Dr. Perez

Schadrac Junior Ondongo Bongo

© Copyright 2020 by 
Schadrac Junior Ondongo Bongo

Photo of the author.

Javier Ernesto Perez Javier was a child passionate about medicine. Because he thought it was a noble profession, the most beautiful profession in the world he said. There is no more beautiful job than saving lives, and favoring the arrival of a human being on earth.

Once he grew up, like most Cubans, he already knew what will be his specialty at the University: Medicine. Having developed a particular affection for this profession, it was completely normal for Javier to pass his assessments brilliantly, with very good honors. Once his studies as a general practitioner ended, Javier wanted to specialize in a given field. Hence, he chooses Surgery. Associate Professor of Orthopedic and Trauma Surgery Javier was very good at what he did and had no equal in his country at the time.

While he practiced his profession in his country, Javier started to have desires elsewhere. Because according to him, Cuba did not really need him, since there were many certified and qualified doctors to do the work that he did.

Following the United States embargo on Cuba, the country was underdeveloped. Aside from the medical field, they hadn't really made much progress towards development. Hence, they were considered an underdeveloped country, despite their advanced medicine.

One day, Javier spoke to himself saying: If we here in Cuba we are considered as an underdeveloped country, but we are lucky to have an advanced medicine, what about other underdeveloped countries that don't have advanced medicine like ours?

He reflected for months and months. On end, he did not know what he as an individual could do or provide as a solution to this. One day, one of his friends (Vladimir, half-Cuban, half-Russian) having studied with him and living in the West contacted him (by telegram) to inquire about the state of the country.

Vladimir told Javier that he now worked at Doctors Without Borders. And Javier answered him: It is very good, I hope that you find satisfaction in what you do?

Vladimir replied to Javier: Yes, my friend. Through Doctors Without Borders, I went to the depths of remote corners to help people in need. And Javier said to himself, that's what I need. But he did not share the urge that boiled in him with his friend Vladimir. And the two lost contact.

Javier did everything he could to leave Cuba and go to practice elsewhere, in remote corners of the world where people really needed him. But the restriction of the country and the barriers placed by the regime of Fidel Castro did not allow the executives of the country to go to exercise elsewhere.

Only a handful of people had successfully crossed over to new horizons (new countries). Years passed, and Javier had acquired great renown in his field. One day, Vladimir was back in Havana to see his Cuban mother who had divorced from his Russian father.

As soon as he arrived, he wanted to make contact with his friend Javier and asked his mother if he knew him. Well obviously I know him, replied his mother. And she added: Do you remember, last year when I sent you a telegram saying that I was in the hospital and that I had to be operated on? Vladimir replied: Yes mom, I remember that.

And his mother replied: It was Professor Javier who had operated on me. Vladimir replied: So tomorrow you would drive me to the hospital to see him? His mother replied: Yes, my son.

The next morning, Vladimir and his mother went to the hospital to see Professor Perez. Once there, they asked the hospital secretary if Professor Perez was there. One of the members of the secretariat said to them (to Vladimir and his mother): Do you have an appointment with Professor Perez? They replied: No, we do not have an appointment.

Vladimir taking the floor said to the members of the secretariat: I am one of his old friends from the University; I work at Doctors Without Borders; I am here in Havana only since yesterday. Please could you do me the favor of seeing him without an appointment?

One of the members of the secretariat replied: No, we cannot make an exception, because the rules were made to be followed. Imagine (She said to Vladimir.) if we granted everyone a right pass, what will the rules that have been established here be used for? And ended her speech by saying: The rules are the rules for everyone regardless of social class.

Vladimir disappointed that he couldn't see his old friend asked what he could do to meet him. And she said to him: It's easy, make an appointment!

When Vladimir wanted to take one, Professor Perez was passing by. Having seen Vladimir's mother, he came to greet her. To his surprise, someone called him from his nickname of the University (Pepe).

Upon closer inspection, he saw that the man who called him like that was next to the mother of his old friend Vladimir. Due to the years, Javier had a little trouble guessing who he was? Since Vladimir had changed a lot. But eventually Professor Perez recognized Vladimir. Then invited him and his mother into his office to talk about the rain and the weather.

In their conversation, Vladimir spoke to Javier about what Doctors Without Borders was and invited him to join them. Javier had seen this opportunity as a way to fulfill his dream of helping other countries, that were poorer than theirs, and of helping the sick who could not get proper and adequate medical assistance.

Hence, Javier accepted Vladimir's invitation. And a few months later, and thanks to his friend Vladimir, Professor Perez was enrolled in Doctors Without Borders. Thus began his international renown, particularly in developing countries.

His first mission was in 1997 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire). A country that was in the grip of war. On the one hand there was Laurent Désiré Kabila with his AFDLR (insurrectionary movement) and on the other, the legitimate President Joseph Désiré-Mobutu with his party, the MPR. His role was to provide assistance to those injured by gunshot wounds.

Seeing children wounded by gunshots coming to him (they came to the front and were used as shields.) his heart bled inside. And said: Why so much cruelty? Why the heart of man is so wicked? How far will man go by his thirst for power? These children have the right to a future; they are not shields of war; they have the right to life.

Professor Perez started to cry because of his inability to save lives since the cases which came to him for most of the children, were in a very critical state. And their chance of survival was minimal. Professor Perez was still doing his best, but still couldn't save one. Since in his pavilion there was no slight injury, only serious and very critical cases. And most of these cases were already between life and death.

But not getting discouraged and doing his job, Professor Perez managed to save the life of a ten-year-old boy who had been brought to the battle front. He decided to adopt him as his own son and gave him a new name: Javier Ernesto Perez Junior.

In all the humanitarian actions he had to carry out, that of the Democratic Republic of Congo was the one that had marked his entire existence, since it had given him a son. Professor Perez died in 2016 at the age of 81. His life was marked by his kindness, his generosity to always want to save a life, one more life he said with each operation.

Today his son Perez Junior wants to follow in his father's footsteps and studies medicine at the University.

Tribute to Javier Ernesto Perez 1935-2016.

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