November 30, 2016 4:31 PM

Specialized Care

Written by Jake Kincaid

screen shot 2016 09 26 at 8 08Delia in her apron after one of her first days working at the sandwich cart.

When Delia Martin discovered that she needed surgery for her rare chronic disorder, Caroli Disease, her primary concern was not the physical pain and distress she would have to undergo- she didnt have the privilege of focusing on her personal suffering. She was worried about how she was going to feed her children while undergoing the lengthy recovery, during which she would not be able to hustle through the difficult commutes and long walks required to survive in Lima's informal economy, the primary source of income for those who live in the cities slums.

After meeting Delia in a Mobile Clinic, MEDLIFEâ's nurses visited her in her home and spent enough time with her to understand that her illness was not just a medical issue requiring a medical response. If we wanted to really help Delia, we needed to take things a step further and find a way to empower her to care for her family. After talking with her, we decided that in addition to paying for her surgery, we would give her a food-cart that she could make and sell sandwiches from. She could do it right in front of her house and while sitting down- so it would not interfere with her recovery, and she could continue with this work after she had recovered.

Delia's situation required a special response, and because of donations from our supporters, we had the ability to give it her. MEDLIFE brings this philosophy to all of our follow-up patients, and it is this approach that distinguishes us from a medical mission. We specialize our care and quickly adapt it to meet patients real needs, which we discover by building a personal relationship with them inside and outside of medical facilities over the course of years.

Delia is not the only one, in the MEDLIFE patient archives there are hundreds of stories like hers.

1MEDLIFE Nurse Carmen visiting Maura after an operation.

Maura Morales has been a MEDLIFE patient for almost two years. She was in a tragic accident while working as a moto-taxi driver that left her leg mangled, useless and in need of major reconstructive surgery. Maura's bad fortune continued when after finally getting the surgery using the public health system, Maura became the victim of malpractice and was left with an improperly reconstructed bone and an infection that threatened to take her entire leg.

When MEDLIFE met her, she was in need of another more expensive surgery and had no way to pay for it. She could hardly get to the base of the hill her house was built on to get to a paved road, there was no sidewalk or staircase and the steep dirt path was nearly unnavigable on crutches.

MEDLIFE began following her case closely, and our nurses got to know Maura very well, an inspiring woman with an unbreakable spirit who never stopped smiling and cracking jokes with them no matter how many steel rods were sticking out of her leg or how much pain it was causing her.

In addition to getting Maura on health insurance that would cover her surgeries and paying for what was not covered, MEDLIFE built a staircase in Maura's community. We went with her to every appointment, and even carried her down the staircase when she could no longer walk on crutches after her surgery. Then, we redesigned her bathroom, which was just a hole in the ground, to make it handicap accessible.

Maura is recovering and MEDLIFE nurses continue to visit her regularly.

IMG 7757John before he got his prosthesis.

John Caisaguano was 3 years old when a simple toddlers fall went horribly wrong and caused him to lose his eye. After 10 years and thousands of dollars, it still remained a gaping hole is his face that made him the subject of ridicule in school, caused chronic pain and was at risk for infection.

John needed a prosthetic eye.

Adequate prosthesis of any kind are hard to come by in the impoverished mountain communities of the Ecuadorian Andes. The barriers to access are significant for those families who attempt to seek healthcare up to modern standards in the cities. For subsistence farmers, long trips, expensive travel costs, long waits and a baffling bureaucracy all conspire to prevent even the most determined from getting the treatments they need. That is why ten years after the accident, John was still without a prosthetic eye.

In a matter of months MEDLIFE was able to get him in to see a specialist in Quito to get the proper prosthesis put in.

Untitled 3John with his new prosthesis.

MEDLIFE was referred to Janet by the family of an old MEDLIFE patient who we had helped get a heart surgery to correct a birth defect. The family was contacted by a man in a nearby village whose daughter, Janet, had the same problem, and our old patient's family put them in contact with us. MEDLIFE nurse Maria set out to go find the family. After hours of driving around remote indigenous villages looking for the family, who had no cell phone, she tracked the father down in a market selling produce. He brought us to his daughter who was helping her family work the fields. MEDLIFE was able to get Janet an appointment with specialists in Quito and she will be getting her surgery soon after preparatory procedures are completed.

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MEDLIFE began when Nick Ellis decided he was going to find a way to get Darwin a heart surgery, who was then a young boy with a similar condition living in the same region of Ecuador. Today MEDLIFE is still finding these types of patients. Janet's surgery will be the fifth heart surgery that MEDLIFE has done for children in the Ecuadorian Andes.

This holiday season, MEDLIFE is trying to raise the money that will allow us to keep specializing our care in 2017 for our patients who require a unique effort on our part to help them. MEDLIFE has been able to support many patients this year and we are eager to help many more this holiday season. All funds from our Holiday Campaign will go to specialized care for our patients.

A heart surgery for Janet, prosthetic eye for John and food cart for Dehlia are just a few of our patients cases supported by MEDLIFE's Project Fund. What separates MEDLIFE from other organizations is that 100% of all funds raised during this campaign will go straight to patients, assisting them with medical costs and continuing their healthcare in our sustainable follow-up program. We appreciate all of your support and hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Find out more here!
https://goo.gl/jTr6Nq

October 25, 2016 9:05 AM

Pompinchu's Staircase

Written by Sarah Bridge
We have been working with former TV comedian Pompinchu for over a year now since he suffered from a car accident which debilitated his movement and rendered him unable to perform.  Pompinchu, formally known as Alfonso Mendoza, had created an appeal show in the hope of raising money to help cover his medical expenses and help with his recovery but unfortunately did not get the support from his fans he was hoping for.  Luckily MEDLIFE also heard Pompinchu's appeal and were able to step in and help.  We have been helping with Pompinchu's medical expenses and more recently decided to fundraise and build a staircase up to his home.  
 IMG 8785The track up to Pompinchu's house before the staircase.
 

Pompinchu's house was located at the top of a slippery dirt track making it very difficult if he ever wanted to leave his house.  Over the past week MEDLIFE, with the help of some community members from the Laderas community, has been constructing the staircase up to Pompinchu's house.  On Friday, a group of interns and nurses went with Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, to paint and inaugurate the staircase.

IMG 0271MEDLIFE interns painting the staircase with Pompinchu and his family.

Whilst we were at the project site, we also decided to help Pompinchu with a few other changes he wanted to his house, redoing the paint, replacing the walls to his bathroom and decorating the side of his house with a character who is very important to Pompinchu.  

IMG 0404Pompinchu asked for an image of Pokemon's Pikachu, a key feature of his TV show.

As well as interns and nurses, some of Pompinchu's family members who live near by also came to help us with the final stages of staircase construction, including his young niece who was particularly excited to see all the bright paints we were using to decorate her uncle's house!

IMG 0349Pompinchu with his niece at the inaugeration.

After completing the work on the staircase and other parts of the house, we were lucky enough to partake in a private viewing of Pompinchu's once famous show 'Comicos Ambulates'.  Pompinchu explained "much of the show is based on satirical political humour but as Spanish is not your first language I'm going to stick to something more simple" before showing us a series of slight of hand magic tricks and engaging in some friendly banter with his co star 'monstro'.  

IMG 0420Pompinchu even invited some interns up to join in the show!

We finished the inaugeration with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle over the staircase and a few speeches.  It was a delight inaugerating this staircase for Pompinchu who was incredibly entertaining all day and had us all joking around with him as we worked.  

IMG 0399MEDLIFE Staff with Pompinchu and his family at the inaugeration.

We will be continuing to work with Pompinchu and support him with his treatment and hope that having this staircase will make accesing his home easier and allow him to get out of the house more to continue entertaining.  

          MEDLIFE have been working in the community of Laderas for nearly five years now.  As well as running educational workshops and mobile clinics in this community, we have also been heavily involved in constructing projects here.  Over the past year, we have been working on a project to constuct five staircases in this community which is located on a steep hillside.  We completed the majority of these staircases with the help of volunteers from our mobile clinics but the last staircase, which we finished last week, was left to staff and interns.  Here are a few photos from the week:

IMG 0005A group of staff and interns working with the community in the early stages of staircase construction.

IMG 0065We were able to spend the week meeting and getting to know many of the people who live in the community of Laderas.  

IMG 0092There was a clear sense of community in Laderas as community members vastly outnumbered our staff and interns!

IMG 0159We finished filling the stairs with concrete on a very gray Lima day...

IMG 8966Luckily it was nicer weather on inauguration day when we were painting the stairs the traditional MEDLIFE red.

IMG 9051Once all painted, we celebrated the inaugeration in the traditional Peruvian way, with balloons...

IMG 9087... champagne...

IMG 9124... and dancing!

IMG 9109The MEDLIFE team post inaugeration.

          We look forward to continuing to work with Laderas in the future and have already started making plans for potential future projects in this community!

October 4, 2016 11:30 AM

A House for the Bravo Children

Written by Jake Kincaid

            1Three of the five Bravo children standing in front their bed in the room they all sleep in together. 

            Clinics in Esmeraldas were packed in March of 2016.  We had worked closely with the Municipal Government to organize the clinics, and it had paid off. The government had spread the word for us, and had even organized a queue. When we arrived there were about fifty people already lined up.

            After seeing dozens of patients with malnutrition, parasites, infections and chronic diseases, municipality officials told us there were some people who couldn't make it to clinic, but that we had to take the time to visit. For almost a year, the community had been pitching in to care for some kids whose parents had been orphaned by a tragic accident, and their current living situation wasn't sustainable. The community was doing all it could to support them, but in a subsistence farming community in Esmeraldas, where according to government statistics 78% of the population lives in poverty, there are not a lot of extra resources to go around.  

            We piled into a car and set off with a municipality official to go visit the kids. After a hot and bumpy ride we finally saw a wooden shack tucked into the forest on a cleared plot of land. It had been elevated several feet off of the ground with stakes stuck into the mud. The municipality encouraged everyone to build this way so that their homes were not destroyed during periodic floods. When we asked, the popular consensus was that it ??sometimes? worked.

            When the municipality called up to the house three kids shuffled down the steps to greet us. All five of them lived in this small 2-room shack with their grandfather. The eldest girl Letia, 15, succinctly explained their situation: ??Our parents died. And we have nowhere else- to be.? What else was there to say?

             The bed the 5 of them shared was on the right as we entered their home. Light split the large gaps between the wooden boards that made up the walls, illuminating a message scrawled in neat black lettering: ??Dios es Amor,? or ??God is Love.? 

In April of 2015 their parents were riding a motorcycle back from a wake at the community church when their bike stalled; a truck rounded a curb and hit them. They flew off the bike and slammed into the pavement. Both of them were found dead.

            The kids have been getting by with their grandfather, who works on an informal basis on other people's farms to support them. The work was inconsistent, and at his age (the kids were unsure how old he was but thought it was around 75) he couldn't do too much hard labour. The local government helped too, with school supplies and food. They even threw the eldest girl a quinceañera when she turned 15, just a few months after her parents died. The community coordinator told us the community was doing what they could, but they were coming up short.

2Letia standing on the deck of her grandfather's home where she now lives with her 4 siblings.

            For one, the kid's housing situation was inadequate. The house was not safe. The walls let lots of water through during rainstorms soaking the 5 children who got very cold despite being huddled together in a single bed. When the wind howled, the home shook ??like a hammock.?

            The family was barely maintaining this dismal standard of living with the support of the community. Municipal officials lamented that although their grandfather and the community were doing their best to support the kids, it could not continue indefinitely.

As we left that visit, MEDLIFE Ecuador Director Martha Chicaiza told everyone present that we needed to fundraise so we could do a project for these kids. For her, it was a moral imperative.

A powerful earthquake devastated the Ecuadorian coast just weeks after our visit. The house that shook like a hammock in the wind collapsed entiredly during the powerful tremors. Thankfully, the kids were unharmed. But now, there is even less government support available and the need for outside support is even greater. The five kids and their grandfather have moved in with their aunt into another even smaller space.

            We are fundraising to build the Bravo kids a home on their grandfather's land. Help MEDLIFE give them a place to be. 

September 29, 2016 10:31 AM

Delia's Food Cart

Written by Sarah Bridge

There is a custom in Peru to keep a human skull in the home as a way of protecting the family and warding off evil.  On Wednesday 28th September, MEDLIFE patient Delia Martín brought out the skull which had been protecting her home and presented it to a group of MEDLIFE staff and interns.  She told us that she wanted us to take it as she felt she had reached a stage where she no longer needed the protection.  

IMG 8820

Delia has been suffering from Caroli syndrome since she was a young girl.  This is a rare congenital disorder of the intrahepatic bile ducts that can lead to high blood pressure and, in severe cases, liver failure.  Delia is a mother of five and her symptoms have left her unable to hold down a stable job.  Her husband works long hours running a workshop from the house.  However, this means Delia is left to care for the children alone and has no way to get money in to support her family.  

Over the past few years, MEDLIFE have been supporting Delia though her treatment and helping to make sure she has access to all the medication she needs.  Recently, the MED Programs department started a project to fundraise to bring a sandwich cart to Delia to help her to have a more stable employment.  Thanks to the money raised by North Oconee High School we were able to go to Delia's house to deliver the cart on Wednesday 28th September. 

IMG 8891

A group of MEDLIFE staff and interns got in a truck with the cart decorated in balloons and drove it up to Delia's house.  Delia was so grateful for the cart and explained to us how it felt.  ??First (MEDLIFE nurse) Ruth arrived telling me to come outside, saying ??we have a surprise for you'.  So I went outside and suddenly out in the street I saw the car with everyone in it and the sandwich cart.  In that moment I was so excited, I don't know how to describe it.  It was a very strong feeling.?

2016 09 29 2

Delia welcomed us all into her house and started using her new cart immediately.  We were lucky enough to be her first ever customers, receiving delicious hamburgers stuffed with lettuce, cheese and chips!  Before we all left, Delia addressed us as a group, she said ??I don't know how to thank you all for what you have done for me.  I want to thank everyone from the NGO MEDLIFE from the bottom of my heart for helping me through every stage of my illness.  I have no other words except that I am so grateful to everyone that has helped me and I hope that you all continue to help people like me.?

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