Hugo Flores: Honoring Paul Farmer After His Passing
Hugo Flores—former executive director of Compañeros En Salud, as PIH is known in Mexico— wrote this reflection following the death of Paul Farmer:
There are truly no words to describe what Paul Farmer has given to the world of health and social justice. From the time he was an undergraduate student he gave all his time and energy to helping the poorest patients in Haiti. He brought TB and HIV treatments when the global policy was to treat no one in rural areas. He called all deaths from preventable causes stupid deaths. No death from preventable causes is or will ever be acceptable.
Those of us who had the opportunity to know him saw that he never rested. He was always traveling, carrying the message, inspiring, seeking funds, envisioning what was impossible for many to achieve, a 3rd level hospital in the middle of Haiti, a world class university in Rwanda. I never saw him refuse his attention to anyone who wanted to talk to him, even if it was 2 o’clock in the morning. He always saw patients wherever he went.
I remember when he came to visit CES in 2013, when I went to pick him up at the airport, I went to the wrong room, and found him sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, with his old, broken blackberry phone, and his 14 year old daughter who had accompanied him on the trip. I was sorry to have left him there waiting and he said to me “the day you have to worry about me, I’m no longer useful.”
On the way to Jaltenango we coined the term “La Enormidad”, to refer to when we are confronted with the immense social problems faced by the poor and the feeling of helplessness that can invade us. An ethics professor of mine once referred to people like him as “undesirables.” My professor was referring to the fact that there are people who set such a high bar for service and commitment that it is impossible to replicate, and that it puts us in conflict with ourselves.
Paul’s heart was huge, because the world’s problems are huge. Thanks to his vision we were able to meet and form this family. Now we can only continue in the mission, tirelessly, until the last day of our lives.