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September 18, 2014
Evacuating a child with a broken femur
By Sandy Hart (President) and Sandra McGirr (Vice President) of DESEA Peru

This story is the last in a three part series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains. 

On a recent day in Kelloccocha, DESEA nurses, Mary Luz and Sandra, and qhali, Jeronima, encountered an eight-year-old girl, who had fallen 2.5 meters onto a rock, four days earlier. She was lying on her home’s dirt floor with a broken femur. The mother, with her husband out of community, was simply hoping the problem would go away, and did not have the resources or understanding of how to manage such an emergency. She was just doing what she could, keeping her daughter warm, fed, and as comfortable as possible with ibuprofen.    

Mary Luz, Sandra, and Jeronima, quickly developed an evacuation plan for the young child. Using some light eucalyptus branches they stitched together a stretcher with one of the family blankets. Next, they had to package the child for transport. Using an old foamie, a piece of cardboard, and thick woven Andean belts, they were able to stabilize the child’s leg for transport, ensuring no further movement would occur during the long bumpy ride to the hospital.  

With the child stabilized they switched their focus to her mother, helping to secure her property, animals and potatoes for her absence from the community, and finding someone to watch over her meager belongings. They told the mother to take what money she had as she would need this in the city. Her total savings amounted to 40 soles ($14).

Mary Luz, Sandra and Jeronima carried the child down one hill, over the creek and up another for more than 30 minutes, until they reached the truck. Transporting her in the back of the open pick-up, we reached the hospital five hours after we first encountered this young patient.  

Our fingers are crossed that everything will be okay for this young girl with her whole life ahead of her, but a fractured femur, left untreated for four days, will likely not be easily treated and may result in long-term problems. Had the qhali been notified earlier, when the accident first occurred, the treatment would have been much more routine; however, the mother had been managing alone in her adobe home and was overwhelmed by the situation and simply shut down.  

One positive outcome of this incident is that DESEA will be able to use it as an example of the need for community plans to deal with emergencies. As well, the community will see how a qhali can be used to provide immediate care and to summon outside assistance when needed. 

September 9, 2014
A simple solution for eczema, a changed life
by Sandy Hart (President) and Sandra McGirr (Vice President) of DESA Peru

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.  

September 4, 2014
"You make my heart flutter like a dove"
by Sandy Hart (President) and Sandra McGirr (Vice President) of DESEA Peru

 This story is the first in a series from DESEA Peru, where Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting a community health program in the Andes mountains. 

The qhalis, the Quechua word for community health worker, working with DESEA Peru are the first in their communities to have received any advanced healthcare training, and it is already being put to use. It is not uncommon for injuries or illness to go unattended because families cannot justify the walk out of the community or do not recognize the seriousness of the condition. The qhalis serve a vital role in helping families make these decisions and supporting them with their healthcare needs. These dedicated women are showing that illiteracy need not exclude them from learning or prevent them from providing advanced service to their communities.

Within indigenous Quechua communities in the Andes, it is the custom for women to move to their partner’s community when they start their married lives. Many of their mothers, as they age, are then left without the care and support of their daughters. Often crippled with arthritis and unable to work the fields, elderly, widowed women are found living alone in situations of extreme poverty and with little ability to care for themselves. Through the care of DESEA’s rural nurses and community health workers, these elders are gaining well-being and the dignity and respect they deserve.  

(Photo) Nurse Vilma Florez, Leandra and qhali Geronima Siccus

Recently, one of DESEA’s qhalis in Huarqui brought us to 80-year-old Leandra Tapara. Filthy, living alone in squalid conditions, and suffering from chronic arthritis pain and bilateral conjunctivitis, she was receiving only rudimentary care from her nearby son. 

In the Quechua language, there is no specific word for ‘thank you’; instead, Andean people will say, ‘urpillay sonqollay’ which, literally means ‘you make my heart flutter like a dove’. Leandra repeated this over and over again as we tended to her eye infection and helped to wash her hair, face and hands.  

DESEA qhalis are now visiting Leandra weekly to help her with bathing and household chores and to treat her health problems. Leandra is receiving daily multivitamins and Tylenol for her arthritis, as needed. Such simple care provided by DESEA nurses and qhalis is improving the lives of many elders in the communities in which they work.

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