Written by Multimedia Producer Rosali Vela and translated by Rachel Goldberg and Lindsay Bigda:
Patient follow-up is more than treating the illness itself; it’s getting to know our patients and, most of all, listening to them. Carmen Solano is a MEDLIFE patient we first discovered thanks to our newly implemented breast cancer screenings at our Mobile Clinics. Despite facing a painful diagnosis of breast cancer and a long treatment process, she is remarkably hopeful and upbeat. MEDLIFE has been supporting her through her chemotherapy sessions over the past few months. Though weakened both by the illness and the effects of the chemo, she makes the trip every week from high in the hills of Villa Maria de Triunfo to the hospital, where MEDLIFE field nurse Meri Lecaros accompanies her to her doctor’s appointments.
Recently, her pain had been becoming worse, and her treatment was delayed by a wound that wouldn’t heal. The site where doctors had removed a portion of breast tissue for a biopsy was infected and draining fluid. If it continued, it could trigger other problems that would require the removal of her entire breast.
Carmen’s doctor told her that the infections could be a result of the fact that her living conditions, humid and poorly ventilated, had turned her mattress into a source of infection. An old and damp mattress is easily susceptible to bug infestations — a condition that, although a common occurrence, could severely complicate Carmen’s condition. But there was nothing she could do; she needed a mattress to sleep on, and to buy a new one and transport it to her home was impossible for her.
Feeling that MEDLIFE had already given her enough help with her chemotherapy and medications, Carmen was embarrassed to admit the problem to us and didn’t want to ask for more assistance. However, when she mentioned it to Meri on one of her visits, Meri immediately recognized the importance of the mattress and promised to do everything possible to help. On her next visit, Meri took other members of the MEDLIFE team to see Carmen’s living situation. They were shocked to see the mattress, filled with cardboard, straw and rags, and resolved to buy a new one as soon as possible.
On October 18, MEDLIFE Director Carlos Benavides, Multimedia Producer Rosali Vela, and Meri went to buy the two mattresses and bedframes for Carmen and her family. They met up with community leaders, who helped carry the beds up to surprise Carmen at her house, and everyone immediately got to work putting the new beds together and cleaning out the old one. And that wasn’t all — the MEDLIFE and community representatives there that day took the opportunity to finalize an agreement to build safer stairs on the steep ground next to Carmen’s home. The director of the community kitchen also agreed to donate food for Carmen and her daughters, since her illness has made it impossible for her to work to provide for her family. It was an emotional moment for everyone as Carmen, with a huge smile, thanked everyone from MEDLIFE for listening to her.