Meet the Patient: Hugo Guashpa

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Soon after Hugo Guashpa was born, his parents noticed there was something wrong with him. His first words didn´t come at the same time as their other eight kids. He started walking late. He had trouble with physical activity. His behavior was strange, not what they expected from children after raising so many.

They took Hugo to the nearby public hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with down-syndrome. Hugo can´t go to the local school because of his downsyndrome- the local school lacks the specialized resources to help him. His parents must care for him all day while he stays home. At the age of 8, all he can do by himself is eat and play. While he has trouble making friends with other kids, he still can play with his many siblings. 

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The down-syndrome diagnosis explained Hugo´s stunted mental development, but something still seemed amiss to his parents. He would quickly grow exhausted when playing with his siblings, dancing and running around the families small house and neighborhood.

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Though these activities seemed to make him happy, he could not continue them for very long. So they took him to the doctor again for a physical. The doctors said his heart was fine, he was physically normal. But his parents still felt something was wrong.

When MEDLIFE had a clinic in March of 2015 in the rural community of Laime San Carlos where the Guashpa family lives, they jumped at the chance to take Hugo to a different doctor. MEDLIFE clinic doctors detected a heart murmur, and sent him to get a cardiogram at a private hospital. They then discovered that Hugo had pulmonery artesia, a rare birth defect where the valve seperating the right ventricle from the main pulmonary artery doesn´t form at all, so blood cannot get directly from the right ventricle to the lungs. Children with this condition do not have enough oxygen in their blood as a result, and suffer from shortness of breath and extreme sleepiness initially. However, if left untreated  the doctor said this condition could kill Hugo within a year. 

  According to the World Health Organization three quarters of the world´s deaths from cardiovascular disease occur in low and middle income countries like Ecuador where people often do not have adequate health care for the early detection and expensive treatment required to prevent such deaths. The out of pocket expenses such treatments require are often catastrophic to families living in poverty. 

Hugo´s parents were born and raised in farming families, and they continue to support their own families through farming, guinea-pigs, pigs, rabbits, cows, the typical livestock of Andean farming communities. They are poor, and they came from poor families from Laime San Carlos. Their grown children are supporting their families through farming as well. There was no way they could afford to pay for the specialized treatment Hugo required. 

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The waitlist in the public healthcare system was so long, 6 months to a year, that Hugo would likely die waiting for his operation. MEDLIFE decided to pay for his operation through a private hospital to ensure Hugo´s survival. MEDLIFE is starting a fundraising campaign to pay for this necesarry and expensive surgery. Please help us give Hugo a future and donate!

 In order to recover from such a drastic operation, Hugo needed to get his numerous dental infections taken care of. The infections could spread while Hugo is recovering from his operation. MEDLIFE has taken him to a dentist, where he received treatment and had his badly infected teeth pulled.

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After the operation, Hugo´s family will have avoided a tradgedy. Hugo should be able to enjoy a long and physically normal life. He should even be able to keep up with his siblings. MEDLIFE will continue to support families like Hugo´s who are buredened with illnesses with a cost of care far greater than they could afford to pay.

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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.