At her 17th birthday party at her house in a remote small village outside of Panajachel, Guatemala in June 2012, Cristobalina wished to learn more of painting and English this new year, as well as to have another birthday party for her next birthday. However, she recalls, that she wished to die when she woke up with her both hands and a part of right foot amputated after an electrocution accident in November 2010. The accident happened when she touched a high-voltage wire that was not properly covered in the house where she was working as live-in housekeeper.
Since an accident, Cristobalina underwent several surgeries to release scar tissues that cause her legs contracted. Recently, she spent a month again in the hospital in Guatemala City for a skin graft surgery for ulcer on her legs. In the course of adjusting to new life, she taught herself to write and paint with her mouth.
Like many others in indigenous community in Guatemala, Cristobalina’s family is a large one with 10 children and is on a very low income. As the family struggle to secure daily necessities, Cristobalina started to work at age of 11. Worked and lived away from her village, she had not lived with her family since then until she returned home after the accident. Panajachel based non-profit Mayan Families has been able to support the family for cost and necessities for Cristobalina’s recovery, however her parents still struggle between keeping enough income and taking care of their daughter.
As high-voltage wire burns rank the third cause of admitted patients in the burn unit at Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City, electrocution accident is not uncommon in Guatemala. However placing responsibilities has not been simple. Though many claim that electronic companies are to be blamed, the report shows more ample scope as many accident sites and constructions were built without permissions. There are some cases that accident victims were succeed in taking legal action, but most victims are left with severe lifelong scars both physically and emotionally, yet with no one to blame.
In Cristobaina’s case, an owner of the house disappeared after the accident and Cristobalina and her family were never be able to locate him.