A Surgery for Olga

Olga doesn’t like to leave hear house, she prefers to hide in bed, where no one can see her. “I’ve been hiding my whole life,” she says. But she can only hide for so long until the obligations of motherhood, of day to day survival, trips to the market, picking crops on her farm, or to get her children from school, force her into the harsh light of day.

Vergüenza, that is the hardest part for Olga, not pain but shame.

She carries it on her neck, it swells and throbs. A weight that bows her head, dressing her neck in a veil of dark hair to protect it from the sharp gaze of others.

She is losing weight, her hair has begun to fall out, leaving her with one less thing to hide behind, naked. All the while the mass continues to grow.

She first noticed it when she was fifteen, just a girl, working as a live-in servant in the capital city of Quito. It came in just below her ear, subtle at first; a sensation of pressure, taut skin.

Until she could no longer look at herself nor anyone at her without seeing it, until it hurt to move her head and stung to be looked at. It wasn’t just the stares that drove her into hiding but the questions.

            “What is that ball on your face?”

            “Why do you leave it there?”

            “Why haven’t you healed that thing?”

            “Go to a doctor,” went a daily deluge of reactionary comments.

Didn’t they understand that she was poor? That her resources were already stretched thin? After all, they lived in the same impoverished farming community in the Ecuadorian jungle that she did.

And she had gone to a doctor, had even gotten surgery once, but the mass came back. More tests, more doctors, but now she was older, she had her kids to care for, she couldn’t afford it.

She cannot hide forever.

She has to meet with her son’s teachers at school; today this, tomorrow, something else. So she puts on her hat, lowers her gaze and pulls her hair down over it, and bracing herself. Even if she is lucky, even if the stares and questions don’t come today, the sensation remains; an out of place mass, dull pain, an ever present shame.


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MEDLIFE met Olga in a winter Mobile Clinic in Tena. It only took a quick glance to see that she needed some kind of prolonged treatment. She was quickly put into our follow up patient program. When MEDLIFE took Olga to the hospital the mass on her neck was diagnosd was Pleomorphic Adenoma, a tumour on her salivary gland. This type of tumour is typically benign, but has the potential to become malignant. MEDLIFE is committed to getting Olga the surgery she needs to get it removed. “I don’t want to live in hiding anymore,” said Olga. “That is why I am asking for your support. I want to get the surgery. I want to get cured. I don’t want to hide my face.”

We cannot do this on our own! Let’s give Olga the opportunity to walk down the street, healthy, with her head held high! Please help us fund Olga’s surgery donate here! 


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.