- About Us
- Volunteer Trips
- Where We Work
- Get Involved
Meet our new MEDLIFE Summer Interns 2014 Part 2!
As a summer intern in MEDLIFE at Ecuador I was given the responsibility of giving follow up visits to patients that MEDLIFE doctors had previously seen in mobile clinics. These patients have come from various communities and have been referred to hospitals in Riobamba because they have specific conditions that require seeing a specialist. One of the patients I was assigned to meet Byron Buñay, a two year old with a cleft palate who MEDLIFE met a year ago. MEDLIFE had found him in a very delicate and malnourished state as he was unable to naturally ingest food due to his condition; his case had once been a matter of life or death. MEDLIFE knew they had to do something to help, so firstly, they paid for his first restorative surgery.
When I first met Byron it was on the day of his medical evaluation in the Riobamba hospital, he smiled at me as if I was his lifelong friend and he offered me a genuine; adult-like handshake immediately after seeing me. As I introduced myself to his mother, my initial thoughts were that the little guy that I had just met seemed too mature, happy and healthy to be the two year-old cleft palate patient I had been told of. I was sure this couldn’t be Byron, and assumed it was his older brother.
I thought we were waiting for Byron to arrive, so in the meantime I asked this spirited toddler some basic questions one would normally ask a little one like him: What´s your name? How are you? How old are you? Excited, he answered my questions immediately while making very expressive hand gestures. At first I could not understand him and I figured he was speaking Quichua, like his mom and locals at his community did. I asked again, in case it was me that was misunderstanding what he was trying to say with so much emotion. He tried again, this time determined to answer my questions but only sounds came out of his mouth. Aware of my clear inability to understand what he intended to be explicit and eloquent responses; he finally gave up and smiled sympathetically. Suddenly I realized that the bold child that had greeted me with such vividness was the cleft palate patient I was waiting for, he had grown and gained weight since his last picture was taken in his first surgery but that was still unable to verbalize words due to his internal oral physiology.
I then joined Byron’s parents Elsa and Raúl in their long wait for the pediatric surgeon’s confirmation that he could be pre-admitted for surgery, the couple narrated the difficulties they have been through with their child’s condition and how desperate they were a year ago to find medical help for him. As Elsa recalled: “He was very skinny because he could not eat, breast milk used to come out through his nose every time I tried to feed him. We had to give him iron supplements through a pipette in order to counteract his malnourishment”. She could not be more grateful for the immediateness of MEDLIFE’s mobilization to help her find and obtain the specialized medical care her baby urgently needed.
She also told me that after MEDLIFE financially supported them in Byron’s first restorative surgery, the baby’s feeding difficulties relieved significantly as he was able to incorporate soft foods such as grains and bland fruits in his limited diet which had allowed him to gain around 30 pounds. No wonder I could not recognize him when I first met him! Even though he still had a long way to go in terms of achieving a full recuperation that would allow him to eat anything and articulate his first words, she could not have been more relieved that their child had been saved.
Byron´s father Raúl joined his mother and me as we talked just about everything including the land that they farm, the products that they sell in the market to earn a little bit of money on a daily basis and, what I did not expect was that he even asked about Puerto Rican politics! Encouraged by the non-stop conversation, he casually mentioned a small detail they had not told me before and what he described had been a “complicated morning” … It turns out that a day that should have been naturally emotional for any parent whose child will be soon submitted to surgery, became even more stressful than expected when the front tire of the car in which they were travelling blew up during their 4 hour journey and got them into a minor car accident. The Police showed up quickly and generously offered the family transportation to the hospital where I met Byron and his mom while his dad went into the ER because of minor bruises in his face and arms. Thankfully he received immediate medical help and was able to participate in his child’s preparation for surgery. Talk about a complicated morning!
Byron was successfully submitted to his second restorative surgery on the following day and spent the next 2 days in the hospital at Riobamba under rigorous medical care. I was given the opportunity to visit him and of course, he received me with a big bright smile. His strong parents could not find enough words to thank MEDLIFE for the medical and financial support that the organization had given them throughout the past year.
Byron Buñay is now recovering from his surgery in his community in the Alausí Canton, where I plan to visit him in a couple of weeks to track his progress. MEDLIFE will continue supporting Byron’s family in his follow up medical appointments in Riobamba until their doctor announces that he is ready for the third and hopefully final surgery that will fully close the upper roof of his mouth and allow him to articulate his first words.
I can’t wait to hear what this charismatic child has been waiting to say for so long. My best wishes for Byron and his beautiful family!
Meet our new MEDLIFE Summer Interns 2014!
Here at MEDLIFE we are proud to introduce Janet Ludeña, who has recently joined our staff as a full-time field nurse after volunteering with us for a year! Read more about Janet’s story below:
Where are you from?
I was born in Ayacucho, in the Andes of Peru, but a few days after my birth my family moved to Lima. Since then, I’ve grown up in the capital.
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I saw a group of foreign students doing a tour in La Rinconada, Pamplona, where I live. There, I met Carlos Benavides, and he told me about MEDLIFE and the work that they do. After I told him that I am a nurse, he asked me to send him my resume. A few days later, I came on board as a nurse during some Mobile Clinics in Villa el Salvador. I continued to work with MEDLIFE on various projects and was also the support for a focus group that was put on by a foreign medical student. It was very interesting for me, as the project covered the preventative benefits of getting an annual Pap test.
A few months later, MEDLIFE promoted me to Community Coordinator, in which I, along with six other people, work to find new communities for Mobile Clinic, and as of last week, I am now one of the full-time field nurses on MEDLIFE’s staff.
What is it that you like most about working with MEDLIFE?
From the beginning I have always liked the educational workshops that MEDLIFE hosts in the different communities around Lima. I can see at those workshops that community members are genuinely intrigued on ways to improve their health by preventative measures.
Can you name a particular patient that has had a strong impact on you?
I don’t have any patients of my own yet because I just began this position a week ago, but with Ruth I met the young Jose Luis Solizor. He’s impacted me because he is someone who has always had his family’s best interest in mind and because of that, he is a very hard worker. Unfortunately, he suffered a harsh accident and since then is unable to walk. Despite is condition, he is very passionate about moving forward and improving his health, and now he is working with MEDLIFE so that he can receive the proper treatment for the road to recovery.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to watch TV and read. I don’t have a particular show or book, but I love all adventure stories and self-help reads.
Dina Cayllahue Jimienez is a field-nurse who has been working with MEDLIFE for the past eight months. Read more about Dina below:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Arequipa and moved to Lima 18 years ago.
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
Last year I had a patient whom I was treating almost every day. We were very close, like good friends. Around eight months ago, a former nurse from MEDLIFE saw that I was treating the patient and asked if I’d be interested in helping out the MEDLIFE team, since they were looking for new recruits. I gladly accepted. Unfortunately, that patient passed away a few months ago from breast cancer, but I still have all the memories with her in my heart.
What do you like the most about working with MEDLIFE?
I spend most of my time doing patient follow-up, so for me my favorite part is just working with the patients. I love seeing the improvements that they make with the treatment that we give them. Right now I have 15 patients and it’s great seeing how far they’ve come since when I first met them.
Can you name a patient who has had a strong impact on you?
Our patient Luis Poma has had a great impact on me. He’s a six year old boy with muscular dysplasia, so he’s unable to walk. When we gave him his wheelchair, he and his family were very happy. That wheelchair will benefit him greatly as he grows up into a young man, and it’s all thanks to our supporters. It wouldn’t be possible without them.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy going to the movies, listening to music, going on walks and spending time with my 12-year-old son and my sister.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to encourage everyone to continue helping others and giving back. Also be sure to take care of yourselves and do what you can to have the best health.