Meet the Patient: Luis Poma


A few interns and MEDLIFE nurses ascended a steep, slippery hill on the outskirts of Lima to pay one of our follow-up patients a visit. The journey to six-year-old Luis Poma’s house required several transfers, from packed buses to zippy moto taxis, ending in a tiring trek up muddy hills into the clouds. Despite the complicated route, Luis’ mother makes this climb every day with her dependent son cradled in her arms. 

Luis’ first encounter with MEDLIFE was in 2011 at MEDLIFE’s first mobile clinic hosted in their neighborhood. Luis’ sister carried him to the clinic to be seen by a doctor, but her visit was cut short and she left before Luis received any medical attention. His family waited until there was another clinic in their area to approach the organization—several years later in 2014.


After finally connecting with Luis’ family and learning about their significant obstacles, MEDLIFE determined Luis would be enrolled in our follow-up patient program considering his medical condition and financial constraints.

Luis was born prematurely at five-and-a-half months and spent the first weeks of his life in the Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital. Even after being released from intensive care, his health complications persisted. Within his first year, Luis was rushed back to the hospital when he suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke. For this emergency journey, Luis’ mother had no choice but to take a crowded city bus with her son in her arms. To this day there is very little access to ambulances in their area. This is the reality for people residing high up in Lima’s practically inaccessible hills.

At the hospital, an MRI revealed that Luis’ body was not recuperating well from the stroke. Luis’ family could not afford the expensive medication and treatment he needed. As a result, Luis did not properly recover from the stroke, which left him blind and mostly immobile with several physical obstacles, including hip dysplasia. Consequently, Luis has not sustained appropriate developmental progress for his age and he is essentially mute.

Luis’ condition causes his small family immense hardship, and their level of poverty inhibits them from affording him proper care. They do not have savings or the finances to support Luis’ condition and he has endured years without receiving appropriate medical attention.

Luis’ mother used to make a living by selling food at a market, which was just enough to help provide for the family. After Luis fell ill, however, she was forced to stop working so she could care for him. Luis’ health is her first priority and she dedicates her time to taking care of her son and carrying him to therapy, such a time consuming event that he had to stop attending school. To make matters worse, Luis’ father abandoned the family when Luis’ condition worsened and proved difficult to provide for. The rest of his family, except his two older sisters whom both have families of their own, provides no support—Luis’ mother is on her own to care for her son.


As a MEDLIFE follow-up patient, Luis receives support with physical therapy and necessary medical supplies such as diapers, sleep and pain medication, and shoes. We have been fortunate enough to provide Luis with a wheelchair personalized to his physical handicap as well as fund his therapy sessions to improve his muscular dysplasia.

The wheelchair gives Luis the ability to sit upright and therapy has helped his arms and legs achieve more range of motion— things that were incredibly difficult to manage before. We are overjoyed to see this young boy’s progress over the last few months, though his journey to this point has not been easy.

Although our efforts have helped a great deal, Luis still requires significant medical attention in his current condition. We want to do more.

MEDLIFE brainstorms ways we can be most effective within our resources. In addition to medical support, there are often alternative, more sustainable ways we can make a difference in our patients’ lives.

The most important thing for Luis’ family right now, in addition to continued therapy, is some form of sustainable income to survive on. Luis and his mother are both bound to their home as a result of his condition; she is his full-time caretaker. Due to this limitation, Luis’ mother struggles to make ends meet, let alone afford Luis’ medical needs. MEDLIFE’s goal is to help Luis’ mother set up a little shop to be run from their home so she can support her family while continuing to care for Luis. If you are interested in being a part of Luis’ story, click here to find out how you can help.




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.