As a medical student going on a MEDLIFE internship, I most looked forward to the chance to see the mobile medical clinics in action and help to provide medical care to families in need. We were encouraged to read about the issues surrounding aid provision and health inequalities, and in doing so we encountered quotes such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.”

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With these famous words still resounding, I arrived in the communities ready to help in whatever way I could. I was humbled to find that my help could only make a difference thanks to the communities themselves who came out in full force to help us build a staircase in the hills.

Despite having 20 students from the UK working together to pass cement, paint the walls, and clear debris – the community members outnumbered us. Some helped with the manual labor while others fetched drinks to reinvigorate us under the Peruvian sun. 

The trust that these people had in MEDLIFE was clear as they brought out their children to meet us, let us play with their dogs, and joined in and laughed as we sang a range of well-known songs from the UK to keep spirits up while we worked.

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Vital to this is the role played by local community leaders who are employed by MEDLIFE. They understand the communities and help to foster trust. This really struck me after an educational meeting about women’s health, when a crowd of 30 or so people stayed late to speak to one of these local leaders and explain their different needs.

It is through these discussions that we begin to recognize the different problems that each community faces, and allows us to personalize the help we provide. It was through these discussions that the idea to build staircases first arose - a simple idea that would never have occurred to me living in the UK, but clearly made a huge difference to the lives of the people we met and helped to create a safer place to live. I am very grateful to have been a part of MEDLIFE’s work, and look forward to being involved again in the future, and continuing to put the community at the heart of it all. 

May 9, 2018 9:04 am

Meet the patient: Juan Padilla

Written by Melanie Neyra

In 2016, Juan Padilla's life took an unexpected turn. He was aggressively assaulted, leaving him completely blind.

 

The Story of Juan

Juan lives with his wife and daughter in his deceased parents' house in Pamplona Baja, San Juan de Miraflores, one of the most dangerous districts of Lima, Peru. Two years ago, he was a taxi driver and the only economic support of his family, until he got assaulted on his way home from work.

As he was walking home, five men got off a moto-taxi, took all of his belongings, and then began kicking him until he dropped onto the street. But this wasn't enough for them and before leaving, they threw a chemical in his eyes. This is a technique that robbers use to keep their victim from recognizing them in the police station.  

 

Meet the patient: Juan PadillaJuan Padilla, in his parent's house, where he lives with his 4 siblings and his family

 

He was left in the street, and his left eye began swelling and turning purple. When Juan's wife saw him, she took him to a local hospital, Maria Auxiliadora, but they couldn't help him without an appointment. After three long months, he was finally able to see a doctor. Unfortunately, after waiting so long, it was too late to start treatment for his left eye and he had permanently lost his vision. But the doctor told him with surgery, he could save the sight in his right eye.

After the surgery, Juan was showing signs of recovery and began to do some simple work. He helped his friend trim threads on the t-shirts he was making to support the Peruvian soccer team, so he could support his family and cover some of his medical costs. But this wasn't enough.  

How MEDLIFE Got Involved

One day, Zoila Dorado, a friend of Juan’s that knew MEDLIFE through its mobile clinics, told him how the organization helps provide quality health care for people who can’t otherwise access it. Juan didn't hesitate to reach out and contacted one of MEDLIFE's nurses, Ruth.

When Ruth heard his story, she knew she had to do something, so she enrolled Juan in MEDLIFE's follow-up patient program. First, MEDLIFE supported him by paying for his medicine and special glasses, but since he had stopped working, this wasn't a sustainable solution for his family or for MEDLIFE.

Luckily, thanks to volunteers that participated in a Service Learning Trip, we were able to give Juan a carrito sanguchero (sandwich cart), where his wife could begin to work selling things like burgers and orange juice. They couldn’t stop smiling when they were presented with the cart, knowing that they would be able to make an income again.

 

Juan's family inaugurating their new carrito sangucheroJuan's family inaugurating their new carrito sanguchero

 

But the story doesn’t end there. A few months passed, when Juan was assaulted once again. His attackers hit him so hard with a baseball bat this time that his glasses broke. Even in this incredible pain, Juan stood up and went home. On his way into his kitchen, it all turned black. Juan was completely blind.

At first he was depressed, but thanks to his family, MEDLIFE volunteers, staff, and donors, he has been given hope.

 

IMG 4830MEDLIFE staff giving him a walking stick and a special watch

 

Juan’s Hopes for the Future

Now, Juan is enrolled in a program in CERCIL (Lima’s rehabilitation center for the blind), where they teach him how to live and develop professionally. It also connects him to fellow blind people, which makes him feel he isn’t alone and gives him the opportunity to swap stories and advice.

Juan told us there was a man from Ica, “and he came to CERCIL asking for help. He likes sports, especially running, and now is about to participate in the Pan American games. This made me ask myself - if this man can do it, why can't I?”

 

By attending a Service Learning Trip, you help us support MEDLIFE follow-up patients like Juan Padilla, and give them hope for a better future.

 

When patients are simply referred to local hospitals for treatments many times they still fail to receive the actual treatment they need due to lack of resources, lack of confidence, or lack of a true understanding of their medical problems. For all of these reasons, MEDLIFE has developed a year-round patient follow-up process. We support our patients in many ways. We provide financial resources for treatments, emotional support, nutritional assistance for malnourished families, and educational resources to help individuals better understand their conditions.  

Meet some of our follow-up patients in Tanzania!

CAROLINE MOSHA

CAROLINE

Let me introduce you to Caroline Mosha! Caroline is a six year-old girl, living in the community of Kilema-Moshi. She became a MEDLIFE follow-up patient in May of 2017.

Caroline is a charming young girl who was diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis at a mobile clinic and subsequently enrolled into our patient follow-up program.

We made our first visit to Caroline’s home on August 11th, 2017 with Dr. Geofrey, a mobile clinic physician. This was the first time we were able to discuss Caroline’s treatment plan with her and her siblings. 

During the visit, Dr. Geofrey recommended that Caroline undergo a tonsillectomy to cure her tonsillitis. After everyone agreed to her treatment plan, we then made an appointment at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre’s ENT Department.  Caroline went in for a medical consultation on August 18th, 2017 and the doctor recommended the surgery be performed as quickly as possible, as Caroline’s tonsils were quite enlarged and caused her discomfort, especially at night.

The doctor scheduled Caroline to be admitted into the hospital on August 21st, 2017. However, when we arrived to the hospital we were told that there were no available beds because the hospital’s capacity had been reached. The hospital staff could only recommend that we return the following day and try again. On August 22nd, 2017 a bed finally became available and Caroline was admitted to KCMC. Caroline was operated on a day later and had a successful surgery with no complications. Her surgery went so well that the doctors discharged her the following day! We are very thankful that Caroline had a successful surgery and no longer suffers from tonsillitis.

THERESA MZAVA

theresa

This young girl is named Theresa Mzava. She is eleven years old and lives with her parents and four siblings. One day, she was helping her parents prepare food for the family when a part of her headscarf caught fire. She tried to remove the cloth herself but was unable to.

Fortunately, her father heard her screams and came running to help her. Theresa’s father removed the burning piece of cloth but she had already been burned on her head, back, and buttocks.

Theresa’s family took her to the hospital where she was given medication and treated for her injuries. However, as the days went on, Theresa’s family could not afford to pay the medical bills associated with her treatment, and she was discharged from the hospital.

Shortly after being discharged, we met Theresa at a 2016 mobile clinic in her community, Kilima mswaki. After we spoke to Theresa’s mother, we agreed to assist her with the cost of Theresa's medications until she made a full recovery.

However, shortly after Theresa became a MEDLIFE follow-up patient her family experienced another tragedy: her family’s house collapsed due to heavy winds and rains. While this could have put Theresa at a higher risk of infection while she recuperated, a neighbor kindly offered to take Theresa in while her family rebuilt their house. In the summer of 2017, Theresa made a full recovery.

WILSTANELY MAKERE

WILSTANELY

Meet Wilstanely Makere! He is 53 years old, and lives with his wife in the village of Kitifu. He is also the father of two children. Wilstanely suffered from a hernia for over three years, but was unable to go to the hospital for medical treatment.

In January of 2016, MEDLIFE conducted a mobile medical clinic in his community, where he was immediately enrolled in our patient follow-up program.

We worked with him to help him get the hernia operation he needed and now he has fully recovered!

 

April 30, 2018 3:40 pm

MEDLIFE UK Intern: Arka Banerjee

Written by Arka Banerjee

The MEDLIFE Internship in Lima, Peru was a fulfilling and highly enjoyable experience. I appreciated the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals and a movement that is passionate about making a positive difference and improving the living standards of the disadvantaged in the world.
As a medical student, I have a keen interest in working to ensure access to good healthcare for all globally. Working with local doctors, dentists and nurses in the mobile clinics gave me the opportunity to work towards this goal.

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Along with the mobile clinics, being involved in a variety of projects ranging from building infrastructure to education highlighted MEDLIFE’s holistic approach to development and helping the disadvantaged escape poverty. I was excited to be involved in the various development projects, and enjoyed meeting and working with new friends, both from the UK and Peru. The internship also provided the opportunity to learn more about the struggles and individual stories of the disadvantaged in Lima. Through the sharing’s, I gained insights into the nature of the problems that those in poverty face, as well as how we can work together with the disadvantaged to alleviate these problems.

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I learned that poverty and its associated challenges, although often having many common elements, is a heterogeneous phenomenon with every person having a different story and set of needs. One-size-fits-all policies and programmes, especially those carried out without consulting the disadvantaged, may be less effective. Personally speaking, I believe the internship has changed my thoughts and perceptions of poverty and development for the better. I feel I have a more holistic understanding and perspective on what can be done to increase standards of living worldwide, and I am looking forward to implementing these in future projects with MEDLIFE and in my University in future. All in all, I would say it was an eye-opening and highly enriching experience and I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved in it.

- Arka Banerjee, 1 st Year Medic, University of Cambridge

On Thursday, April 5th 2018, the MEDLIFE Cusco team and a group volunteers representing four United States universities conducted a mobile medical clinic in the community of Ccasacancha, about an hour and a half outside of the city of Cusco, in the district of Ancahuasi. Although this clinic was the first conducted in Ancahuasi in 2018, MEDLIFE has been actively working within the surrounding communities for an over a year. What’s more, multiple patients in MEDLIFE’s atient follow-up program live within or nearby Ccasacancha. Towards the end of the day, as the clinic was winding down, Carmen, one of our MEDprograms nurses, asked me and a volunteer to accompany her in making a visit to one such patient and his family: Juan José.

    Juan José is a thirteen year-old boy who lives in Ccasacancha with his parents and five siblings. Although Juan José was born a healthy boy, he sustained serious burns on his face, neck, and chest from an accident when he was four years old. When MEDLIFE first met Juan José and his family at a mobile medical clinic in 2017, the scar that had formed left him partially disfigured and had contracted to the extent that it prohibited him from being able to fully turn his head. The MEDLIFE doctor recommended that Juan José undergo a Z-plasty scar revision surgery, in which the surgeon would re-open the scar sufficiently for Juan José to regain mobility in his neck. However, it was not until Carmen made a visit to Juan José’s home that MEDLIFE discovered the true extent of the challenges he was facing.

    Initially, Juan José’s father refused to let Carmen enter his family’s house or enroll his son into MEDLIFE’s patient follow-up program. However, Carmen persisted and continued to make periodic visits to Juan José’s house, offering to help him and his family.

    After the fourth visit, Carmen was invited inside. Upon entering the house, she discovered that the family was living in destitute conditions and that nearly all of the family members suffered from chronic malnutrition. A big reason for this, Carmen found, was that Juan José’s father was an alcoholic and unemployed. This meant that the only income the family could rely on came from Juan José’s mother, who worked as a farmhand in an artichoke farm in the district of Zurite. The family’s financial situation had been made even more difficult when Juan José’s seventeen year-old sister, Ana Beatriz, found that she was pregnant. It was then that Carmen knew that MEDLIFE needed to do more than just ensure that Juan José received the surgery he needed. If Juan José was going to have a successful recuperation after his surgery, and his sister give birth to a healthy baby, the entire family’s living situation would need to be drastically improved.

     After meeting Juan José and gaining his parents’ trust, MEDLIFE’s Cusco nurses, Carmen and Lis, made visits to the family, checking up on how they were doing, providing the family with basic medications, and ensuring Ana Beatriz received the prenatal care she needed. However, on the day of our mobile clinic, Carmen and Lis wanted to do more than make another routine visit, they wanted to give the volunteers and myself a firsthand look at the difficulties Juan José and his family were truly facing, and ask for help.

    As Cynthia, a volunteer from Vermont Tech, and I followed Carmen down a dirt road leading away from our mobile clinic location, it was not long before Juan José’s house came into site. Juan José’s family lives in a house typical of the region: two small buildings, a kitchen and a storeroom/bedroom, made out of adobe bricks. Both buildings face each other and are and surrounded by a corrugated metal fence. When we arrived, Ana Beatriz opened the door and ushered us inside. She told us that both parents were currently out of the house but she and Juan José were both home. As I entered the house, I could see Juan José standing in the yard behind his sister, timid at first, but beginning to smile as he saw Carmen.

     As Carmen greeted the two children in the house, she urged Cynthia and I to examine the conditions in which Juan José and his family lived. When we first entered the kitchen, Cynthia and I were blinded by the darkness inside. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness we could make out pots and pans placed on both the dirt floor, as well as atop a small, adobe stove, completely devoid of any stovepipe or ventilation. We turned our heads upward and found the entire kitchen ceiling caked with black tar from years of smoke filling the kitchen during mealtimes.

    After seeing the kitchen, we walked across the yard to the family’s storeroom/bedroom. We climbed the wooden steps to the second floor where the entire family slept in one room. Inside we saw two large beds piled high with blankets and surrounded by clothes scattered on the floor. The walls and ceiling had been covered in a white plastic tarp to prevent water from leaking into the bedroom. While inside, Carmen pointed out to us that the beds that the family slept on were not mattresses, but large pieces of yellow foam set on top of wood pallets. Upon leaving the bedroom we began to truly comprehend scope of the challenges that Juan José and his family were facing at home.

      Congregating back in the yard, Carmen indicated that Juan José and his family would greatly benefit from having their house renovated with shelves, paved floors, waterproof roofing and a new ventilated and fuel efficient stove. These improvements would not only ensure that Juan José has a safe and clean environment in which to recuperate, but that the rest of his family would enjoy a higher quality of life at home as well. Carmen and Cynthia shared a tearful moment together as they discussed what could be done for Juan José’s family.

     Since that day at Juan José’s house, the new MEDLIFE chapter at Vermont Tech has been raising money to help Juan José’s family, and Carmen and Lis have continued to support the family through routine visits. Both nurses have continued to accompany Ana Beatriz to her prenatal doctor appointments and have been thinking of ways to further improve Juan José’s family’s situation. The two have even been talking to the family about the possibility of installing a family greenhouse, in addition to their much needed home renovations, in order to provide a means to grow healthy fruits and vegetables, and thus combat malnutrition. Back in the United States, Cynthia and the rest of the Vermont Tech chapter have already raised over $500 and hope to raise more in the near future to go towards extra costs associated with Juan José’s surgery and his house renovation. Through the continued collaboration between MEDLIFE staff and the MEDLIFE chapter at Vermont Tech, the goal of getting Juan José the surgery he needs and supporting his family with a safe home is already on its way to becoming a reality.

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