Meet The Patient: Erika Pierina

          Erika is 18 years old and lives in the hills surrounding Lima with her 19 year old husband and their one year old son.  She moved to Lima from Iquitos in search of new job opportunities and a better life for her family.  She is currently living in a small shack on a dusty hillside in the community of Laderas.  She has no land title, no water and no sanitary facilities.  In January of this year, Erika started feeling pains in her belly that began disrupting her normal eating and sleeping habits.  She put off going to see a doctor as the process is time consuming and expensive.  However, by March, the pain was so bad that she couldn’t delay it any longer.  Erika explained how it felt “I couldn’t eat or sleep, I knew there was something very wrong”

IMG 0060Erika with her son, Edison.

          Erika made the journey down the steep hill from her house and into the centre of Villa Maria to consult with a doctor about the pain she had been experiencing.  The doctor ran several tests and scans.  When the results came back, it became clear that Erika had a tumour growing in her belly.  The scans did not determine whether the tumour was cancerous or not and finding out would require more hospital visits which would mean more time and money.  Erika is a full time mum and her husband works two days and two nights at a plastics factory though the family still have a very low income.  

          Erika put off going to see the doctor until the pain was so great that she could not bare it anymore.  The doctor told her that the tumour had grown in size to be 30cm, meaning it would need to be operated on.  However, he had also discovered a complication, Erika’s results now showed she was five weeks pregnant.   

IMG 0105

Erika’s house in Laderas, Villa María del Triunfo where she lives with her husband and son.

          The doctors deemed the danger of operating on the tumour whilst she was still carrying the baby to be too great.  She was told it would be necessary to have more scans and tests to determine how dangerous the tumor was and the possibility of it being cancerous.  However, it was too early in the pregnancy for these scans to be carried out without the risk of them affecting the pregnancy.

          As the baby continued to grow, the tumour was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.  Erika is only three months pregnant but already has the appearance of someone who is almost at the due date as a result of the swollen tumour in her belly.   Erika’s doctor has decided to conduct some preliminary scans to try to determine if the tumour is cancerous.  If it is, they will need to delay any treatment until after the birth, however if it is not they will be able to think about a short term treatment to ease Erika’s pain during her pregnancy.

IMG 0097Carlos Benavides, director of MEDPrograms Peru, visiting Erika with MEDPrograms intern Alison Bradley.

          These tests were carried out on Friday 23rd September and the results should be back within the next week.  Following these results, Erika and her family will have a better idea of how to proceed with the next few weeks.  MEDLIFE nurses will be with Erika every step of the way over the next three months, supporting her with whatever treatment she may need and helping her through her pregnancy.  We will make sure Erika’s son has somewhere to stay and someone to look after him if his mother needs to go into the hospital and we will be supporting the family financially with any medication Erika is prescribed.  

          We hope that over the next few weeks Erika will be able to sort a clearer treatment plan of what the next steps will be in both her medical treatment and her pregnancy.      


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.