Heart Walk Foundation hired obstetrician Karina Bello Pacco, and nurse Briggite Ivone Benavente Arape to serve Q’ero villagers in their remote Andean region for 2018. These two brave and dedicated women endure deprivations, hardships and risks to their safety so they can provide basic medical care to Q’ero villagers.
Karina describes her first week at the little outpost clinic in Quico:
“When I arrived, I could not endure it. It was like being inside a freezer. I had never been in a place so cold. I constantly repeated to myself, There must be a reason God sent me here.”
Saving lives must be the reason they endure the hardships, because Karina and Briggite have been doing just that. Throughout 2018 they were confronted with many challenges and emergencies, including villagers with broken bones, pneumonia, tonsillitis, and complicated childbirth.
Doctor Karina describes a life-threatening labor:
“The mother declined to come to the clinic for prenatal care and delivery, preferring home checkups and traditional home delivery. When I went to see her in labor, the baby was in a transverse position with its hand coming out. The mother did not want to leave her home, but I was able to convince her to travel with me to a larger medical facility. We traveled by truck from 10:30 pm to 2:00 am. That small hospital did not have the staff to help her, so I had to take her to Cusco three more hours away, where they performed a Caesarean section. Thanks to God, we got there in time and both lives were saved.”
Keeping Children Alive
In the past, many babies and children died from respiratory infections. Now, every day many people go to the outpost clinic to be attended by Karina and Briggite. Sometimes the call comes in the darkest hours.
“They knocked at the door at 5:00 am. It was a mother with a baby in her arms who had a very high fever and could not breathe. We immediately provided first aid, medicines, and oxygen. The child had pneumonia, and after three or four days of monitoring him, the 2-year-old boy was much better.”
Risks and Challenges of Travel
There are many challenges for Karina and Briggite to visit their own families in another region when they are on break from medical duties. Often the two must walk through ice and snow for many hours to return to the village clinic.
“I must stay strong for my baby at home.”
Karina describes one of their trips:
“In June, when we went back up the mountain to Quico, there was a lot of snow, and the car we hired could not get through, so we started hiking up the mountain behind a group of people. They walked too fast and left us alone, and we had to follow their tracks in the snow so we didn’t get lost. I felt that I was in the middle of nowhere because everything was white. The snow was up to our shins, and that was when I began to cry. I felt surely something bad was going to happen to me. I held on, thinking how I must stay strong for my baby at home. When Briggite fell in the snow, I ran to help her, and I also fell. It went like this until we reached the village hours later almost at dark. We were very wet and very cold.”
Need for Health Education in 2019
Briggite discusses the broad need for health education:
“Continuing health education and awareness is needed to change beliefs that are erroneous and harmful to their health. Unfortunately, there are several things we cannot change overnight. However with constant work, better health practices can be achieved for the Q’ero people.”
Karina and Briggite stayed through 2018 and — with our deep gratitude — agreed to continue another year of service in 2019. Living apart from their own families, without phone service, these dedicated medical providers give life-saving service to Q’ero villagers with kindness, compassion and respect.
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