A few months ago 80-year old Ray Hasse gave his business card to a man he met at an Adventist gathering in the U. S. The card read:
You can guess a little about Ray's sense of humor if you know that the V.A.E. after his name means... absolutely nothing. Anyway, some months later the card's recipient, who happened to be an administrator in an Adventist organization that financially aids Adventists programs in developing countries, gave Ray a call.
"I notice on your card," the man said, "that you're interested in photography, video and travel. Well, there are some Adventist undertakings down in southern Mexico and Belize from which we'd like to see some pictures so we can better determine what their needs are. Would you be able to go down and take a few shots for us?"
Consequently, late on this Thursday night Ray Hasse and his grandson David knock at my door, having just arrived here and heard that one of their compatriots is spending three months living on the hill. Ray is a tall, blue-eyed, white-haired, very fat man wearing a massive brass belt-buckle that spells out RAY. He looks more like he's sixty than eighty. Twenty-three year old David is a smile-flashing, sharp-witted, curly-haired fellow with a new degree in Advertising from Washington state's Walla Walla College. These days he's working hard on figuring out who he is and where he wants to go in life.
It turns out that David is invited to participate in a four-day trip to the isolated Indian village of San Lorenzo. While he's away, Abuelito ("Little Grandfather"), as everyone begins calling Ray, stays in the Casa Grande. Ray arrived at Yerba Buena with a sore throat. The weather turned chilly, overcast and misty during his wait for David and soon his sore throat has become a head cold, and he feels very weak. I'm invited to come along as interpreter when Ray visits Dr. Sánchez.
No high temperature. Lungs sound OK. Dr. Sánchez returns from the stockroom adjoining his office with two packages of VIROSYNK, which he describes as being good against the common cold, and a package of Vitamin C tablets. Also he prescribes fomentation treatment. He'd like for the treatments to run for several days, but since Ray is leaving early tomorrow morning, a treatment now, at 4:00 in the afternoon, and another at 9:00 tonight will have to do. Here's how the fomentation treatment goes:
Aurelia Hernández Laguna, a student nurse, escorts us to the Hydrotherapy Room. On the room's right there's a large gas stove with one burner heating a two-foot-high aluminum pot in which five thick, dark, much-scorched, rolled-up towels are steaming, standing inside the pot on their ends. On the room's left there's the Steam Bath room and three alcoves with curtains drawn across their entrances. Aurelia leads us into one alcove equipped with a small, homemade, wooden bedside table just large enough to hold an open book, and a homemade, wooden bed about a yard high, covered with a thick blanket.
4:45 -- After Abuelito is asked to remove his shirts and to lie on his back, Aurelia spreads three dry towels across his chest and stomach. Then from the big pot, with long, stainless-steel tongs, she carries a steaming hot towel into the alcove, unrolls it and spreads it atop the three dry towels covering Ray's upper torso. Atop this hot, wet towel goes another dry one. Then Ray is covered from neck to feet with a heavy blanket. Next Aurelia places a band of gauze-like material across Ray's forehead. He says that it's cold and wet. He smiles now and recalls wistfully that when he was a child seventy-five years ago this is exactly what his Adventist mother did whenever he had a cold. Aurelia asks again and again, "¿Quema?" -- "Does it burn?" Sometimes it does burn through the three dry towels, but instead of telling Aurelia about it, Ray just reaches up and shifts things until he's comfortable.
4:52 -- The hot towel is replaced with a new hot towel from the pot; the first one still being so hot that steam rises from it when it's taken away. The dry towel next to Ray's bare skin also is replaced with a new dry one. Ray says it's because the towel next to his skin gets wet from his sweat. The cold headstrap also is replaced.
5:0l -- The above procedure is repeated.
5:05 -- Aurelia places a thumbless mitten soaked in cold tapwater onto her right hand, removes all the towels from Ray's chest, and for eight seconds rubs his exposed chest and belly area. She asks him to turn onto his belly. Now the entire procedure is repeated with Ray's back.
5:l5 -- The hot towel and cold headband are renewed.
5:l9 -- They're renewed again.
5:25 -- Aurelia returns with her cold, wet mitten and for another eight seconds scrubs down Ray's bare back. Then she declares that the treatment is ended, and that Abuelito can replace his shirt.
After the treatment the skin on Ray's back, chest and belly looks fresh and rosy, but he says he can't tell much difference in how he feels.
At 9:00 PM the entire operation described above is repeated.
On Wednesday morning when I meet Ray for breakfast in the Casa Grande, he looks better than I've seen him since his arrival. "I really coughed up a lot of stuff last night," he says. "I feel a lot better. I wish I were staying so I could continue the treatments. But maybe getting back into the hot lowlands today will accomplish the same thing."