In January of 2012, Teresa Quispe Mallqui approached a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in her community of Defensores de la Familia after hearing about the importance of getting a routine Pap smear. Mother of three and grandmother at only 38 years old, Teresa didn’t give much thought to the possible outcomes of the exam. Similarly, when the results came in and there were some irregularities that required immediate follow-up, she found it difficult to process the gravity of the situation.
Teresa is a single mother who moved to Lima from the Andean region of Huancayo with her children in order to find work. Living in a one-room house with six people including her grandchild and crippled mother, she worked with a municipality cleaning crew and didn’t have time to see a doctor. MEDLIFE Peru Director Carlos Benavides sat down with Teresa and explained the importance of getting treatment, not just for her, but for her family as well. Consequently, she agreed to see the gynecologist at Maria Auxiliadora Hospital. After a number of tests it was confirmed she had stage 3 carcinoma in situ, a dangerous early form of cancer that requires the removal of all damaged lesions.
In the difficult months that followed the initial Pap smear, Teresa had to take a lot of time off of work to attend her numerous doctor visits — often waiting in line for five to six hours before actually seeing a physician. Once the municipality found out about her illness they promptly fired her, not wanting to have to deal with the responsibility of having a sick employee.
On the first of June, Teresa arrived at the hospital ready for her operation — an abdominal hysterectomy — of which MEDLIFE agreed to cover the entire cost. Normally, the bulk of the operation would have been paid by the Peruvian healthcare system, SIS, but unfortunately Teresa had not qualified for it. Earlier this year Teresa had taken out a loan of 1,500 soles (roughly 570 dollars) to help her daughter open a small market next to their house. This loan disqualified her from receiving subsidized healthcare because it was seen as though she had extra cash lying around, even though the small market was barely making enough to feed her family.
The operation was completed without complications that same day. Two days later Teresa, still not fully recovered, was removed from her bed in order to make room for another patient. She was sent home with our follow-up care nurse, Meri, where she was given strict instructions to rest and stay in bed.
In the days that followed Teresa complained of sharp abdominal pain, for which MEDLIFE staff accompanied her to the hospital for further checkups. Although her pain proved to be nothing serious, the biggest problems occurred while transporting Teresa to and from the hospital. Teresa’s community is on the top of a hill and is inaccessible to buses or taxis. This means that Teresa has to walk up and down steep staircases to get anywhere, especially difficult in her fragile condition. To avoid this, MEDLIFE Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez continued to make house visits checking up on Teresa to ensure that she could recover comfortably without extra strain.
As of now Teresa is steadily recovering and awaiting her next checkup later this month.