Clare Lilek's Intern Journal - MEDLIFE

Clare Lilek’s Intern Journal

I always told myself that I wouldn’t be able to live in a large city. The idea was too much for me to comprehend: millions of people cruising the bustling streets on a land so extensive I couldn’t possibly know it all. So how did I then end up living in one of the largest cities in the world, you may ask? To be honest, beats me. Lima, alone, wasn’t necessarily calling my name—even while I became a frozen popsicle in the cold Michigan weather. However, MEDLIFE’s mission was definitely a siren call in and of itself.

Clare LimaShore

Since arriving to Lima, adjusting to city life has been an adventure to say the least. The lifestyle I left behind is quite different from what I am currently living, and truthfully, I am loving every minute of it. I came here for the fulfilling work that MEDLIFE provides and found a city filled with passion, pride, and heart. Peru has a vivacious culture bursting with delicious food, energetic dancing, and adventurous activities that are all fueled by everyday people trying to make and enjoy a living. My background in traveling has allowed me to experience the country and the more electric aspects of Lima life, but my involvement with MEDLIFE has given me the opportunity to find the heart of the country and explore the social issues endemic to this region.

On my first patient call, I accompanied one of our nurses to visit a bright, young eleven-year-old boy named Gino. Gino has been plagued by health issues for the past three years. He beat cancer with the help of chemotherapy, but the radiation caused additional health complications. Despite all the trials and tribulations he and his family have endured, this brilliant boy had the most beautiful and genuine smile I have ever seen, one that spread from ear to ear. His illuminating grin simply radiated happiness and shone brightly despite his seemingly shy demeanour. Seeing the sheer resilience present in Gino, in the face of his many health challenges, further reminded me of how the good, amidst the hardest trails of life, is still present and working in the world, and MEDLIFE helps to make that possible.

It’s so easy to get caught up in your own little world, to start thinking about what only affects you personally, when there is so much more happening all around us. Even when I get distracted by my life in Lima, MEDLIFE grounds me to what truly matters. I am able to learn more about what systemic issues many citizens face and realize that there is a greater adversity people have to endure on a daily basis, challenges I can’t even begin to fully comprehend. However, MEDLIFE reminds me that I am here to help in whatever capacity I can. I am here to be a part of an organization that is much greater and larger than myself; one that works toward relieving current pain, correcting future issues, and lending an empathetic ear to the struggles of the people we serve.

One of the most grounding moments so far in my time with MEDLIFE has been my experience with another follow-up patient, Julio Rivera. Twenty six-year-old Julio had not left his house in eight years. That is not an exaggeration and I am not overstating his condition. For eight years, he has been practically trapped in his one-bedroom home, mourning the sudden loss of his mobility. Many years ago, he started to experience pain in his spine that made walking difficult; lacking access to adequate care, Julio slowly began to lose movement. Julio lives on top of a cerro (hill), which requires him to climb down a staircase to even leave his house; he would then have to continue down a multi-sloped, extremely steeped hill to simply access a main road. His debilitating and unknown illness, geographical location, and socioeconomic status made it impossible for him to even see the daylight—let alone a doctor—for far too long. After hearing about Julio’s condition, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that assisted him in leaving his house for the first time in eight years so that he could receive proper medical treatment.

Clare Julio

Julio’s nervous smile while taking pictures of the outside world, was thrilling to watch. This was a man filled with so much depression about his situation who was suddenly seeing a small light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel. Escorting Julio to the doctors was a profound experience; hearing that with hard work and a lot of therapy he might be able to move on his own again, caused a united sigh of relief. Being a part of an organization that can make the seemingly impossible, possible for so many families who have lost hope, is moving and incredibly rewarding.

My time in Lima so far has shown me the importance of doing what you can do today to help relieve the situation of another. At times I feel like I am not doing enough, because there is so much more to be done. However, what I have is time; so, time is what I can give in order for MEDLIFE to, little by little, shoulder some of the burden these families carry on a daily basis. The mission is not about rebuilding a whole new system, but slowly redefining how people can move within said system. We are not moving mountains, but we are giving people the ability to chisel away at their own cerros.

I may have previously envisioned my life away from the fast paced energy of a large city, but I couldn’t imagine spending my year anywhere else. The MEDLIFE mission drew me here, enticed me with its opportunities and chances, but the welcoming people I have found in Lima, through the work MEDLIFE does, is what continues to anchor me to this beautiful and vibrant city.