Meet the Patient: Norma Evas

Norma Evas1Norma Evas lives in a small, remote village about two-and-a-half hours outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. Young Norma is only seven years old and is now in her third year of primary school. We first met her and her family at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic held in Pachamama, where she had her first check up with a MEDLIFE doctor. Norma was very shy, as many people are from her community; they are sometimes hesitant to receive medical care from people outside of their culture.

During Norma’s check-up at the MEDLIFE mobile clinic, one of the doctors discovered she had a potentially serious heart condition and would need to be seen by a cardiologist. However, Norma’s parents were reluctant to have her receive modern medical care because of their belief in alternative, spiritual kinds of medicine; they were concerned the doctors would do her harm. Norma seemed scared and did not understand what was going on.

Despite their initial objections, Norma’s parents were ultimately convinced to accept our help, and MEDLIFE brought her to the local hospital in Alausí. When her situation proved more intensive than what the local hospital had resources for, they transferred Norma to a larger one in Riobamba. There, Norma underwent several additional medical exams to assess her heart condition. However, her case proved so complex that she had to be transferred—yet again—to a hospital in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. It was there that she received her final diagnosis: Tricuspid regurgitation and patent ductus arteriosus.

Her disorders, congenital defects she had from birth, prevented her heart’s valves from closing properly, allowing blood to leak backwards against the direction it is supposed to flow. Left unattended, Norma’s conditions could have been severely damaging. A doctor told Martha, the MEDLIFE representative on Norma’s case that without the surgery Norma may one day go to bed and not wake up. She needed surgery to survive.

Norma’s family did not have any financial resources to fall back on when her condition was discovered. Coming from a large family, Norma is the seventh of eight children and money is very tight. An even greater obstacle was Norma’s parents’ lack of understanding the serious consequences of her disorder. It is important to note that Norma’s culture does not typically place importance on medical conditions that are not visibly pressing. Additionally, in their culture priority is given to tending to the agricultural work and to the sons of the family.


As a result of this, her parents provided very little support during the process; her mother accompanied Norma only to the first medical appointment, and her father stayed home to work and make money. Though it was difficult to garner the support of her parents, Norma’s saving grace was her twenty-four year old brother, Luis, who stayed by her side the entire time and took two weeks off from work to support his sister.

During their interactions with Norma’s family, MEDLIFE’s staff also discovered a history of fatal cardiac conditions. A check-up with Norma’s older cousin at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic had revealed an irregularity similar to Norma’s. Additionally, another cousin had passed away at eighteen years old; she died in her sleep, similar to what the doctors said could happen to Norma without an operation. Her family explained that they attribute Norma’s cousin’s death to spiritual reasons—that the mountains took her life.

Despite these hardships, Norma had her surgery the first week in September. During the operation doctors discovered an additional defect—a severe one, which was damaging Norma’s lungs. Both issues were addressed, and it was a successful surgery; her heart is now healthy and strong!

MEDLIFE helped Norma receive the medical care she needed from start to finish: her initial check up, the surgery, and other critical support like medicine and transportation to the hospitals. Norma is currently safe at home in her rural community, and will be returning to Quito for a follow-up appointment in six months, to which MEDLIFE will accompany her. We will be following Norma’s case and look forward to watching her continue to live a happy and healthy life.


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.