” treatments available.

“The Cuban government has spared no effort to guarantee this person the necessary latest-generation medicines that are used in the most highly regarded medical centers, many of which were acquired abroad,” the daily said.

The head of the Santa Clara intensive care unit also said that Fariñas has been able to survive fasting all this time because, while he refuses to take food orally, he receives nutrition intravenously and has even gained weight since being admitted to the hospital.

“Fariñas arrived at our center weighing 63 kilos (139 lbs.) and currently fluctuates between 67 and 69 kilos (148 and 152 lbs.). His body weight has increased during his stay, precisely because of the intravenous feeding he has received,” the doctor said.

He said that relations with the dissident and his family are good, and that Fariñas is conscious, lucid, and his mental faculties are in no way impaired.

He also said that in the hospital room where he is staying, Fariñas is accompanied 24 hours a day, has a television to see the World Cup “which he likes,” and has a direct telephone.

“This person, like all our patients, is privileged,” he said.

The daily Granma first reported on Fariñas’ hunger strike on March 8 and called him an “agent of the United States and a violent common criminal,” while attacking the international media reporting on the case for “orchestrating a campaign in favor of the counterrevolutionary.”

Alicia Hernandez, Fariñas’ mother, said last Tuesday that he looked “very bad and low in spirits, deteriorated, with a lot of pain in his joints.”

Hernandez, a retired nurse, said that besides liver and kidney complications, her son also suffers from liver problems and is receiving antibiotic treatment along with intravenous saline solution to keep him hydrated.

Following the open dialogue between the Cuban Catholic Church and the communist government, Fariñas said he is willing to end his protest if the dozen political detainees with the worst health problems are freed from jail and if the administration commits itself to organizing a “schedule” for the others.

Talks between the hierarchy and President Raul Castro have led to the release of one political prisoner and the transfer of several others to prisons nearer their families.

Fariñas, a psychologist, has gone on 23 hunger strikes since 1995, the one in 2006 being the most remembered – with intervals in hospital for intravenous feeding – to demand unrestricted access to the Internet.

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