Thursday, November 10, 2005

El Hospital del Niño

This is the Children's Hospital where I have been working as a volunteer (locally known as Hospital del Niño, abbreviated HDN by yours truly). The two people in the photo are my Great-Aunt Alicia (left, in fuchsia), who used to be head of the Bolivian Red Cross and knows everyone there is to know, and Maria Rene Berdecio (right, in navy blue and with grey hair), the treasurer for the Damas Voluntarias who are in charge of the Neurosurgery unit.

So, for the past three weeks, this is where I have been coming at 9am three times a week: on Mondays, the Neurosurgery ward with Maria Rene, and on Wednesday and Friday, the Oncohematology ward.

At the Neurosurgery ward, we go around and revise each case with the intern Dr., to see why the kids were brought in, what their diagnosis is, and what treatment they are prescribed. Then everything is logged in a Master Notebook, and we help parents finance medication they need for their kids and cannot afford.

In Oncohematology, it's different. The person in charge of the volunteers there is Señora Ilse Horvay, a 79-year-old Swiss lady who has been living in La Paz for over a quarter century. She sponsors an average of 10 children at a time, covering ALL their costs, and also makes sure the ward is functional (bathrooms, electrical outlets, TVs, drawers/cabinets - it all needs to be checked regularly and fixed). Here you get to know the kids because their treatments take time. Funny thing is, Señora Ilse's first language is German, and because she knows I understand, even though she also speaks Spanish and English, she addresses me in German! Had you told me I would be practicing my German when I came to La Paz, I would have laughed at you.
In the photo below, Jhonn Quilo and I in the Oncohematology ward (we were exceptionally allowed to take off our mask-thingies for the photo). He is 11 years old and has a brain tumor. Went to about 4 hospitals before someone finally accepted to do a biopsy to confirm the brain tumor diagnosis, but then they basically threw him out saying there was nothing they could do to help. Stubborn, he came back to the HDN where he knew Señora Ilse had a sponsorship program, and he pleaded with her. She agreed to cover four sessions of chemo, but if there was no progress, that was it! Luckily - no, miraculously! - after four sessions, the tumor had shrunk. Jhonn was scheduled for an operation yesterday that would remove what was left of his tumor... Hope it all went as planned! He's an incredibly bright kid. Always helps me distribute medication when he's around (and would you believe he knows medicines' names better than me? granted he's been around the oncology ward longer than me, but still), and the other day he told me he had opened up a watch to see how it worked, picked it apart, and put it back together - and it was functional! I was impressed. To add to his natural charm, his Birthday is tomorrow - he's a Scorpio! Something's in the works (even though it won't be the Playstation he asked for, ahem).

Now, time to head home and call another one of the volunteers, Mabel, to see if she was able to get in touch with the doctor who operated Jhonn yesterday to get a status update. Fingers crossed!


At 1:20 PM, Blogger El Blondo said...

I never thought I'd say this ... but you look great in a nurse outfit ;-) Is that your son standing next to you?

At 1:26 PM, Blogger El Blondo said...

Real amazing story ... had me all knotted up. Asked if he was your son ... since he's exceptionally bright !!! Keep up the good work.


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