Meet the Patient: Javier Sotero

384-1-javier sotero

The Pueblos Jovenes are not an easy place to make ends meet. Residents face long commutes to work and markets, and a long trip up the hills to their homes. The cost of water is many times higher than in the US, and of course, residents earn a fraction of the US minimum wage.

Yet at the age of 73, Javier Sotero was still able to continue his work as a painter and live alone. Until one day, when he was working with some wall tile, he cut his finger.

Yes, there was blood. He was surprised, the cut rattled his nerves. He was shaking a bit afterwards- but that was it. He didn’t think much of it. He didn’t go to a doctor. It was just a cut.

The thing was, his nerves never steadied. His hands didn’t stop shaking; they started shaking more. 

Flash forward three years to the age of 76, Javier cannot work, and he cannot live alone.

He lives in his son’s home, with only the many cats that reside there to keep him company while his son is at work. He hardly ever leaves the small one-room building.

Parkinson’s disease has radically altered his life; he can no longer care for himself. His son must care for him, as well as find the money to pay for expensive medication to help control and slow the advance of the disease.

He walks slowly, with the rigidity and stooped posture typical of the disease. His hands perpetually shook as he answered the MEDLIFE nurse’s questions, but he answered them, as he is still in the early stages of the disease. The cognitive decline and difficulties with motor function have not progressed to the point where this becomes a huge challenge.

Cognitive decline typically becomes severe after 10 years with the disease, and most patients are completely dependent on caregivers after fifteen. The timeline varies from patient to patient, but the disease inevitably progresses.

Javier has had the disease for two years, and already, it has taken a lot from him.                

“Working, normally, I was always working. But in the two years with this (Parkinsons), it has stolen my strength. Even when walking now, it is not the same (as before the disease).”

He cannot paint anymore, or do other work, because his hands shake too much. Javier doesn’t like to leave his house; he said it is so difficult that it is impractical and makes him feel ashamed of his disabled condition. He also has osteoporosis, and a fall caused by the inhibited motor function typical of Parkinson’s could have serious consequences.

When a friend told him about a MEDLIFE clinic happening in his community, he made it out of the house and got help.

MEDLIFE has paid for three months worth of medication for Javier.  This will help control the disease, slow its progress, and take some pressure off of his son.

“When I take the pills, I feel better. Sometimes, I can even move my hands,” he said.


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.