The Tale of Lauren
While Melecio, Cindy, and Briana were off having fabulous adventures of their own, Judy, Lisette, Juan (+ barker), and I (hereafter referred to as “Team Combi”) went to visit the Centro 3 de Febrero. After some initial confusion, we met with the head coordinator of the TB program, Dr. Vanessa, who told us that it would be best if we could catch local nurse Laney as she was doing her rounds, so that she could take us to see the remaining MDR patients in the area. We were soon able to find Laney and her assistant, who were extremely grateful to be able to take the combi to see the rest of the patients. Trying to find specific addresses in Pachacutec (and really, Ventanilla in general) is a dubious prospect – just look at the pictures of the area to see what I mean! As per usual, we got lost a fair bit. Judy spoke for everyone on Team Combi when she mentioned how much nicer it was to be traversing Pachacutec’s many sand dunes in the car, rather than on foot the way we had at Centro Mi Peru ( although actually, Melecio, Cindy, and I always waited at the bottom of the hill for Judy to confirm that the house in question really was at the top before bothering to begin climbing).
Judy and Laney
I will now do my best to detail our interactions with the patients being served by the personnel at Centro 3 de Febrero, keeping in mind that all our notepads went with the other team.
Age: 18 years old
We stopped by Jhonatan’s place at around 10:30 on a Saturday morning, so naturally, we ended up rousing him from his sleep. At first, he was very reluctant to let us in (citing the fact that he hadn’t had time to clean the house or make himself presentable), but Laney and Judy overpowered him. Judy truly becomes a force of nature when confronted by patients, and Laney herself fulfilled the stereotype of “really fierce old lady” so the two of them were quite a sight to behold.
Jhonatan’s family consists of himself and his grandparents – his own parents having abandoned him when he was diagnosed with TB. Although Jhonatan’s grandfather collects a pension, and both the grandmother and Jhonatan himself have jobs (Jhonatan as a member of the cleaning staff in a restaurant), the family is still so poor they have no real way to isolate him should he abandon treatment and become contagious. Currently, his ‘bedroom’ is merely an extra cot laid out in the family’s main living space, a fact which clearly concerned Judy.
Meeting Jhonatan was very different from meeting patients in Callao, or even in the slightly less poor areas of Ventanilla. It was immediately obvious how stigmatized the disease is and how ashamed patients were to be associated with it (a theme that I noticed in all of the patients we interviewed in Pachacutec). Jhonatan was extremely reluctant to have Judy take his photo for her records (although I do think this was at least partially due to the fact that he had just woken up), and despite Judy and Laney’s reassurances, did not seem to want to receive any aid if it meant declaring his name and TB status to the general public.
Continuing with this theme of reluctance, we have our next patient Ricardo, whom we did not actually meet. When we arrived at Ricardo’s presumed address, we found it occupied by a family who were extremely surprised to be receiving a visit from ASPAT, having no idea who Ricardo was or why he would have said he lived in their house. Apparently, many patients in the area report false addresses when they first begin going to the Centro 3 de Febrero, because they are so ashamed of their TB status and don’t want health workers dropping by and ‘outing’ them as TB patients to their neighbors.
UNKNOWN FEMALE PATIENT
Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever heard this woman’s name, or if I did hear it, I’ve forgotten it completely. Regardless, I just included her for the chance to show the above picture. People here are always on the defensive when it comes to opening their doors – maybe no one knocks unless they’re delivering unwelcome news. This woman, apart from being reluctant to open the door, refused to let us in because she felt too sick from the medicine to talk to anyone. I believe Judy will follow up with her at a later date.
Everyone is very confused.
Age: 30 years old
Centro 3 de Febrero clearly has a problem with its record-keeping in general (probably due to a lack of staff), as we learned in the case of Yolanda. We approached her house, which was empty except for three young children, and asked if Yolanda, a 15-year-old girl, lived with them. The oldest boy looked very confused, so Judy asked if he lived there (yes), and if he had a sister (yes). Was Yolanda his sister? No, he said, Yolanda was his mother, and his sister was younger than he was. At this point, I think Judy, Laney, and I were all wondering how on Earth 15-year-old Yolanda could have a son who looked as old as this boy did (10 or 11). Judy asked to speak with Yolanda, and was told that she didn’t live in this house. She lived somewhere else, and he could show us.
We wandered through more of Pachacutec until we ran into Milcha, the boy’s father, who was more forthcoming in his explanations. Apparently, Yolanda was not a 15-year-old girl but a 30-year-old woman, and the mother of the two children. The address that the Center had was Yolanda’s mother’s house, where the children were living with their grandmother and uncle so as not to be exposed to their sick mother. Milcha took us back to his and Yolanda’s real house, and was very willing to talk about his situation. He seems to understand how serious TB is (although Yolanda might still be in denial, but she wasn’t there so this is all hearsay), and is doing his best to prevent it from spreading to the children, which Judy approved.
Milcha, very concerned
When we left Milcha, Laney explained to us that there has been such a large problem with TB and other diseases in this particular area because it is so close to a hidden cemetery. In fact, when we climbed up a series of small sand dunes, we were able to see the cemetery, probably within 50 or 100 feet of Milcha and Yolanda’s place. Even this was better than the situation a few years earlier, when the dead were left to rot in the street.
Age: 39 years old
Our final patient of the day was Denis, a friendly man who was as difficult to find as all of his counterparts. At first, we visited the address on record, which turned out to be someone else’s shop. The little boy running the shop recommended trying the other side of the street, which we did. At that house, we found Denis’ niece, who said that Denis wasn’t living in the home with them, but rather managing her shop at the top of the hill (naturally – I’m so glad we had the combi with us!) When we arrived at the shop, we did indeed manage to find Denis, who told us that as he is completely indigent, his niece had kindly taken him in, allowing him to manage and live in the store while he is ill. Denis reluctantly allowed Judy to take his photo and his name, but appeared enthusiastic about any potential aid, so he doesn’t have to live off of his niece’s charity forever.
Our visits done, Team Combi headed back down the sand dunes, dropping off Laney and her assistant on the way. After yet another round of getting hopelessly lost, we picked up a group of women and children on the way to the center where we were to meet Melecio, Cindy, and Briana, who gave us directions in exchange for the ride! Thus concludes The Tale of Lauren. To learn what happened once the teams were reunited, read Pachacutec: A Study in Irony. To learn what happened to the other 2/3 of the GROW Team, read The Tale of Cindy and Briana