Last November, Janice noticed her middle daughter Carla Mae’s mouth and eye were swelling. Lips that were just cracked a few days previously, were now swollen and blistered. The single mother of five was concerned, but searching for enough work to feed her family was a higher priority than solving what seemed a small medical mystery.
The family, who all slept in one mud room, a shelter kindly provided by people who took pity on them, constantly suffered respiratory issues due to the damp living conditions. Most likely, Janice convinced herself, Carla Mae’s condition was just another infection.
The swelling continued and Janice knew her 10-year-old daughter needed medical treatment which the impoverished family could not afford. Her pride was deep but her daughter’s need was greater so she took Carla Mae door-to-door, letting neighbors and friends see her daughter’s swollen abscess and asking if she could borrow money for treatment.
Eventually, Janice and Carla Mae met a woman undertaking ICM’s Transform program. She was impressed by this mother’s determination to get help so took them to her pastor who contacted the ICM health care worker. Carla Mae had a TB test but this proved negative and Janice became increasingly worried. Carla Mae’s face was still swelling beyond recognition, and it would cost money to do further tests.
Thanks to ICM’s Medical Mercy Fund (MMF), an amount was approved for the medical case coordinator to facilitate Carla Mae’s CT scans and other tests as well as providing transport to and from the hospital.
On January 6, 2016, Carla Mae underwent a CT scan. The abscess was drained and a biopsy done to check if the tissue was cancerous or not. Carla Mae was given Cefuroxime to reduce the swelling on her face. However, the operation necessary to remove the tissue was delayed because Carla Mae contracted pneumonia from which she first needed to fully recover.
Finally, the operation took place on February 10. In the month between diagnosis and surgery, antibiotics had reduced the swelling, but Janice had to watch her daughter in agony.
As Carla Mae’s malnutrition made her more susceptible to infection, she was sent home with 16 nutrient-enriched rice packs to help increase her weight. The ICM medical care coordinator, who brought Carla Mae home, used cardboard boxes to create a mat to protect her against the cold, damp ground. Monthly checkups were also ordered.
The first post-surgical checkup recorded that Carla Mae’s weight had increased to 48.5 lbs and, thankfully, revealed that the removed tissue was not cancerous. As well as the rice packs, the MMF also provided Pediasure Nutrition milk to boost Carla Mae’s immune system.
In April, medical reports and photographs all indicated that Carla Mae is recovering well and being restored to full health.
In the lives of many that live on subsistent level, one medical crisis can wipe out any progress made in the fight out of poverty. ICM works with families to help them remove as many barriers to quality health care as possible. In 2014-15, ICM assisted 61 patients with surgical needs and 1,892 patients with non-surgical needs.
By Jennefer Lubiano, Medical Case Coordinator, ICM Bohol