August 8, 2017 12:13 pm

MEET THE PATIENT: Karol

Written by Aidan Wells
Jose Galvez is a district within the Municipality of Villa Maria del Triunfo in Lima, Peru. The district is well known as the home of the largest cement factory in Peru. To reach Karol's house required a trek which involved 3 buses, a walk along the highway across from the cement factory, and finally, a hike up the steep pathway to the house. There are no stairs, no paths, or guides on the way to Karol's front door, only the rocky hill that leaves you breathless...literally. 
 
From left to right: Rocía, Karol, and MEDLIFE Nurse Janet Ludeña pose for a photo in Karol´s home.From left to right: Rocía, Karol, and MEDLIFE Nurse Janet Ludeña pose for a photo in Karol's home.
 
The house is clean and tidy. Rocío, Karol's mother, has meticulously made sure that everything is in place, well-painted, and organized. The home is humble, but comfortable. There are many photos on the wall. All of them Karol. Karol is pictured dancing; she's pictured smiling. There's even a photo collage of her high school graduation. "She is my only daughter," says Rocío. 
 
Karol is 17 years old and currently studying Hospitality and Tourism. Her dream is to become a flight attendant. "I want to travel" she told us when we asked why she was studying Tourism. "I want to fly and get to know the world. I love nature and waterfalls. I definitely want to visit somewhere like that outside of Peru."
 
Rocía and Janet do an analysis of Karol's socioeconomic status during the very first patient follow-up visit. This helps determine which form of health insurance Karol qualifies for.Rocía and Janet do an analysis of Karol's socioeconomic status during the very first patient follow-up visit. This helps determine which form of health insurance Karol qualifies for.
 
When Karol was 10 years old she started presenting strange symptoms like shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and dizziness. Her family took her to the Bartolome Herrera Hospital where she was diagnosed with Arrhythmia, a disease that causes abnormal heart beats, either too fast or too slow. Basically, the electrical current was not running through Karol's heart properly.  She was given enough pills to last her two months, since mild arrhythmia does not typically require intensive treatment.
 
Eventually Karol improved and was able to lead a normal life, until two years ago, when she began showing symptoms again. This time, however, the symptoms were much stronger. Karol would need to rest up to 6 times just to climb the last hill up to her house, and sometimes her legs would stiffen up when walking. These new symptoms left Rocío very worried. 
 
Rocía, Karol, and Janet attend a specialist appointment at the doctor's office in Villa María del Triunfo.Rocía, Karol, and Janet attend a specialist appointment at the doctor's office in Villa María del Triunfo.
 
After another trip to the hospital, doctors told Karol that no arrhythmia was detected, and she would more specialized diagnostic tests that public health insurance would not cover. 
 
When Rocío heard about MEDLIFE's mobile clinics, she did not hesitate to get Karol the medical attention she needed. The MEDLIFE doctors immediately put Karol into the patient follow-up program for more personalized attention. Janet Ludeña, the MEDLIFE nurse assigned to the case, has since been able to provide not only counseling and support, but also accompany the family to Karol's appointments to try and determine what condition is affecting her. MEDLIFE was able to provide the funds for the specialized tests, and now, we are waiting for the final diagnosis. Regardless of whether the doctors find a diagnosis of arrhythmia or something else, MEDLIFE will not hesitate to accompany and support the family throughout the entire process.
 
Janet and Karol discuss her medical history during their second patient follow-up-visit.Janet and Karol discuss her medical history during their second patient follow-up-visit.
August 8, 2017 11:26 am

Meet the Patient: Maria Borja

Written by Rosali Vela

mariaborjanono2We first met Maria Borja Nono, age 55, about a year ago when she attended a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in the community of Shobol Pamba, Parroquia San Juan, del Cantón Riobamba in Ecuador. She was examined by our gynecologist and found to have a cystocele, a medical condition that occurs when the wall between a woman's bladder and her vagina is torn. This rupture most likely occured during the delivery of one of Maria's 13 children.

Although Ecuadorian laws call for free and universal access to healthcare, the country continues to experience high levels of maternal death and complications from childbirth. Many women from indigenous communities give birth in their houses, due either to the lack of transportation to surrounding hospitals or to the notion that hospitals provide culturally insensitive care.

According to CARE USA, indigenous women are accustomed to being surround by friends and family during childbirth and to giving birth in a vertical position --  customs that are not always allowed in country hospitals. As a result, women do not always know how to identify signs of maternal risk, nor how to seek out help for complications that occur from childbirth.“In all seriousness, I've been in need of having an operation for this problem for over 20 years now,” Maria tells us during our interview with her at her home in Riobamba. “I just could never afford it, especially having so many children to take care of.”mariaborjanono1A typical day for Maria consists of walking a distance of about three miles to and from work where she is a day laborer in a lime mine, coming home to take care of household chores and care for her elderly mother, staying up late to cook the family's meals for the following day, and getting a maximum of four to five hours of sleep per night.

Her husband also works in the mines and has a similarly stressful daily schedule.Once diagnosed at the Mobile Clinic, it was clear that Maria was going to need surgery, and financial assistance to cover the medical costs. Always punctual and cooperative, Maria had eight medical clinic appointments consisting of check-ups and further examinations. She was accompanied to each appointment by MEDLIFE follow-up coordinator, Maria Chavez.

“I met up with Miss Chavez and she helped me through the good and the bad,” Maria told us through tears during our interview. “She helped me. I give thanks to God for her help. Even when my own children couldn't be around because they were working far away, she was there up until the final days. Thank God that even today she is helping me, economically and emotionally.”Prior to her surgery, Maria's tests revealed several complications including vaginitis and possible bladder fistula (an abnormal connection between the bladder and the vagina) for which a cystography was performed. Currently, our patient is relieved of most of the pain and discomfort she had been experiencing and is regularly returning for medical examinations for further alteration of bladder muscles.

August 8, 2017 11:24 am

Meet the Patient: Luis Soria

Written by Rosali Vela

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Luis Soria is a patient who came to us last spring during a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in the community of Cecel San Antonio del Cantón Licto of Riobamba, Ecuador. During his consultation, one of our doctors diagnosed Luis with inguinal hernias. An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue pushes through a weak spot in your groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin or scrotum which may hurt or burn.

Doctors informed Luis that he was in need of an immediate surgery right on the spot. MEDLIFE staff proceeded to take him to the nearest hospital to get further medical examination and care. Doctors and the medical clinic confirmed that his condition was critical and he was prepped for surgery within a few hours.Luis admitted to us that he had felt discomfort for many years, especially while working long hours as a taxi driver and wore a back brace at all times. “I'm 47 years old and I've been suffering from this condition for over 10 years. I feel like a new man now thanks to the help this organization has provided me,” he shared.After several lab tests, including uro-analysis, hematology, serology, blood, ECG and echo cardiogram tests, doctors concluded that Luis had two hernias and decided to split the surgery into two procedures -- one on each side. The surgeries went well and Luis was told to spend 60 days recovering at home. Although it was difficult for him to wait that long to work again, he followed the doctor's orders and today he can enjoy life without the pain he had suffered from for so long.“Now I can work productively on my field and help out with family chores. I couldn't even walk around and enjoy my time with my family of three children and my beautiful wife. Now I have that opportunity and I am forever grateful for that,” he said with a smile.

August 8, 2017 11:20 am

Patient Story: Wheelchair for Jose

Written by Rosali Vela

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José Permillot Salgado was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type II over 30 years ago, but his story with MEDLIFE began on October 6, 2011. This was the day our patient follow-up coordinator and nurse, Ruth Varona, paid Permillot a visit in his residence after receiving an email about his deteroriating condition. We were informed about his needs through a friend of our international liason, Angie Vidal, who had been close to his family for some time.

Originally from Lima, José is a bit of a prankster and enjoys playfully teasing those around him and cracking jokes in criollo fashion -- frequently using typical slang from the southwestern coast of Perú. At nearly 67 years of age, he says that his only reason for living and staying somewhat healthy is to stick around for his grandchildren, Karissa, José Jesús and José Antonio, ages 10, 8, and 6 respectively.After having accompanied José to several clinic check-ups and covering all of his medical expenses and procedures, including the necessary amputation of his right leg, MEDLIFE delivered a brand-new wheelchair to his residence on November 5th, 2011 and sat down to speak with him about his story.During our chat, he admitted to never having taken any precautions after being diagnosed to prevent damaging his internal organs any further. He added, "I consider myself an idiot for not having done anything when I could have... and now I might lose my second leg as well." José, who formely sold breakfast entreés and prepared coffee and other beverages as a street vendor, always enjoyed playing soccer on the weekends in healthier times. Today, he lives with his wife, Ruth, and his two eldest grandchildren in the district of Lima in Perú. He hopes to be able to continue to watch them grow for as long as possible and greatly appreciates MEDLIFE's help along the way.

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August 8, 2017 10:52 am

MEDLIFE Staircase Construction Stories

Written by Rosali Vela

WHY STAIRCASES?

Our Staircase Construction Projects were inspired by the story of a MEDLIFE patient, Chais Pipa. Chais fell down the steep hillside that leads to her home, prompting a premature birth and health complications for her newborn child.

After speaking to Chais and other community members, we learned that several health problems were related to falls and the inability to navigate the steep terrain of Pamplona Alta.

As a result, MEDLIFE began building staircases in these regions and has continued to do so ever since.

FEATURED STORIES

Read more stories here!

August 8, 2017 10:06 am

MEDLIFE Hygiene Project Stories

Written by Rosali Vela

WHY SANITATION?

For MEDLIFE Ecuador, bathroom construction projects are an integral part of the health care work that we do. Projects are typically focused on rural, majority indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities. These areas are geographically isolated from access to reliable potable water and improved sanitation. 

In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrhoeal diseases to be the second leading cause of death in low-income countries. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that functional, clean bathrooms can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 33%; simply being able to wash your hands with soap can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 40%. Yet, for approximately 2.5 billion people, or 35% of the world's population, there is no functioning bathroom at all. If rural areas do not have functioning facilities, they are slower to be expanded upon and improved.

FEATURED STORIES

You can read more stories at here!

September 3, 2012 11:23 am

MEDLIFE School Project: Cumanda

Written by Rosali Vela

  

14 12 2323The view from Mercedes's house.
 
Through this internship, I have had many opportunities to reflect on privilege in ways I have never conceptualized before. One day, I accompanied Janet, a MEDLIFE nurse, to a follow up appointment with Mercedes, who lives high up in the community of 15A1, Nueva Esperanza. While MEDLIFE has worked with 15A1 to build many staircases in the community, the final portion of the path leading to Mercedes’s house, when I visited, remained undeveloped, steep, and dusty. Excitingly, MEDLIFE already has a plan in place to build a staircase on the path to Mercedes's house. 
        
14 12 48MEDLIFE Nurse, Carmen, and Mercedes stand on the path to Mercedes's house, where a MEDLIFE staircase will be built.
 
After watching several women go up the path they traverse everyday with buckets of water and other materials in hand, I somehow stumbled up to Mercedes’s house on all fours, refusing to look behind me until I reached the top. Then, after we finished speaking to Mercedes and her children, we had to go back down. To me, this was definitely scarier than going up. So when Mercedes recommended a different path around the back of her house, I was relieved. However, the "safer path" meant narrowly walking along a wall built of seemingly unstable rocks.
 
14 12 2346Two of Mercedes's daughters play outside of her house.
 
I was only able to take a few steps along the rocks until my feet did not want to move further. I knew I had come to Lima specifically to work with impoverished communities, and I did not want to let fear of heights stop me. However, as much I told myself about the reasons I wanted to move forward, my feet did not seem to agree. Then, a little girl, maybe eight years old at most, ran down from the house above to offer to hold my hand. I was simultaneously embarrassed as the other MEDLIFE workers waited on the other side and amazed as this young girl tried to instill confidence in me. For the first time, I realized that even my fear of heights was a privilege. The people of 15A1 did not get to exercise the same fear. Even if the mothers, fathers, and children of 15A1 falter in the face of dusty slopes, they traverse them everyday to access basic resources. The young girl’s unhesitating kindness, while facing the same height that had my heart racing and palms sweating, taught me that my fear was entirely mental. If the girl could unwaveringly run down just to help me, I could at least take baby steps to continue to work in her community. I am grateful for the opportunity to support families during my time in Peru, and I am excited to continue to reflect on my own life along the way. 
 
14 12 8700Noor works on painting a staircase like the one that will benefit Mercedes and her family.

Noor Chadha is the co-president of the MEDLIFE at UC Berkeley Chapter and a 2017 MEDLIFE Summer Intern.

From July 19 - July 27, 2017, volunteers from high schools in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico attended a specialized service-learning trip in Lima, Peru, where they worked all week on mobile clinics and community development projects. MEDLIFE interns and staff also held discussions with  volunteers covering topics in global medicine, development and education. Through this opportunity, the students were able to learn more about MEDLIFE's mission as well as visit follow-up patients like Rosa Morocho, who needs a new home for her and her daughter. 
 
Volunteers also attended a night meeting with more than 300 members of 15 different communities. The focus of the meeting was a brand-new development initiative that will benefit more than 1,000 people. Representatives from the municipalities of Villa Maria del Triunfo and San Juan de Miraflores were present to sign a collaboration agreement between MEDLIFE, the government, and the communities. 
 
Finally, thanks to the support of the high school volunteers, 60 people, including adults and children received much needed attention in the general medicine and dental care stations of the mobile clinics. Additionally, 125 children learned how to properly brush their teeth!
 
To all of our high school volunteers: thank you for support and hard work! Check out some photos from the trip below!

 

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From Thursday, July 20 to Friday, July 21, 2017, MEDLIFE hosted its very first mobile clinic with the Santa Monica Women's Penitentiary in Lima, Peru. The two-day clinic was focused on women's health. The first day consisted of multiple women's health-related education sessions, where a variety of topics were covered including safe sex, risks and warning signs for cervical cancer, how to perform regular self breast exams, and more! On day two of the clinic the women were offered Pap smear exams and gynecological consultations, where they were prescribed treatments for a wide range of ailments. MEDLIFE will be returning to the prison in August to deliver the Pap smear results as well as perform breast cancer screenings. 

14-12-0304MEDLIFE partered with local health professionals to host the recent mobile clinic.

14-12-0307Attendees take notes during the first educational session of the day.

14-12-0374One of the attendees expresses a concern regarding breast cancer.

14-12-0381During the clinic, brand new toothbrushes were also provided for the children of all patients.

14-12-0396MEDLIFE Nurse, Janet Ludeña demonstrates the process of a Pap smear exam.

14-12-0473The women discuss their previous knowledge of breast and cervical cancer and look for connections in what they already know.

14-12-0513Two of the educational session attendees practice performing a self breast exam.


14-12-0606MEDLIFE interns, Julia and Crystal, prepare one of the examination rooms.

14-12-0652Melissa, another MEDLIFE summer intern, mans the pharmacy station during clinic.

14-12-0664Janet and MEDLIFE intern, Brandy, take patient's background information before their consultations.

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