meet the patient: Diego Millones

After riding three different buses, we finally arrived at one of Lima’s children’s hospitals to meet four-year-old Diego. On comparing journey experiences with his mom, suddenly ours didn’t seem so bad- she comes to the hospital three times a week, and for her and Diego the journey is two hours each way.   Despite the long journey, Diego had the largest smile on his face and was in high spirits.

We found a table to sit at outside the hospital, where Diego’s mom began telling us her son’s story.  When Diego was born, he showed no symptoms of the disease that would soon take over his life. Shortly thereafter, he started developing symptoms of Marfan’s Syndrome, a disease that affects connective tissue, resulting in weak joints, stooped posture, poor vision, and potentially even fatal heart complications. Concerned about his condition, the family visited a doctor who told them Diego desperately needed an operation on his heart, and that without it, he wouldn’t live past his second birthday.  

Devastated, Diego’s family was left in an impossible position- living in extreme poverty, the parents simply couldn’t afford the operation. Though the family moved to Lima seven years ago in search of better job opportunities, Diego’s condition means he requires full time care from his mom, so they rely solely on the father’s factory job salary. Diego’s mom explained how, although she contacted a number of organizations she hoped would help with the funding of the operation, her calls were never returned; it seemed there was nothing they could do to help their baby.   

However, despite expectations, Diego’s second birthday came and went. The family’s hope was starting to be restored. It was because Diego contracted a common cold that his mom brought him to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic set up in the area. Once there, a MEDLIFE doctor did a full check up and gave the family the news that meant they could truly start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

The doctor told them that Diego’s condition was not fatal and that MEDLIFE was going to help him get better. Medlife started by giving him medicine to overcome his cold, and then began providing the long-term support he needed.

Diego’s mom then explained what having Marfan’s Syndrome means for Diego’s daily life, and she listed Diego’s symptoms: ‘Before, he couldn’t walk at all. He wasn’t able to use his hands or feet because they were curled up; he had no muscle tone in his legs, and his posture was curled over because his spine is bent. He has really bad eyesight, and he also has fragile skin so he bleeds easily. When he’s most in pain he can go for two to three nights with very little sleep.’

With MEDLIFE’s help, Diego now sees a physical therapist three times a week. The advancement he’s made due to the therapy means he is now able to walk alone for brief periods of time. MEDLIFE is also providing him with medications that will help improve his condition and pain, a full upper body corset he must wear all the time, and the milk and calcium he needs to strengthen his bones.

While his mom told us all of this, Diego continued to have the biggest smile on his face, he was so well behaved. After taking in everything his mom had told us, we turned our questions to Diego. First, we asked what he wanted to be when he grew up: ‘a doctor’, he grinned! Just like the ones who are helping him get better. And when we asked him what he likes to eat to make him stronger he was quick to tell us ‘Chaufa (Peruvian Chinese food)!’

Although Diego is making huge improvements, there is still some way to go. His eyesight is drastically affected by his sickness, but h is without glasses because there was a strike among the doctors, so the one who was going to give him glasses didn’t. Also, he has outgrown his orthopedic shoes as his feet grew so fast. He also needs to continue with therapy, medications, and large quantities of calcium, all of which need further funding support.

Soon, it was time for Diego to go for his physical therapy appointment. A young boy with so much love to give, he gave us all a kiss goodbye and one last grin! Though Diego’s condition has certainly improved, Diego and his family still need your help making sure he is as healthy as can be!

If you want to help Diego, click here!


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.