Our trip to Ecuador was especially significant because we had the opportunity to truly get to know two very special people, Enrique and Martha Lucero. Their hospitality, generosity and genuine warmth made us all feel as though we are a part of their family. I will never forget our visit to Cynthia’s resting place in Salcedo. Martha and Enrique’s words will remain with me forever. They expressed their gratitude for the Latino Mental Health Program and its mission to serve the people whom Cynthia so loved. The MSPP community is lucky to have such a wonderful family in Ecuador and we look forward to their arrival in Boston for the Lucero Run on September 28th.
Some of the highlights of our clinical rotations:
Hospital Maternidad Sotomayor
I had the opportunity to interact with a patient who was currently involved in an intimate relationship with her HIV positive partner. She had tested positive upon her arrival at the hospital prior to delivering her baby. Her main concern was how to communicate the news to her family. Being that babies born to HIV positive mothers are not allowed to breastfeed, visiting families frequently become suspicious. Ironically, the day after the patient tested positive, a second test came back negative. Although the patient was relieved by the news, her prognosis was still unclear. It is possible that after receiving anti-viral medications prior to “el parto” (delivery), the virus became undetectable. A confirmation test would be required and unfortunately testing kits are currently not available in Ecuador. Although in this instance, a patient is left with no clear answer as to her prognosis, patients diagnosed with HIV in Ecuador are fortunate to have all of their medications paid for by the government for the duration of their lives.
As part of the rotation at Technologia Bolivariano, our group participated in a “charla” (talk) focused on intrafamiliar violence. The audience consisted of secondary school students and their parents. I was able to share the story of my first client who I saw at my first year practicum site- The Latino Health Institute in Brockton, MA. My client was a victim of domestic violence, who was emotionally, verbally, and physically abused by her ex-boyfriend. The majority of students and parents were unaware of the possibility that a parent may be victimized by his/her child. Speaking to the cyclical nature of domestic violence, I explained that my client was victimized yet again by her daughter. I was happy to have had an opportunity to share this case with an Ecuadorian audience, as I believe I broadened their perspective on intrafamiliar violence.
Fundacion VIHDA is an organization that provides free HIV testing and counseling services. In addition they train secondary school aged children to educate their peers on HIV/AIDS and prevention. It was a pleasure to interact with students from Colegio Huancavilica and help them develop their public speaking skills during their presentation preparation.
Rebecca Stacy and I had the pleasure of speaking with the grandmother of two 8 year-old twins diagnosed with HIV. They contracted the virus from their mother during childbirth and now reside with their paternal grandmother. Angela courageously shared with us her emotional story. Fundación VIHDA is currently working on a program called “Revelación”, with the aim of revealing to HIV infected children their diagnosis in an age-appropriate manner.
My host-mother made me feel incredibly comfortable from the moment I met her. I have made a friend for life and her kindness, warmth, and bright smile will remain with me forever. I celebrated my birthday with some fellow students, my host-mom and host-aunt in Playas, a small, coastal beach town north of Guayaquil. What an amazing time we had!
My second weekend was spent in Porto Viejo, the town where my host-mom’s son and family lives. Walter is a pediatric surgeon. He asked me if I wanted to accompany him to visit some of his patients at his hospital and clinic. Of course I said yes. It was interesting to get a quick snapshot of the hospital culture in Ecuador and to see him interact with patients and their families. We visited another beach in the region of Manabí and enjoyed a phenomenal seafood lunch, took a short boat ride to explore some local fishing boats, and then visited other family in the countryside. Here they grew many of their own fruits and vegetables and raised Tilapia in their own pond.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the group trip to Cuenca due to eating some bad pork at a Mexican restaurant in town. However, Enrique Lucero came to my rescue by picking me up and bringing me to his home where I was visited by his friend, who also happens to be a doctor. Thanks to Enrique, I am feeling much better now.
The group trip to Baños, a gorgeous mountain town was tailor made for those who enjoy adventure and Mother Nature. After a moderate hike on a trail, we got on all fours and crawled through caves to arrive at a beautiful cascade.
Finally, Carla, Jaime (Enrique’s nephew) and I did a morning horseback ride tour of the beautiful hills of Baños. I was escorted by my favorite horse, “Gringo”. That made two of us!