Arts & Entertainment

Book program offers temporary escape for Colombian dialysis patients

By Irene Escudero

Bogota, Apr 26 (EFE).- While immersing himself in the military triumphs and failures of Col. Aureliano Buendia in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Andres Giovanny Trujillo’s mind temporarily drifts from his unpleasant reality – the vital need to be hooked up to a hemodialysis machine four hours a day, three days a week.

A chronic patient with visual impairment, Trujillo is unable to read on his own.

So Diana Oliveros – a volunteer social worker at Hospital El Tunal on Bogota’s south side – does that job for him on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, the days she visits that medical center’s hemodialysis unit.

Every morning, she rolls a metal cart-cum-library along the hospital’s hallways while wearing a clown nose, providing patients with a selection of books or even reading to them if they are not able.

Oliveros is a member of a group of “artesanas de sonrisas” (smile crafters) who are on the front lines of a program run by Bogota’s South Sub-Network of Hospitals that strives to humanize patient stays through reading.

Unsurprisingly in a country where 97 percent of the population self-identifies as Christian, the Bible is the most commonly requested text.

But a wide variety of books are available, from action/adventure to fantasy to literary works like Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece, which Trujillo told Efe has been his favorite so far.

“It’s a book that educates, teaches what happened long ago with someone who wanted to be something better. And it’s very good,” said the Colombian, who for the past 14 years has been dependent on a machine that silently carries out the blood-cleaning function his kidneys no longer can perform.


Fifteen machines are positioned on the ground floor of Hospital El Tunal next to an equal number of beds, all of which are occupied. That space is one of two hemodialysis rooms at the hospital that offer service to 120 patients per day.

Carolina Guevara, a psychologist and leader of the Humanization Program at Bogota’s South Sub-Network of Hospitals, says the mobile library initiative occurred to her during her own hospital stay: “I would always look at the clock and five minutes would pass, 10 minutes, and it felt like an eternity.”

So she said she sought out a way for patients, while receiving treatment, to “learn new things and feel that sense of comfort in our spaces.”

To that end, “rolling libraries” were installed in February at seven units of that sub-network, including hemodialysis rooms and mental health wards.

The program is a way to create “a closer, more human relationship with users” and enable them to be seen “as a person, as someone who feels, who thinks, and isn’t just there with an illness, a diagnosis,” Guevara told Efe.


Yamile Rangel is reading a manual on how to extract breast milk and the best methods for breastfeeding.

The book is no longer of immediate practical use to the woman, who has two daughters and three grandchildren, but she chose it due to its large print and is gradually reading sections of it.

Rangel acknowledges that when she first began undergoing hemodialysis treatment nine years ago it was very difficult to accept.

“I wanted to escape,” she said, adding that she needed a lot of professional help and support to cope with her situation and that even now there are days when she wants to rip her needles out and run away.

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