Thursday, June 26, 2014

Someone Cared

Petronia before treatment in spring 2013
She is 34 years old, with four children and a husband who is a laborer in rural Guatemala, which means he can sometimes find work and sometimes not. The only unusual thing in the sentence above is that she survived to the age of 34.
In May of 2013, the day our Finding Freedom staff member took to a Guatemalan doctor, Petronia's blood sugar was over 1000. A normal blood sugar reading is considered to be under 120. Petronia knew she was sick, but her husband struggled to feed their family and to keep the children in school, and she knew better than to ask for him to take her to a doctor. The money simply wasn't there. They were 3,000 Q's ($380) in debt just to keep their children fed.

Uneducated women are not stupid, they are simply unschooled. Petronia is smart in ways FFF board members couldn't conceive of; she knows how to make a meal stretch, how to build a fire using just the right kind of wood, how to get clothes sparkling clean even when washing them in polluted water. She can forecast weather, negotiate the problems in her community and she is resilient and brave. But she didn't know how to get rid of the malaise, nausea, neuropathy and itching skin she suffered for several years before seeing a doctor. Her severe weight loss and muscle wasting was a mystery to her. She only knew enough to ask for help.

Taking a mother like Petronia into our program is financially risky. We have no separate budget for
Blood sugar check by FFF volunteer, six months later

medical needs. Medical care for mothers is more expensive for us than food donations, and furthermore, Petronia has a husband, so she does not fit the criteria for our assistance. We only took her into our circle of concern so she could access medical care; what started as one visit to the doctor has turned into a year long relationship. In the nonprofit world we call it the "gray zone"...dealing with human lives has no black and white area, no crisp edges. She has four children that we didn't want to leave motherless. It was enough reason to add her medical needs, and occasionally a food donation, to our program. Thanks to a few special donors, we have been able to keep her supplied with the life-saving medicine you see her holding below. 

Diabetic meds donated by FFF

A year ago we received this message about her from Roland, one of our facilitators:
 She has nausea after eating. She has pain in her ovaries. She has pain in bones in all of her body. She is having burning pain in her vagina. She has gastritis. She has pain in her head. Since 5 months ago she has great difficulty to sleep. During the day she has her eyes closed most of the time. Could be that she has diabetes? She has not received exams and she can’t afford exams, journey or medicines.We can travel with her to the doctor’s clinic on Monday. The doctor said he wants to make blood exams and other exams of her. She repeated, "I am having tremendous pains."
Many monthls later, Petronia's health is still very fragile. Her diabetes would be a challenge to care for here in the states; in Guatemala it takes herculean efforts on the part of Pedro and Roland to get her transported to the doctor, scrounge through local pharmacies for the right medicine, and to deliver the food we send every few months. Her blood sugar last month was still over 500. We have a long way to go, but she is still here, a year later. Her face is filling out, and her eyes have brightened. She is listening to the advice the doctor gives her and she is compliant with medical care. 

Another year of mothering her children, and year of knowing that someone cared. 

Which means almost as much as the insulin she is holding.