This story is the second in a series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains.
Eighteen-year-old Hilda Apucusi Perez has eczema. In North America, eczema is easily managed with hydrocortisone skin cream; however, in her remote community in the Peruvian Andes, this condition has isolated Hilda from other children, barred her from school, and precluded a normal childhood.
Eczema, exacerbated by the woolen clothing used in the high Andes, had caused Hilda to scratch at her arms and legs. When she first attended kindergarten her skin had open sores. Children made fun of her and the teacher, not understanding her condition, told her she could not return to school until she was cured. Her family, unable to access medical attention - a proper diagnosis and over-the-counter medication - resigned themselves to the situation and Hilda never returned to school. She has spent her entire childhood at their isolated homestead, tending to sheep and alpacas in the fields, and removed from other children. (Photo) Dr. Violet Shadd, Hilda and NP Nicole Entz
When DESEA encountered Hilda we asked her to come to a medical campaign which was then underway; however, Hilda didn’t feel this was possible, in the presence of community members who had shunned her. Instead she met us on the side of the road, and showed us her skin condition. It wasn’t just her sadness that moved our team to tears, but the knowledge that this was so avoidable. Hilda was given a supply of hydrocortisone cream and treatment instructions.
Back in the community the following week we were delighted when she came to the clinic, surrounded by community members, to show us how well the cream had worked. DESEA nurses continue to dispense cream and to provide guidance to Hilda and, months later, she is all smiles. Her mother has told us that she is much happier, more comfortable, and willing to go out to social events. A simple solution - including use of hydrocortisone cream, cotton clothing, and teaching and support - has changed Hilda’s life forever.