Patient Update: Eloy Britto

Today we have some good news to share from Lima: after finally getting heart surgery on December 14th, Eloy Britto is back home with his family and on track to a full recovery.

Eloy is a quiet eight-year old boy who was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect that causes low oxygen levels in the blood. Symptoms include blue skin color, poor development, and episodes of exhaustion and seizure. In most cases, children with Tetralogy of Fallot undergo heart surgery at a very young age and can go on to live normal lives. Without the surgery, most patients with the condition will die before they reach the age of 20. 

eloybeforeUntil a year ago, Eloy’s family lived in Pucallpa, in the jungle region of Peru, isolated from any sophisticated medical care. His mother, Betsy, says she knew that he had a problem from an early age and tired easily, especially in the jungle heat. She describes how Eloy, who loves to play soccer, could only take a few steps, kick the ball, and had to sit down and rest. Last year, Betsy came with Eloy and his younger siblings to stay with a relative in the community of Virgen de Cocharcas in Lima. He was doing well in school, but he stopped going in the second grade after he fainted at school one day.

MEDLIFE has been following his case since last summer, taking him to various doctors’ appointments and tests to determine if he could receive the operation that would save his life. Cardiologists expressed concern that Eloy could be too old for the operation; as his heart grew, his system had become accustomed to working the wrong way. But Meri Lecaros, MEDLIFE’s field nurse, was determined to find a way to help him. In the meantime, we worked to improve his living conditions, including building a staircase next to his house.

In November, Eloy went to the hospital for a checkup, and seeing his condition had worsened, the doctors checked him in for an extended stay. They would try to help him gain weight until he was healthy and strong enough for an operation. Having never been to the hospital before, he was resistant to medical intervention; Meri recalls with amazement how it took several nurses just to hold him down for an injection. But he began to improve, and when we visited him there, the MEDLIFE staff was surprised to see how well he was doing. He was in a room with other kids around his age, and happily played and shared toys with them, smiling and talking more than we had ever seen him do before.

eloyhospMeri found out about a program coming to the children’s hospital in Lima — a group of surgeons arriving from Spain to perform specialized operations only on the most serious and difficult cases. They would be in town for just one week, and there was a long waiting list. At this hospital, the patients’ family has to secure the necessary amount and type of donated blood before the child can be placed on the schedule to receive an operation. We frantically searched for O-positive blood donors; in the end, one of our own interns, Inge, donated blood. Meri managed to intercept the doctors as they made their rounds and get their assurance that Eloy would get his operation before the week was over.

When Friday came, we watched as Eloy entered pre-op around 9:00 in the morning, and waited until he came out about eight hours later. The surgeons told us from the beginning that this surgery would be a complicated and risky one; it required cutting open Eloy’s heart to place patches and widen a vessel to reroute the blood. Any miscalculation could mean cutting an artery and stopping the heart.

The operation went as expected, doctors told us, but Eloy was losing a great deal of blood and would be in great danger for the next five days. Meri was in the hospital almost every day during this time. At one point, Eloy had a heart attack and his system shut down completely.

“He was dead,” says Meri. “We thought that was it, and just when they were disconnecting the machines, he took a breath by himself.”

In spite of these scary moments, as he continued to recuperate, the difference was clear; post-surgery, Eloy’s skin no longer had the blue tint, and he could walk around the halls of the hospital without getting tired. When Betsy arrived to take him home from the hospital after his two-month stay, she says he was waiting for him in the doorway with his toys and impatiently told her, “Let’s go home now!”
eloyfamEloy’s health is still delicate, and he needs a safe environment to ensure that he can continue to improve. But he seems to have made it through the worst of the danger now — he’s eating, talking and happy to be home playing with his younger sister and brother.

MEDLIFE will continue to support Eloy and his family through the recovery process. 




Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.