Meet The Patient: Gerardina Vilchez

gerardina1Geradina lives in a small rented room, with just enough space for a bed, 2 hobs and a TV. There’s no windows and so despite it being mid day, we sit in dim lighting. Geradina hasn’t always lived in Lima, the illness brought her here, as it is where she can get the best treatment and seek support from MEDLIFE. It isn’t her home, and she actually speaks little of the Spanish that is spoken in Lima. She is in fact from Ocobamba, one of the eight districts of the province Chincheros in Peru. There, they speak Quechua, a language spoken primarily in the Andes, it is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Recognising the need to seek medical help for a growth in her neck, she made the journey to Lima, where her sister lives. Doing this meant she was leaving behind her husband and 6 children, a decision that doesn’t come easily to any wife or mother. However, with increasing pain and discomfort she knew it was her only option.

The disease she has is called Goiter, an abnormal enlargement of a thyroid gland. A large goiter causes a cough and makes it difficult to swallow or breathe. When Geradina talks it causes a lot of water to form in her throat and the gland to inflate. Geradina’s sister introduced her to MEDLIFE in 2013, and since then MEDLIFE have supported Geradina in finding the necessary medical attention.

Geradina had to have an operation on her neck to remove the thyroid tissue. Though the operation went well its left Geradina with a scar that she’s so ashamed and conscious of, one that she always tries to hide from view. Though her condition is improving she continues to be in discomfort with other conditions that have been linked to Goiter. So for now, MEDLIFE will remain in regular contact with her, following up with the progress of her recovery. 

Living in Lima, away from her family means Geradina isn’t able to communicate with her ​​husband, relaying this brings her to tears during our conversation. She tries to stay positive and says that she is happy that he is there to be with their children. It’s been extremely difficult for Geradina being really far away from her family and not being able to communicate with them, particularly with the worries her illness brings. However, our conversation ends on a high, she tells us she feels so grateful for MEDLIFE as they have helped her a lot and have been a great support through her recovery, which is so great to hear.  We truly hope that soon Geradina will be able to get well enough to make the journey back to her home and her family, and until then, MEDLIFE will continue to stand by her side. 


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.