Rachel Goldberg came to us fresh out of the University of Virgina to intern with the Communications dept. of MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru for a full year. Now, after her first month on the job, she writes about her experience working in the field with our patient follow-up coordinator, Meri Lecaros:
When I came to Lima to start my year with MEDLIFE, I knew I would be dealing with a level of poverty that I had never seen before. But knowing something theoretically and experiencing it firsthand are two very different things, and in the short month I’ve been living in Lima, I have already learned a lot. As the communications intern, I came here with no background in medicine, but I discovered there is a lot more to MEDLIFE’s work. The problems we encounter every day in the field are part of a larger system of social and economic inequality that only gets worse over time. When you don’t have the basic resources, infrastructure and education, healthcare becomes much more complicated. I am always struck by the empathy of the MEDLIFE staff as they work to respond to the whole problem.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been going with Meri, MEDLIFE’s field nurse, to visit a patient named Eloy, an eight-year-old who was born with a heart problem that limits the flow of oxygen through his body and gives his skin a bluish tint. He needs an expensive operation that could save his life, but as I discovered when I visited, that isn’t his only problem. To reach his home, we first had to take a cramped combi, a small public transportation van, from the edge of town up into the hills until the bus couldn’t go any further, then climb up a steep and slippery dirt road until we reached another hill that looked like a pile of rocks. Eloy’s house was perched on top. His mother, Betsy, came out to greet us, picking her way through the rocks as Eloy followed, stopping every so often to sit down and catch his breath. Thankfully, MEDLIFE is now working on a new staircase project next to his house.
After noticing that Eloy was small for his age, Meri has been visiting each week with a bag full of nutritious food. But she wanted to find a more sustainable solution, something that would allow Betsy to provide for her children even when she wasn’t around. So I went with her as she talked to the president of the local comedor, or community kitchen, and worked out a deal: Betsy could help prepare food there, and in exchange take home meals for her and her children. As soon as it was agreed, Meri walked up to Betsy’s house to tell her to bring her pots and pans and get to work. We watched as Eloy, a quiet kid and a picky eater, sat down and devoured the menu of the day.
As Meri said, “It feels good to know that we accomplished something today that will continue even if we leave some day.” I hope that I too will be able to make some kind of lasting change this year, however small it may be.