Saturday, January 22, 2011

Argentina: Dr. Santillan, Los Desaparecidos

When I served my mission in Argentina, it was ruled by the Military Government.  The government placed too much emphasis on rooting out opposition, communist, etc.  Often this included a broad sweep of families who might be in the wrong business.  For example a family had to leave as they taught the illiterate how to read.  Somehow the government decided everyone in this business was a bad influence.  The sister of a member, Hermana Bonavena, of the branch in Don Torcuato, where I served, had to flee the country because they were in this business.  They were able to flee to Spain, but their house was taken by a military family.

Dr. Santillan lived and had an office at Kilometro 26.  There was a train station here, and if you climbed a bunch of stairs from the train station you came to the road were the bus passed.  It was one station closer to the Capital, Buenos Aires, than Don Torcuato where we lived.  However our area covered both stations.  One day there was a drunken man in the road, who was just able to roll out of the path of a colectivo (bus.)  We gathered him up, and took him to the doctor to see if there was anything he could do for him.  He agreed to see him for no charge, and gave him something to drink.  The drunken man recomposed himself relatively quickly, and the doctor sent him on his way.  He told us that traditionally, someone as intoxicated as this man, normally wouldn't recover so quickly, and he attributed this to our faith.

We got to know the doctor subsequent to this.  My companion went to him for a boil.  He treated me for bronchitis.  He prescribed something like Ensure for my companion as he was very thin.  Hermana Bonavena, who lived only a few blocks away from the doctor's office, told us the doctor’s story.

He was in his office, as he was most days.  Someone the government was after, a rebel of some kind, had been shot by the police following him.  He got off the train at Kilometros 26, climbed the stairs leading up out of the train station to the residential neighborhood.  There at the top of the train station was a doctor office, and as he had been shot, he went there for treatment.  If the treatment was forced under threat of a gun, I don't know, but I do know that the doctor did treat him.  Isn't that part of the Hippocratic Oath?  I imagine the guy was eventually caught.

However as a result of this action, the government appeared one day on the doctor's doorstep and took him.  His family did not know where he was for over a year.  For all they knew he could have been killed, as so many others were during this time.  In similar fashion to when he had been taken, he showed back up at his home almost a couple years later.  No explanation was given.  The good doctor, as explained by Sister Bonavena, had aged considerable during this time.  Who knows to what torture he had been subject.  He had been a young man, and returned an old gray-haired man.

The doctor had a large Catholic family, with many children.  We asked him if we could teach his family, and he asked us to teach him alone.  He told him the Joseph Smith story, but he did not consent to having his family take the discussions.

I ran into the doctor one more time after having been transferred.  We were riding a bus in the downtown area, and he was on the bus as well.  Turns out he was taking a course on herbal medicine.  He was learning many interesting things about natural healing formulas.  Dr. Santillan was always looking to improve himself. 

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