Editors note: Dr. Roberto Tarazona is the Lead Physician for the Ines Project in the City of Lima. The following is a story from a house visit he and the team conducted in March. The original story was written in Spanish, and although professionally translated, some of the initial prose may have been lost in translation. If you prefer the original Crónicas para crecer en Humanidad, please contact us (email@example.com) and we'll happily email a copy of the Spanish version. As always, thank you for your continued support.
It’s Sunday, north of Lima.
Sunday morning at 6 a.m., the sun begins to warm up the city, the neighbors are still sleeping, and I must get ready to go and visit three families and do a medical evaluation on three children.
Our task: prepare a medical record for each child that will help the task of the Health Ambassadors in the Ines Project. Our goal: contribute to better the health and living conditions of these children; for that, it is necessary that the parents themselves learn to navigate the local health system better. It is their right and at the same time, it is their responsibility. The city is still sleeping, the peace of a Sunday, after a hectic and festive Saturday. This is how it is in the city that I live: Callao, full of parties, especially Saturday nights. I must travel 30 km on public transport, transfer through three exchanges before I arrive where I need to be. With the HBI team, we have agreed to meet at the “El Norteno” gas station, in the district of Puente Piedra, north of Callao.
I must confess that I had forgotten, the many colors, the smells, the music and the vitality of the people that live in the “outskirts of greater Lima”. Like every Sunday, on the north side, from very early in the morning, there is an atmosphere of a great fare. Above all, in the formal and informal markets, there the locals offer different products, many of them brought from their original towns. I watch from the bus, people talking, laughing, having breakfast in the middle of the street and sharing the traditions of their hometown they had left behind when they arrived in Lima. Hard working people that live and maintain their homes with the sale of the day. I ask myself if these families that we will visit did not go to work just to wait for us. The truth is, that each visit to the families of the Ines Project opens in my life, a very special door that is very hard to close. The door I cross into a reality that is also mine, to somebody else’s reality; where I discover the riches, complexity and mystery of human existence.
A mother, a daughter, a family: an alliance for life.
We boarded another vehicle that gets us closer to the foothills of the Andes. Many houses built with cardboard, straw mats and pieces of wood everywhere. Houses being built, others already built, without sidewalks and roads, only dirt, dust and a great number of dogs completed the panorama. We walked up a very steep hill, dirt and stones on the existing path. The sun began to let us feel its heat. Finally, a pair of adolescents opened the “door of the house”, a lady, still very young, introduced us to “Milagritos” (Miracle). An adolescent girl with moderate cerebral palsy, who looked at us from a wheelchair. Two “rooms”: one bedroom and a kitchen-living room. All this for 5 people, including “Milagritos”. A stone wall completed the house. The father told us that it took him many years, to break the rock of the hill to be able to build their living quarters. We could still see the picks, shovels, hammer and gloves, with which the dedicated man, dug and conquered the hill for more living space.
The mother shared with us the story of “Milagritos” birth, the repertory stress, the transfer to a more complex hospital, the time the baby was without respiratory support. The suggestion of the doctor who cared for “Milagritos” was to let her die, because she would be a living “statue”… an insurmountable obstacle in their life of poverty.
The mother chose life for the still alive “Milagritos." Her two adolescent siblings care for her and love her very much. The father continues working all day as a street vendor, to support his family.
For this family, everything would be very different without “Milagritos;" without her, the word “love” would probably be without luster, and the strength that it has for them today. To believe against all odds, choose life, give life, care and protect the fragile and vulnerable, this is what I learned that Sunday.
Everything has a meaning and purpose in life; all we have to do is discover it.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.