Meet The Patient: Erika Pierina - MEDLIFE

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.