During spring Mobile Clinic season MEDLIFE travelled to many extremely remote indigenous Andean communities in Peru and Ecuador, which are often several hours away from a hospital. When a Mobile Clinic visits a community like this, it is a rare opportunity for easy access to health care. Oftentimes, a simple treatment like an antibiotic prescription is enough to alleviate an otherwise serious condition. But what happens when we are several hours away from a hospital and we encounter a patient with a serious and urgent condition who we cannot treat at clinic?
That is what happened in this community, located a couple of hours outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. At above 10,000 feet altitude, the village is literally in the clouds, which morph and billow across the patchwork quilt of crop fields and grazing livestock that sustain those who live here at a mesmerizing speed typically only seen in time-lapse videos.
The people who live here are physically and socially cut off from the rest of society. No public transit serves this area. To arrive here our bus struggled up steep and winding dirt roads, crossing a bridge so precarious looking everyone got off the bus before it tried to cross; thankfully the bridge did not collapse. Many of the older residents here only speak Quechua, a language not often spoken outside of indigenous Andean communities. If an emergency occurs here, community members have a long journey ahead of them to a hospital where someone may not even speak Quechua.
When MEDLIFE encountered Isabel Morocho her skin had a yellow tinge, she had a high fever, severe dehydration, was perspiring heavily and complaining of pain in her ribs. She hobbled slowly into the room where the doctors were stationed with a stooped over posture and eyes cast to the floor. Her son was translating from Quechua into Spanish for her. It was obvious that her condition was serious.
When her son brought her in, they had just gotten back from a trip to Guayaquil, a major city in Ecuador many hours away, in an attempt to get her medical attention there.
After an ultrasound she was diagnosed with gallstones. The doctors there told her that she needed to be operated on right away, but her son elected to try get the surgery done in Riobamba, a city much closer to their village. They could not afford to stay in Guayaquil while Isabel recovered and the long journey back would be too much to handle for an elderly recovering surgery patient.
Several days went by, they journeyed home- they did not go straight to the hospital. Meanwhile, Isabel’s condition worsened rapidly and she got the flu; her condition had left her immune system weak and vulnerable.
It was decided that she needed to be taken to the hospital immediately.
She was helped to a car by her son, who accompanied by MEDprograms Ecuador Martha Chicaiza, went straight to the hospital with her.
She was given medication for the infection, and the doctors are waiting for her to recover from it so they can safely do the surgery. Isabel was put into the MEDLIFE patient follow-up care system. MEDLIFE will continue to walk Isabel through the treatment process until she has recovered. Eventhough she was hours away from a hospital, Isabel still got the care she needed.