Last Friday the MEDLIFE summer interns joined the community members of Union de Santa Fe to inaugurate the completion of a new staircase. Not only will this provide safe and secure access to several homes but is the main point of access to the newly constructed second floor of the Wawa Wasi.

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Thank you to all the 2017 summer interns for the help on this project and all your work over the last three months. 

IMG 3052The summer interns delivering plants to decorate the area around the new staircase.

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IMG 3137The traditional MEDLIFE red paint adds some color to the new staircase.

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IMG 3445Balloons are a vital part of any MEDLIFE inauguration here in Lima and with the addition of a heart the finishing touches are compete.

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IMG 3673MEDLIFE staff and the 2017 summer interns at the base of the completed staircase.

 

“Why are you helping abroad and not back at home?” 
 
This question haunted me throughout the summer, but I knew it would follow me the rest of my life since I have a desire to live and work in another country after graduation. It was hard for me to answer, but interning with MEDLIFE for a summer helped me find clarity.
 
I devoted three months of my life to uncertainty. I had never been away from home this long, never been to Lima, Peru, and never met the thirteen other interns I would be living and working with. It was definitely scary, but it's through these moments of uncertainty that I learned more about who I am and about the needs of the world, specifically Peru.
 
14 12 2620Brandy, along with several of the other 2017 summer interns, work with community members in Unión de Santa Fe to fill in the roof of the MEDLIFE WawaWasi.
 
I remember the first time I went on a reality tour, an educational walk through underdeveloped areas in which MEDLIFE works, and how I felt completely overwhelmed by how much needed to be done. There were an endless number of houses that lacked proper access to water, electricity, and sanitation. Overall, things were just unsafe, with the electrical wires hanging, waste alongside the street, and  unpaved roads. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “this is too much”. It would have been easy just to leave then and there, but I found too much significance and value in the work that MEDLIFE does. It is really easy to feel discouraged; however, I know that the effort we put forth really benefits the communities. It changes the life of a family, of a person. For example, the staircases we built will not only provide a safe pathway, they will also allow community members to apply for a land titles which will essentially give them easier access to food, education, health services, work, and other basic necessities. 
 
14 12 9887The Wall of Shame: a wall that separates Pamplona and the richest neighborhoods in lima as well as a stop on the MEDLIFE reality tour.
 
Staircases are only one example of the numerous projects we completed this summer. I also had the incredible opportunity to participate in several mobile clinics. One that was particularly impactful was MEDLIFE’s first clinic in the Lima women’s penitentiary. We performed pap smears and gynecological consultations. What's most astonishing to me is that MEDLIFE created this opportunity from scratch. Obviously, the women inside the prison had no way of attending a MEDLIFE mobile clinic on their own, so MEDLIFE took action and sought them out. 
 
14 12 0381Women of the Santa Monica Penitentiary in Lima attend an education session on cervical cancer hosted by MEDLIFE staff.
 
So why serve communities internationally rather than domestically? Because a person is a person. I am not diminishing the necessity of helping people those in need at home. Help is needed everywhere, and no one person is more valuable than another. If a plane ticket is necessary, I will take the initiative and go. I am not going back to “the real world” when I return home; I'm returning having experienced another part of the real world. Now, I can continue to assist people who are only a walking distance away from me. The most exciting part is knowing that the knowledge and insight I have gained through my experience in Lima will be shared wherever I go, even my own community back in Sweet Home Alabama.
 
Sometimes we do not take the first steps because we are overwhelmed, intimidated, and think our goals are unachievable before we even start. I desperately want each person to live a better life, and I needed to remind myself that small steps are essential to a larger movement.
 
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Brandy studies Marketing and Spanish at the University of Alabama and plans to start a MEDLIFE chapter when she returns. 
MEDLIFE recently held its second annual Leadership Corps, a two-week service learning trip that is open to Chapter Leaders and Student Advisory Board (SAB) members. This year, eight student leaders were joined by MEDLIFE staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, in Ecuador and Peru to learn in-depth about MEDLIFE’s work and future goals, as well as global health and development issues such as structural violence, education, urban development, public health and international aid. 
 
MEDLIFE Staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, and the 2017 Leadership Corps participants in Llillia, Ecuador.MEDLIFE Staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, and the 2017 Leadership Corps participants in Llillia, Ecuador.
 
It was an action-packed two weeks that included a hike to Llilla, the first community MEDLIFE ever worked with back in 2004, where both students and staff spent a somewhat chilly night camping at 3,800m and ran a mobile clinic the next day. Other activities involved visiting the hospital and daycare center belonging to Fundación Tierra Nueva in Quito, attending a night meeting in Lima with over 300 community members, learning about Peru’s recent history at the LUM, working on a development project, and dropping by the MEDLIFE Wawa Wasi in Union Santa Fe.
 
We’d like to thank this year’s participants: Carolann McNicoll (McGill University), Karolina Weglinska (McGill University), Erika Ortiz (University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla), Matthew Holmes (Rowan University), Heena Patel (Rowan University), Jason Hong (Richard Montgomery High School), Hailee Peterson (University of North Dakota) and Fouad Berry (University of Michigan, Dearborn)
 
Check out the video below to see more footage from the 2017 Leadership Corps! 
 

August 8, 2017 12:13 PM

MEET THE PATIENT: Karol

Written by Aidan Wells
Jose Galvez is a district within the Municipality of Villa Maria del Triunfo in Lima, Peru. The district is well known as the home of the largest cement factory in Peru. To reach Karol's house required a trek which involved 3 buses, a walk along the highway across from the cement factory, and finally, a hike up the steep pathway to the house. There are no stairs, no paths, or guides on the way to Karol's front door, only the rocky hill that leaves you breathless...literally. 
 
From left to right: Rocía, Karol, and MEDLIFE Nurse Janet Ludeña pose for a photo in Karol´s home.From left to right: Rocía, Karol, and MEDLIFE Nurse Janet Ludeña pose for a photo in Karol's home.
 
The house is clean and tidy. Rocío, Karol's mother, has meticulously made sure that everything is in place, well-painted, and organized. The home is humble, but comfortable. There are many photos on the wall. All of them Karol. Karol is pictured dancing; she's pictured smiling. There's even a photo collage of her high school graduation. "She is my only daughter," says Rocío. 
 
Karol is 17 years old and currently studying Hospitality and Tourism. Her dream is to become a flight attendant. "I want to travel" she told us when we asked why she was studying Tourism. "I want to fly and get to know the world. I love nature and waterfalls. I definitely want to visit somewhere like that outside of Peru."
 
Rocía and Janet do an analysis of Karol's socioeconomic status during the very first patient follow-up visit. This helps determine which form of health insurance Karol qualifies for.Rocía and Janet do an analysis of Karol's socioeconomic status during the very first patient follow-up visit. This helps determine which form of health insurance Karol qualifies for.
 
When Karol was 10 years old she started presenting strange symptoms like shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and dizziness. Her family took her to the Bartolome Herrera Hospital where she was diagnosed with Arrhythmia, a disease that causes abnormal heart beats, either too fast or too slow. Basically, the electrical current was not running through Karol's heart properly.  She was given enough pills to last her two months, since mild arrhythmia does not typically require intensive treatment.
 
Eventually Karol improved and was able to lead a normal life, until two years ago, when she began showing symptoms again. This time, however, the symptoms were much stronger. Karol would need to rest up to 6 times just to climb the last hill up to her house, and sometimes her legs would stiffen up when walking. These new symptoms left Rocío very worried. 
 
Rocía, Karol, and Janet attend a specialist appointment at the doctor's office in Villa María del Triunfo.Rocía, Karol, and Janet attend a specialist appointment at the doctor's office in Villa María del Triunfo.
 
After another trip to the hospital, doctors told Karol that no arrhythmia was detected, and she would more specialized diagnostic tests that public health insurance would not cover. 
 
When Rocío heard about MEDLIFE's mobile clinics, she did not hesitate to get Karol the medical attention she needed. The MEDLIFE doctors immediately put Karol into the patient follow-up program for more personalized attention. Janet Ludeña, the MEDLIFE nurse assigned to the case, has since been able to provide not only counseling and support, but also accompany the family to Karol's appointments to try and determine what condition is affecting her. MEDLIFE was able to provide the funds for the specialized tests, and now, we are waiting for the final diagnosis. Regardless of whether the doctors find a diagnosis of arrhythmia or something else, MEDLIFE will not hesitate to accompany and support the family throughout the entire process.
 
Janet and Karol discuss her medical history during their second patient follow-up-visit.Janet and Karol discuss her medical history during their second patient follow-up-visit.
August 8, 2017 11:26 AM

Meet the Patient: Maria Borja

Written by Rosali Vela

mariaborjanono2We first met Maria Borja Nono, age 55, about a year ago when she attended a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in the community of Shobol Pamba, Parroquia San Juan, del Cantón Riobamba in Ecuador. She was examined by our gynecologist and found to have a cystocele, a medical condition that occurs when the wall between a woman's bladder and her vagina is torn. This rupture most likely occured during the delivery of one of Maria's 13 children.

Although Ecuadorian laws call for free and universal access to healthcare, the country continues to experience high levels of maternal death and complications from childbirth. Many women from indigenous communities give birth in their houses, due either to the lack of transportation to surrounding hospitals or to the notion that hospitals provide culturally insensitive care.

According to CARE USA, indigenous women are accustomed to being surround by friends and family during childbirth and to giving birth in a vertical position --  customs that are not always allowed in country hospitals. As a result, women do not always know how to identify signs of maternal risk, nor how to seek out help for complications that occur from childbirth.“In all seriousness, I've been in need of having an operation for this problem for over 20 years now,” Maria tells us during our interview with her at her home in Riobamba. “I just could never afford it, especially having so many children to take care of.”mariaborjanono1A typical day for Maria consists of walking a distance of about three miles to and from work where she is a day laborer in a lime mine, coming home to take care of household chores and care for her elderly mother, staying up late to cook the family's meals for the following day, and getting a maximum of four to five hours of sleep per night.

Her husband also works in the mines and has a similarly stressful daily schedule.Once diagnosed at the Mobile Clinic, it was clear that Maria was going to need surgery, and financial assistance to cover the medical costs. Always punctual and cooperative, Maria had eight medical clinic appointments consisting of check-ups and further examinations. She was accompanied to each appointment by MEDLIFE follow-up coordinator, Maria Chavez.

“I met up with Miss Chavez and she helped me through the good and the bad,” Maria told us through tears during our interview. “She helped me. I give thanks to God for her help. Even when my own children couldn't be around because they were working far away, she was there up until the final days. Thank God that even today she is helping me, economically and emotionally.”Prior to her surgery, Maria's tests revealed several complications including vaginitis and possible bladder fistula (an abnormal connection between the bladder and the vagina) for which a cystography was performed. Currently, our patient is relieved of most of the pain and discomfort she had been experiencing and is regularly returning for medical examinations for further alteration of bladder muscles.

August 8, 2017 11:24 AM

Meet the Patient: Luis Soria

Written by Rosali Vela

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Luis Soria is a patient who came to us last spring during a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in the community of Cecel San Antonio del Cantón Licto of Riobamba, Ecuador. During his consultation, one of our doctors diagnosed Luis with inguinal hernias. An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue pushes through a weak spot in your groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin or scrotum which may hurt or burn.

Doctors informed Luis that he was in need of an immediate surgery right on the spot. MEDLIFE staff proceeded to take him to the nearest hospital to get further medical examination and care. Doctors and the medical clinic confirmed that his condition was critical and he was prepped for surgery within a few hours.Luis admitted to us that he had felt discomfort for many years, especially while working long hours as a taxi driver and wore a back brace at all times. “I'm 47 years old and I've been suffering from this condition for over 10 years. I feel like a new man now thanks to the help this organization has provided me,” he shared.After several lab tests, including uro-analysis, hematology, serology, blood, ECG and echo cardiogram tests, doctors concluded that Luis had two hernias and decided to split the surgery into two procedures -- one on each side. The surgeries went well and Luis was told to spend 60 days recovering at home. Although it was difficult for him to wait that long to work again, he followed the doctor's orders and today he can enjoy life without the pain he had suffered from for so long.“Now I can work productively on my field and help out with family chores. I couldn't even walk around and enjoy my time with my family of three children and my beautiful wife. Now I have that opportunity and I am forever grateful for that,” he said with a smile.

August 8, 2017 11:20 AM

Patient Story: Wheelchair for Jose

Written by Rosali Vela

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José Permillot Salgado was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type II over 30 years ago, but his story with MEDLIFE began on October 6, 2011. This was the day our patient follow-up coordinator and nurse, Ruth Varona, paid Permillot a visit in his residence after receiving an email about his deteroriating condition. We were informed about his needs through a friend of our international liason, Angie Vidal, who had been close to his family for some time.

Originally from Lima, José is a bit of a prankster and enjoys playfully teasing those around him and cracking jokes in criollo fashion -- frequently using typical slang from the southwestern coast of Perú. At nearly 67 years of age, he says that his only reason for living and staying somewhat healthy is to stick around for his grandchildren, Karissa, José Jesús and José Antonio, ages 10, 8, and 6 respectively.After having accompanied José to several clinic check-ups and covering all of his medical expenses and procedures, including the necessary amputation of his right leg, MEDLIFE delivered a brand-new wheelchair to his residence on November 5th, 2011 and sat down to speak with him about his story.During our chat, he admitted to never having taken any precautions after being diagnosed to prevent damaging his internal organs any further. He added, "I consider myself an idiot for not having done anything when I could have... and now I might lose my second leg as well." José, who formely sold breakfast entreés and prepared coffee and other beverages as a street vendor, always enjoyed playing soccer on the weekends in healthier times. Today, he lives with his wife, Ruth, and his two eldest grandchildren in the district of Lima in Perú. He hopes to be able to continue to watch them grow for as long as possible and greatly appreciates MEDLIFE's help along the way.

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August 8, 2017 10:52 AM

MEDLIFE Staircase Construction Stories

Written by Rosali Vela

WHY STAIRCASES?

Our Staircase Construction Projects were inspired by the story of a MEDLIFE patient, Chais Pipa. Chais fell down the steep hillside that leads to her home, prompting a premature birth and health complications for her newborn child.

After speaking to Chais and other community members, we learned that several health problems were related to falls and the inability to navigate the steep terrain of Pamplona Alta.

As a result, MEDLIFE began building staircases in these regions and has continued to do so ever since.

FEATURED STORIES

Read more stories here!

August 8, 2017 10:06 AM

MEDLIFE Hygiene Project Stories

Written by Rosali Vela

WHY SANITATION?

For MEDLIFE Ecuador, bathroom construction projects are an integral part of the health care work that we do. Projects are typically focused on rural, majority indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities. These areas are geographically isolated from access to reliable potable water and improved sanitation. 

In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrhoeal diseases to be the second leading cause of death in low-income countries. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that functional, clean bathrooms can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 33%; simply being able to wash your hands with soap can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 40%. Yet, for approximately 2.5 billion people, or 35% of the world's population, there is no functioning bathroom at all. If rural areas do not have functioning facilities, they are slower to be expanded upon and improved.

FEATURED STORIES

You can read more stories at here!

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