Monday, October 03, 2005

My Friend Jerig....

This is going to be a very hard log to write. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it for a couple of days now.

A couple of days before I got married, I got a call from my cabinet makers Jerig.

Jerig had gone off to Russia to work, as his talents of a woodcarver were better paid for in Russia. His brother had called for him to come work for a company that would pay him a good living wage.

I had known Jerig since 1997 as he was cousins with a musical family that my future wife and her sisters were working with that summer, giving concerts in neighboring villages. Jerig played the bass guitar in their band.

Throughout the years I would see Jerig at parties and whenever we would pass his village of Spitagashen, where we would talk about the past and what we would be doing in the future.

One thing that Jerig reminisced of and had a right to be proud of was at the age of 14, he volunteered to load up and accompany the first convoy of relief aid that made its way through the Lachin corridor once our forces liberated it. He talked of how rewarding it was to help out his fellow countrymen.

Jerig walked with a cane as he had problems with his legs, one being shorter than the other. He always dreamed of the day he would be able to afford an operation to even out his legs and not have to be dependent on medication to alleviate the pain and swelling which he always seemed to have.

Jerig moved into the house next door that I own and began to build me solid walnut furniture which he decorated with beautiful and intricate Armenian carvings.

He also built an immaculate kitchen, incorporating his fantasy that produced something which looked straight out of a European catalog.

All of our beauty salon fixtures were Jerig’s handy work.

When Jerig left for Russia, he did so with the understanding that one day he would return and continue his work in Armenia when there was a real market for his talents.

When I got the call from Jerig, I immediately invited him to my wedding. Though he could not have wanted more to be with us on that special day, he said he could not, as he had returned to Armenia practically dead.

It seems that after working for 6 month for the factory his brother set him up in, he had done so well for himself that he and his brother rented a place and set up shop for themselves making cabinets that the Russian’s could not get enough of.

The place they rented they didn’t realize was very humid and since they could not afford a separate place to live, they slept at the factory.

From the moisture, Jerig got very sick. The medicine he was taking for his legs had some negative effect on his kidneys and caused his to bleed internally.

The $3,000 that he was able to put aside to have the leg operation he had dreamed about since he was a child moving from one hospital to another was spent on having an emergency operation on his kidneys.

When it was time to have a second operation and there was very little money left, Jerig was left with no choice but to check out of the Russia hospital and fly back to Armenia, where he is registered as an invalid and is entitled to “free” medical assistance.

In a practically half-dead condition, he took the risk, ignoring the Russian doctor’s advice and flew back to Armenia and straight to the hospital.

The free medical treatment he is entitled to was far from free and when the money his parents could scrape up ran out, the doctor treating his sent him home.

On our wedding day we got a call on my cell phone from Jerig sending us well wishes. He was at home in the city of Masis and told me that he was doing better. I told Jerig that once we get to Yerevan I would contact him.

After returning to Yerevan and after sending my mother off a few days later, I called Jerig and told him that my wife and I were going to come visit him in the next couple of days.

Ten days before leaving for America, we paid a visit with Jerig.

Jerig did not look well. He was thin and yellow. He was on an i.v. (sp?) drip with water to clean out any blood that was coming from his kidneys.

I had a tape-recorder and recorded Jerig as he told me of the problems he had with the hospitals and how they had him running around for papers to get him approved for the free medical treatment he was entitled to. He said that in the end they gave him only a fraction of what he was entitled to and sent him home.

Since he could not afford what they wanted to charge him for dialysis, he had turned to herbal remedies, which he had started a couple days before.

I told him that I would do anything I could to help him and it was up to him and his family to explore all their options and entitlements and I would make sure they got them.

They told me that since he was stable, they would try out the herbal treatment for the month I would be in America and when I got back, we would pursue a remedy to his problem.

When I got back from America, the next day I gave a call to Jerig on his cell phone.

A woman answered the phone and when I asked for Jerig there was not response. I again asked, thinking that it was the connection and the woman replied that Jerig had died.

I didn’t know what to say and asked her when it had happened? She said on September 4th.

Jerig is related to Rosa Myrig and Hurant. I asked them for details which Rosa Myrig provided.

It seem that Jerig was doing well with the herbal treatment and on September 1st, they celebrated Jerig’s 28th birthday. Jerig was feeling so good that he even got up and danced.

One September 2nd, Jerig’s condition got worse. He had apparently caught a cold and was also bleeding from his kidneys.

On September 4th, Jerig didn’t wake up.

Hurant was very upset and said that he didn’t understand why Jerig went to Russia in the first place. He had a warm, dry place to live and was not doing so bad for himself building furniture and carving.

I know that Jerig wanted to work and make some real money so he could get married and start a family of his own. Armenia was only providing enough to just survive. Russia would give him that needed economic boost.

Well my friend, you became one of those statistics that we talked about so many times, never thinking that yourself would be part of. One of those the system (medical and the likes) failed.

I lost a great friend on September 4th. Jerig will be missed by those who knew him. He will be a part of me for a long time and someone I can say I will never forget. He was an honest and hard working person, who never did anything to hurt or cheat anyone. A craftsman, talent and all around good human.

Rest in Peace my friend. I know without a doubt the gates of heaven were opened for you.

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