Written by MEDLIFE Ecuador Director Martha Chicaiza and translated by Brenda Bravo and Rachel Goldberg:
Last week at the MEDLIFE office in Riobamba, Director of MEDLIFE Ecuador Martha Chicaiza received an unexpected phone call. It was a teacher from the elementary school in the rural community of Cebadas asking for help. One of her students was so sick that she was too weak to walk or eat and her state was progressively getting worse.
Not knowing how serious the girl’s condition was, she asked the child’s teacher to bring her to Riobamba to get checked at the hospital there. The parents brought her a few days later, and Martha was shocked to see the father carrying his eleven-year old daughter, Esther Veronica, on his back. The young girl could barely open her eyes because her face was so swollen.
Veronica’s symptoms had started bothering her a month prior; she complained of knee pain and produced a high fever, but the family’s attempts to get her medical attention had been unsuccessful. At nine years old they had taken her to a children’s hospital, where she was treated for the flu and then released. During this initial visit, she began to lose some of her hair. The family tried a homeopathic doctor, but their daughter still wasn’t getting any better. By the time she came to us she had lumps on her neck, armpit, and groin; she had severe pain in her entire body, as well as a high level of dehydration.
Martha rushed Veronica and her family to the hospital where she received medical attention right away. The doctors there saw her fragile state, took some blood tests, and concluded that she urgently needed to be taken to a larger hospital in the capitol city of Quito, about five hours away. So, Martha and Follow-up Coordinator Maria Chavez did just that.
Once at the Baca Ortiz Pediatric Hospital in Quito, Veronica was transferred to the hematology department for testing and later diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She is now undergoing chemotherapy and, to date, has completed her second round.
Martha, Maria, and one of our year-round interns, Pedro Gonzelez, went to pay Veronica a visit yesterday and were relieved to see her in much better shape. She was even laughing a bit — something that was difficult for her to do while she was in so much pain.
Her father, Don Segundo, was in high spirits as well. He didn’t think his daughter would be around for very long, but now has faith she will make it after all. He also realizes how important medical attention can be and now plans to get regular check-ups for himself and the rest of his family in order to avoid future problems. Don is extremely grateful for all of our help in getting his family members to where they needed to be.
Currently, MEDLIFE has been helping to cover some of the family’s expenses and also to feed Don, who, due to his daughter’s condition, has had to stop working in order to help take care of her during treatment. Thanks to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health, her chemotherapy treatment costs will be covered as well.
We will keep following Veronica’s case and providing support for the family during these difficult times. If you can, please make a donation to the MEDLIFE Mission Fund in order to help prevent untreated disease in children, such as in Veronica’s case.