Editor's Note: The original title is "In Venezuela, I paid my son's childbirth fee in bitcoin."
On September 30th, my eldest son, Adrián, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Thanks to my hard work and the savings from Bitcoin, I can pay all the medical expenses of my child's birth in one day. In the economic crisis that swept through my country, Adrián was born in a decent private clinic in the capital of Venezuela.
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Living in Venezuela forces me to find more ways to protect myself. One option is bitcoin, which I have written before. In the past two years, all my salary has been received in the form of bitcoin. I am fully aware of the volatility of Bitcoin, but it is still much safer than the hyperemic Venezuela Bolivar (VES). Take a look, in January 2019, the price of a cup of Ole coffee was 450 VES. According to the Bloomberg index, the price of the same cup of coffee rose to 14,000 VES by September.
From the moment I knew I was going to be my father, I started thinking about how much it would cost my wife and children to get a decent treatment. A few years ago, private clinics cost between $500 and $700. In the private clinic we ultimately chose, the cost of a pregnant woman's delivery will not be less than $1,500, while the cost of a caesarean section is $2,500.
It is worth noting that this private clinic is already one of the lowest-priced private clinics. I have heard that the caesarean section of a clinic in Caracas costs $6,000. The current minimum wage in Venezuela is 300,000 VES, which is about $16 a month.
Maybe you will think: Why do I live in Venezuela, but always mention the dollar? Because here, most merchants price their goods and services in dollars to protect themselves from hyperinflation. You can then pay with VES based on the VES / USD exchange rate for the day, or if you have US dollars, you can pay directly in US dollars. I can also save in dollars instead of bitcoins, but in the past few years, Bitcoin has also provided considerable returns.
For example, imagine that I only have VES. Because of hyperinflation, if I want to pay for medical expenses with VES, this amount may exceed my savings.
So, if I don't have Bitcoin, what about my wife and children? The best option should be a public maternity hospital that focuses on maternal and child care. These places are full of patients, each patient receives very little care and the material budget is insufficient. I heard that some employees in these public hospitals can only get the minimum wage. Because of these conditions, such institutions have few capable employees, which leads to the inability of women to obtain adequate care and sometimes even wrong treatment.
I have heard about the conditions of these maternity hospitals. I have heard that some mothers will continue to give birth for several days. In the process, they will be thrown aside and produce alone. I have also heard how exhausted mothers give birth to babies in hospital beds.
In any case, I will not let my wife accept this treatment.
Of course, selling bitcoin for large payments is risky. I know this because the price of a bitcoin fell from $10,000 to $8,200 in the week my son was born. It is very annoying to see that this kind of market volatility consumes its own savings.
That week was not easy for me. Looking at the price drop, I don't know if it should be replaced with a stable currency to avoid the impact of the currency price falling again; or do nothing, hope that the price of Bitcoin will rebound before September 30, then I will All expenses must be paid for the birth of my son.
I chose to wait. Unfortunately, the price of bitcoin did not return to $10,000 that week. I lost money and paid for a clinic bill for a BTC exchange rate of $8,200.
I converted Bolivar to BTC on LocalBitcoins.com, a popular website for traders. The day before my son was born, I transferred BTC to LocalBitcoins (the site provides hosting services), hoping that my transfer would be confirmed when I arrived at the clinic. I chose a user who uses the same bank as me to trade on the platform with a good reputation and the highest quotation. This user's IP address is in Singapore, but the registered phone number is in Venezuela, which is just one of the weird things you will see on LocalBitcoins.
At least for me, getting bitcoin is easier than the dollar. On LocalBitcoins, I only select the best offer, trade it, and wait for the transfer confirmation to complete. I can even receive Bitcoin without leaving the office.
Getting dollars is a different matter. I have to announce to my friends and family on Whatsapp or Instagram that I want to buy dollars. If I find someone willing to sell, we must negotiate the exchange rate before deciding on a place to change hands, and I will use VES to transfer money.
Taking my son's birth as an example, I completed the trading of Bitcoin against Bolivar on the morning of my wife's production. For me, this is a very risky move. I am very aware of all the obstacles that may prevent me from paying on time, so I am nervous throughout the process.
I am concerned that the user who initiated the transaction has not responded; or worse, my bank may intercept the money on the grounds of suspicious large transfers. My counterparty sent six different amounts of money from four bank accounts in the same bank, possibly to avoid any transfer being blocked.
After receiving Bolivar, I will pay the clinic. I made a bank transfer twice, without any problems. But compared to the moment when I first saw my son, the relaxation and pleasure I felt after completing the final transfer was completely worth mentioning. All the pressure during the payment process disappeared in an instant. But no matter what, I am happy and proud to be able to pay all the expenses of his birth in my own way (Bitcoin).
I must admit that it is not easy to spend most of my bitcoin savings. I don't want to do this, but more importantly, provide my son with a safe birth environment and provide decent and good treatment for his mother.
I wrote that Bitcoin can't save Venezuela, and now I still think so. But writing this story made me realize how important bitcoin is in my own life. It allowed me to resist Venezuela's hyperinflation, save some savings, and make large payments in a matter of hours without actually going anywhere. For example, we can imagine how much it would take to sell the same amount of gold.
I often see people on social media say that Bitcoin has no practical use other than market speculation. This may be the case in countries where there are no serious economic problems. But countries like Venezuela, where economic failures have emerged, show the greatest potential of Bitcoin. The story of my son's birth is an example.