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.


361-1Petronila Santi has lived a long life. In her 70 years, she has endured great hardship, overcome adversity, and emerged out of the darkest moments of her life to raise her children to be healthy and strong. 

Petronila was born in the sierra region of Apurimac, Peru. Her father was very ill, and her family was poor. When Petronila was twelve years old, her father told her to make a better life for herself by moving to Lima for better education and employment opportunities. Petronila listened to her father's advice and allowed her aunts to bring her to the capital of Peru. She traveled without a birth certificate or any formal identification, but her parents were confident in the move and promised Petronila the documents would arrive later—but they never did.

Once in Lima, Petronila found herself in an inaccessible society: confronted with great amounts of racism and prejudice associated with Peru's rural region, she was not able to study without her legal documents. She was forced to sacrifice her adolescence and work to survive. 

Petronila worked for years as a house cleaner. Many of the families she worked for were kind and offered her the means to study, but only if she could produce her birth certificate. She never attended school.

At 16 years old, Pertronila fell into a trap. After watching her day after day walking to the market, an older man fell in love with Petronila. The attention did not bother her, she thought nothing of it. However, Petronila's older cousin watched the budding relationship between her and the older man and assumed the worst. Without consulting Petronila, her cousin went to the police with a fabricated story to put an end to the relationship. She claimed the older man raped Petronila. 

Petronila was brought to the police station and was forced to put an innocent man in jail and risk her cousin going to jail for lying, or succumb to the wrongly accused man's request to drop the charges against her cousin and marry him instead. Petronila received a lot of pressure from her family, and ended up marrying a man she hardly knew.

Petronila's cousin's accusations came true. Petronila endured her unwanted marriage – filled with rape, domestic violence and alcohol abuse – until her husband left her and their child. She yearned to go home to the sierra and be with her parents. 

In her second turn living in Lima, Petronila fell in love with another man and gave birth to another child. Like her first marriage, she endured disaster, filled with pain and suffering. 

In Petronila's older age, her daughter told her about a MEDLIFE mobile clinic held in her neighborhood. Due to the physical strain her body went through as a young child, Petronila was especially interested in attending the health services for women.

Petronila visited all the stations at the MEDLIFE mobile clinic, including having a pap smear exam at the OB/GYN station. She was surprised when her test results came back positive. 

MEDLIFE nurses followed up with Petronila and brought her to medical appointments to determine a diagnosis: Dysplasia, or the enlargement of an organ from abnormal cells - a developmental disorder or an early stage in the development of cancer. Her illness could only be cured with rigorous treatment and monitoring. Due to her frailty, it was decided a minimally-invasive surgery would not jeopardize her health.  


The biggest obstacle in the process was convincing Petronila to have the surgery. Over the course of several weeks, Petronila's hesitation delayed the surgery several times over. However, thanks to the perseverance of our follow-up care nurses, Petronila finally understood that having the surgery was the only way to ensure her health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Because of our dedicated follow-up staff, Petronila is currently recovering and healthy. In four months, she will return for a follow-up consultation with her doctor.

Petronila was alone for most of her life, without anyone's support, without anyone to care for her. She feels lucky to have found people who care about her well-being when everyone else in her life silenced and abandoned her.

“Thank you for the support with my medicine and with everything that I could not have covered on my own,” Petronila says. “The nurses were incredibly kind to me. They called me, came to my house to find me, and always helped me with my prescriptions.” 

“Ruth is outstanding. She calls all the time to make sure we are ok. Even during the operation when I had to tend to my son, Ruth took my spot and stayed at the hospital with my mother for hours. We are very grateful,” says Petronila's daughter Mary.  

Petronila has lent us a very important lesson that caring for women's health is a priority. “I was very fearful of the operation, but I would tell other women to continue receiving and asking for medical care and treatments. Women need to know how important it is to care for their bodies. They need to be informed. Now that I've been through the experience, I feel very content knowing I am not at risk anymore. I am so appreciative to God and everyone who helped me and knowing that everything will be ok,” Petronila expressed.

Petronila concludes by providing us with some words of wisdom and a conclusion of her experience: “Its not about money, you can earn money, you can work for days and months to earn money and pay for treatment. It's about the interaction. Knowing that someone is calling you all the time, every step of the way, to keep you company. That is what I valued the most about my experience.”

December 31, 2014 11:32 am

Meet the patient: Claudia Pinto

Claudia Pinto never worried about her health. She has a resilient immune system, she says. She has never become sick enough to merit a visit to the doctor. Claudia's priority is not her own well-being, anyway. She became a mother when she was 23 years old, and since then, has always put her children's needs before her own.


Claudia's children never had a father figure; she supports her small family single-handedly. To accomplish this challenging task, Claudia works unforgivingly long hours as a housemaid in order to feed her children and afford very basic living expenses.  Without a moment of free time to assess her own physical condition, let alone manage time off from work to visit the doctor, Claudia never had the resources to even consider the possibility of developing a serious health problem.

When a MEDLIFE mobile clinic came through Claudia's neighborhood in San Juan de Miraflores in August of 2014, she initially hesitated, assuming it would conflict with work. Before the clinic, however, Claudia managed a few free hours from her commitments, and found it too convenient to pass up. She join her neighbors and attended the clinic with her son, his health being her priority, of course.

Claudia visited the OB/GYN station to take advantage of the free breast exam and pap smear, of which she has only had five or six in her life—a number incredibly low for a woman in her forties. During her check-up, the OB/GYN informed her of two discoveries Claudia would need to attend to. Claudia was first told she had a urinary tract infection, something easily remedied. The doctor's second piece of news caught her off guard a bit. Claudia was informed of a small lump in her breast. The doctor at the mobile clinic expressed her concern and told Claudia to follow-up as soon as possible.

“Well, this simply won't work,” Claudia thought while her mind immediately skimmed over a whole host of reasons for why a growth in her breast was an utter inconvenience: lack of finances, the need to constantly work, responsibility to care for her children, etc. Claudia left the mobile clinic in a hurry, attempting  to run away from the new discovery, though she did acknowledge her breast had been in pain for a while. Regardless, Claudia wanted it to disappear so she started by ridding it from her mind and went about her routine as usual.

Though Claudia tried to escape her new reality, she somewhat confronted it by confiding in a friend, one who could lend her some guidance. Claudia's friend had suffered from breast cancer for ten years and felt very strongly about Claudia's new discovery. “Please take care of yourself,” pleaded Claudia's friend. “Don't suffer if you don't have to. I don't want what happened to me to happen to you.” And with that, Claudia was convinced to visit a nearby medical “post” to ask for medical advice.  

At the small community clinic, Claudia found out the cost to remove the Fibroadenoma, a non-cancerous tumor, from her breast would be 210 Peruvian soles, or 70 USD, which Claudia simply did not have. She makes enough money to feed her family and pay for household expenses but is never able to save that large of an amount.

Feeling trapped in her situation, Claudia began to panic. She was frightened for her health and for her children's well-being.  Most of all, Claudia was afraid of the possibility of not finding a resolution. She thought there was no way out.

Her luck changed in October 2014. Claudia reconnected with MEDLIFE at a community meeting in her neighborhood that was held to discuss upcoming projects and winter mobile clinics. During the meeting, Claudia approached MEDLIFE staff explaining her situation— and she was immediately recognized. She was a patient who they tried to contact after the August mobile clinic but were unable to reach her. Claudia and MEDLIFE realized it was a misunderstanding, and moved forward to solve the problem.

After a few preliminary appointments with Claudia, MEDLIFE scheduled her operation and she had her tumor removed on November 5, 2014. The organization covered all related expenses including medical appointments, the operation and medications. Claudia said, for the first time in years, she felt fully supported, not only financially, but also emotionally. At first, Claudia could not believe that someone outside of her family cared enough about her health to help. She feels extremely grateful to MEDLIFE for discovering her ailments, because otherwise she would have continued living her life without knowledge that she was ill.

Since her experience with MEDLIFE, Claudia is determined to spread the word to her neighbors about how important it is to care for their health. She recognizes that for people living in the hills of Lima, proper medical care is neglected for many reasons, including lack of access, time, and money. Though she has been lucky with good health up until this point, she knows the situation is far different for many of her neighbors. She wants to encourage others to not only be vigilant of their health, but also take advantage of help when it comes along.