Ten-year-old Blanca Evas’ older sister passed away when she was only eighteen years old. The loss devastated her family, but they found solace through their earth-based spiritual beliefs; from their understanding, the snow swept her away. Though resolved in their minds, this death’s legacy persisted; it lived on as the first case in a series of medical complications in their family.
MEDLIFE met Blanca at a mobile clinic in 2014 held in Pachamama Grande, Parroquia Tixan, a small village three hours outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. Blanca, like all mobile clinic attendees, was given a standard checkup: doctors checked her blood pressure, heartbeat, height, weight, etc.
However, Blanca’s heartbeat revealed an irregularity, one significant enough to prompt a follow-up investigation. This discovery led MEDLIFE staff to start connecting the dots between Blanca’s case and her family’s medical history.
MEDLIFE staff and clinic doctors in Riobamba were hyper vigilant about Blanca’s case because of their experience with her four-year-old cousin Norma. Norma is currently a MEDLIFE follow-up patient who recently underwent surgery for a congenital heart condition that, left untreated, would have killed her.
Doctors speculated that Blanca’s irregularity was related to the illness Norma previously suffered from. After further investigation, their fears were confirmed. With the arrival of not one, but two cases of cardiac conditions in this family, doctors hypothesized that Blanca’s older sister most likely passed away from the same, unattended illness.
After confirming Blanca’s condition, MEDLIFE assured her family it was imperative that she saw a cardiologist. The only thing preventing that, however, was her family’s religious beliefs; they, along with many in their village, do not believe in modern medicine, but rather trust in alternative healing methods.
MEDLIFE staff had expected to encounter this obstacle with Blanca’s family considering the difficulty they had convincing Norma’s parents to allow her go to a hospital. When MEDLIFE approached Blanca’s parents about her condition, they were surprised to learn the parents were already aware of Blanca’s problem and they had already taken measures to resolve it.
A few years ago, Blanca’s family scraped together enough money, along with the aid of a bank loan to bring Blanca to a spiritual healer to cure her condition. The family of ten children put forth all of their economic resources to pay for the spiritual healer. They did not want to lose another daughter. The trip was unfortunately unsuccessful; Blanca’s condition persisted, as well as their debt to the bank. To this day, Blanca’s parents continue to pay off their bank loan slowly with the father’s minimal wages as a farm hand.
After MEDLIFE’s positive experience with Norma and understanding Blanca’s fatal condition, the organization came forward with an alternative solution to Blanca’s condition: heart surgery. Though Blanca’s father was skeptical at first, he graciously accepted MEDLIFE’s assistance and agreed to let Blanca be seen by a cardiologist.
The cardiologist conducted a few exams and confirmed Blanca’s moderate pulmonary heart disease, and her immediate need for life-saving surgery. Without the surgery, the doctor said Blanca’s condition would eventually lead to death in her sleep.
Blanca finally underwent surgery in the fall of 2014, and MEDLIFE saw her through the entire process, covering the expenses from before the operation to after it. Blanca’s surgeon is happy to report the operation was a huge success and she has made a full recovery.
Blanca’s next steps will be returning to Quito for follow-up appointments with her surgeon, and continuing to live a normal life. MEDLIFE is happy to have been part of the recovery of another bright young patient!