Pachacutec: A Study in Irony
Pachacutec was the ninth Inca leader of the Kingdom of Cuzco, and is most famous for transforming said Kingdom into the empire Tawantinsuyu, better known as the Inca Empire (side note: Machu Picchu was probably one of his many fabulous estates). He was responsible for the era of conquest that expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cuzco to nearly the entirety of western South America, the decimation of all competing enemies, and the construction of the Inca system of superhighways that allowed their widespread empire to function smoothly. In Quecha, the local indigenous language, the name “Pachacutec” means “He who shakes the earth.” And if he were alive today, I am certain he would be offended if he could see the region named in his honor.
The modern-day region Pachacutec’s one claim to fame is that it is the poorest region in Ventanilla, itself an extremely poor region in extremely poor Callao. We went out to visit with Melecio and Judy, and the for the first time, other members of ASPAT! One of the members, Juan Jose (referred to as Juan ever after) apparently drives his own combi (a type of Peruvian bus). Combis are a sort of tw0-man opersation: one man drives the bus, while another man stands at the door and advertises the route. I started calling this man “the barker,” and the term caught on among this year’s GROW team. So anyway, Juan and his barker stopped by to pick us up, and we got our own private combi out to Pachacutec! We also picked up another young member of ASPAT, a girl named Lisette, who can only work weekends because she’s at university during the week. I think she’s being trained by Judy to do patient evaluations on her own.
(scroll down for photos of Juan Jose and Lisette, taken during lunch)
There are a number of health clinics in the Pachacutec area, although it is a large enough region that many patients still cannot easily access the clinics on foot. To increase our efficiency we decided to split up and hit up different clinics.
To read about the adventures of Cindy and Briana (who accompanied Melecio), read The Tale of Cindy and Briana!
To read about my adventures (I accompanied Judy), read The Tale of Lauren!
This particular blog post will resume when all teams had completed their respective missions and met up again with one more stop on the agenda: another visit to the family of Daniel, the XDR-TB patient from the blog post Making Friends and Influencing People.
For those who don’t remember, Cindy and I met Daniel’s mom and dad two days previously, where we learned that Daniel had been removed to the Hospital Carrion to be isolated. Judy and Melecio visited him to evaluate his situation and learn more about his story, which we have recorded here (part of this story was recorded in the earlier blog post, but this is the full version as far as I understand it).
Daniel is 25 years old and is a crack addict. He was diagnosed with normal TB while in prison as a teenager in 2003. He took the treatment for two months before being released, after which he returned to his previous habit and failed to complete. Naturally, the TB returned a year later, and he was resistant to one of the two primary drugs used in TB care, so he was put on another plan for eight months. He quit again after five. Again and again, Daniel tested positive for TB, always resistant to more meds. Now he is extremely drug resistant. If I understand correctly, Daniel is co-infected with TB and HIV, which means that even some of the most aggressive TB drugs usually used to treat XDR patients will most likely fail in his case. If he is not approved for surgery (assuming he is strong enough for surgery), he will probably die.
Daniel spoke with Melecio and Judy about his regrets, particularly about his failings as a father to his two young daughters (ages 7 and 6). He wishes he were able to do more for them, feeling keenly the poverty that prevents him from being able to buy them necessities, let alone little treats like candy.
We spoke with his parents, who weren’t optimistic about the situation. It was very difficult to talk with Daniel’s mom, who is struggling to be strong for her son while coming to terms with the prospect of watching him die. Melecio and Judy reiterated that they will do all that they can for their family, and emphasized the importance of hope and faith.
I was very impressed with how Judy and Melecio handled the situation, particularly because Judy is only 25 herself. She presents herself as such a mom that people much older than her seem to find it easy to trust her and rely on her. I am also impressed with their ability to move on from situation to situation. They very much live in the present, moving from a disquieting visit to a delicious lunch seemingly effortlessly.
Lunch was really good, and it was nice for the three of us to get to meet Juan and Lisette, and talk with Melecio and Judy more. We began teaching Melecio English, mostly by having him point at the different parts of the meal and letting us tell him the English word. He is bewildered by the fact that the word for “potato” is “potato” but the word for “french fry is “french fry” (in Spanish, “french fries” are called “fried potatoes”). If anyone knows the reasoning for that, drop us an explanation in the comments!
Juan Jose and Melecio
Judy and Lisette
After lunch, the group went back to Callao and Miraflores respectively, and Briana, Cindy, and I basically went to bed at about 8:00 (which is why you are getting this blog post late). Clearly, we were not meant to get up at 6:00 multiple days in a row. Until tomorrow!