In the small rural villages of the Andes, lack of access to healthcare is so severe that injuries and illnesses often go untreated for long periods of time and lead to more severe consequences than necessary. John Caisaguano fell and hit his face and eye when he was 3 years old. The wound bled a lot, and his injured eye eventually turned black. But despite his mother’s efforts, 10 years later John still hasn’t gotten the necessary treatment.
It’s not that his mother didn’t try. Their home is in the foothills surrounding Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. They have a small plot surrounded by fields where they grow the crops that comprise their livelihood. From this remote location it takes almost two hours to reach the nearest health post.
She tried the health post first; the doctors told her they weren’t adequately equipped to handle such a case. Next she tried all the hospitals in the Riobamba area. She got nothing.
Maybe her relatives in Quito could help her? They went to Quito and checked at the hospital, it would be $3000. At this point she was desperate, John’s eye was swollen shut and black. He couldn’t see out of it and he was in a lot of pain.
John’s mother told us how hard it was to raise funds; “We just couldn’t pay,” Caisaguano said. “The hospital said it would cover $100 of that treatment but we still couldn’t afford it, even with the help of the rest of my family… So we tried to find a way to raise money.”
They sold their animals, the cows, the guinea pigs, everything. They worked more, they got help from their husband’s family, but they were still short.
They heard there was a specialist in Milagro who might be able to help them. They went immediately.
John’s mother told us what happened when she got there:
“A woman came to talk to us and told us they wouldn’t be able to see us tomorrow and asked where we came from. I told her we had come from Riobamba and she told us to go back and that they would see us later. But we had ready spent so much money on traveling, money that we didn’t have,” Caisaguano said.
She persisted, and eventually she was given a price for the operation, $2,500. Desperate, she called up her brother in law and asked him to sell one of his cows to raise money. He did it, but he couldn’t get the money in time. The hospital, which they had been staying in waiting to try and raise money, kicked them out.
“This meant that we were stuck in Milagros with no operation, no money and no way home. We were stranded,” Caisaguano said. “I was crying on the street when a woman came up to me and asked what was wrong. I told her and she gave me $10. With this help, eventually we managed to get back. However this meant that we had even less money, there was no way to afford the treatment.”
To this day, John still hasn’t been able to get treatment. His eye is extremely painful, puts him at risk for future health problems, and makes him the subject of ridicule amongst his peers. The cost of unsuccessfully seeking treatment has left his family worse off than ever.
“We have nothing now. We have no money, we have no animals now as we sold them to try to raise money for the operation,” Caisaguano said. “I worked every Saturday and eventually raised enough money for a small operation on his face but it was still painful and was not the full treatment that he needs.”
What John needed was a prosthetic eye.
MEDLIFE met John at a Mobile Clinic we knew we could get it for him. We took him to see the specialist in Quito that his family could not afford to take him to. He was nervous sitting in the chair, waiting to receive the prosthetic eye he had waited years for. The doctor washed his hands and explained what he was going to do. “Trust me. This is not going to hurt,” he told John, holding the prosthetic eye. The doctor popped it in and told John to look around. The prosthetic swiveled in tandem with his eye, and looked almost natural.
MEDLIFE nurse Maria went to check in on him a few days after the operation. He was back in school and doing well. His mother thanked MEDLIFE and all of our supporters for making it possible. On the way out of the visit Maria noted “that was the first time I saw him smile.”