MarcomIn the News

Every morning before I begin my day’s work I read the national and international news online. In general I read that day’s stories, but some mornings I’ll fall down a rabbit hole of old news articles, one to another, until I’m in a different decade or three years ago. On occasion, I’ll write a small piece by way of a response to an article or several I’ve found, although I can never predict which articles will inspire me to do so. The responses occupy an idiosyncratic intersection between the electronic cavalcade of news stories on the internet and the imagination of a creative writer who reads them by chance, usually at some later moment in time, in her northern California city. I think about what Schopenhauer said: “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” I wonder how we might, in our “Information Age,” see better.

I wrote this small piece last year:

Some Would Call It

Quelino Ojeda Jimenez fell twenty feet from a ladder while at work at a construction site for his job with Imperial Roofing Co. in Chicago, Illinois. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with severe trauma to the spinal cord; he lost the ability to breathe on his own or move his limbs and speak. The patient was cared for at the Advocate Christ Medical Center and his hospital bills surpassed $650,000.

Quelino Ojeda Jimenez immigrated from an impoverished mountain village (eighteen straw-roof homes) in the southern state of Oaxaca to the US at the age of 16. He sought work in the north to support his family of ten (two parents, six sisters, wife and three-year-old child); the irregular immigrant did not possess an employment authorization document to work in Illinois, and his American employers did not carry workers’ compensation insurance for him.

The Advocate Christ Medical Center transported Quelino Ojeda Jimenez (without his permission) for four months later via air ambulance to a clinic in Oaxaca after several private long-term care facilities in Chicago refused to take him. (“Undocumented Worker Who Became Quadriplegic is Moved to Mexico Against his Will” February 6, 2011.) The hospital did not notify family members or his friends of the deportation. “They threw him out like…garbage,” Horacio Esparza, a disability rights advocate said. The cost to the hospital for the medical transport was an estimated $60,000.

In time, the quadriplegic would recover some of his ability to speak. He said, “I didn’t want to come back because here there’s no medicine….I need therapy, I need a lot of things.” The nurses at the rural clinic did not have sufficient air filters for the mechanical ventilator the patient needed in order to breathe, so they cleaned and re-used the ones in their possession, they said.

In the photograph Quelino Ojeda Jimenez lay in a hospital bed and a large white plastic collar, like a vice, cinched his throat to secure the breathing tube that snaked out from it to the free-standing respirator. The Chicago Tribune printed the photograph and the article—“Quadriplegic Immigrant Dies After Chicago-Area Hospital Returned Him to Mexico”—on January 4, 2012. The quadriplegic was 21 years old. The law firm of Elfenbaum, Evers and Amarilio—specializing in labor and employment law—published a short brief eight days after Quelino Ojeda Jimenez’ death on their website recommending his former employer be charged with felony workers’ compensation fraud. “Some would call it murder,” they wrote.

Berkeley, California  2015

The Limits of the World
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Micheline Aharonian Marcom

Micheline Aharonian Marcom was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and raised in Los Angeles. She has published five novels, including a trilogy of books about the Armenian genocide and its aftermath in the twentieth century. She has received fellowships and awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the US Artists’ Foundation. Her first novel, Three Apples Fell From Heaven, was a New York Times Notable Book and Runner-Up for the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. Her second novel, The Daydreaming Boy, won the PEN/USA Award for Fiction. In 2008, Marcom taught in Beirut, Lebanon on a Fulbright Fellowship. Her fifth book, A Brief History of Yes, was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2014. A film version of Marcom’s first novel, Three Apples Fell From Heaven, is currently in pre-production with a screenplay by Oscar-nominated writer Jose Rivera, and Shekhar Kepar to direct.

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3 thoughts on “The Limits of the World

  • June 15, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I wonder if anyone followed up, like were there charges filed against the employer? Sadly, I think we know that even if there had been charges, it wouldn’t stop this kind of atrocity from happening. I bet they were fined about 5,000K, the same amount my former spouse’s company paid in negligence for his near fatal work place injury. During his inpatient stay at the trauma center in Seattle, and for the rehab afterward, I looked all around me and saw roofers who didn’t speak English. Fucking heartbreaking how some humans, as per an insurance plan or ability to advocate, are held up, cared for, meanwhile, others smashed with their faces into the shit. Do we not all need roofs? Do we not all need provisions for safety in dangerous, necessary jobs?

  • June 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Yes, absolutely typical! While many are led to believe the USA provides human rights for all and truly see the Constitution as perfect, there’s one basic flaw. We are fooling ourselves if we think we are above human rights violations just as brutal as anywhere else.

    What is a human? Is everyone human? Not really. Ever-increasingly the media warns us of those we should avoid: the toxic, those that loiter, the nuts, the crazed, the drunks, and those that dare speak the truth. The media encourages boundaries, better fences, thicker walls, and should you ever come into contact with a contaminated person, cleanse your contact list, block and unfriend immediately lest we all catch it.


  • June 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks, Micheline, for this powerful piece and for the reminder of how we can use our writing, our witness, to process the difficulties of the world through the concrete details of one man’s life. Thanks for helping us see not only with our minds but with our hearts.

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