Tough Life in Belen

When I caught up with Ruth’s Mom, Rita, yesterday she told
me Ruth was sick and had diarrhea and had been vomiting all night. Believe it
or not diarrhea is one of the top 5 killers in developing countries and has
claimed many children’s lives in Belen. I called Paul to see if we could get
the People of Peru Project’s nurse to take a look at her, but he suggested that
we go ahead and take her to the hospital so off I go on a new adventure.

I headed over to get Ruth and found her sound asleep in her
one room shack. Hair matted and filthy like a little trooper she got up and
headed out with her gringo friend. We jumped in a motorcar and headed to the hospital
to meet Camilla, the nurse, and a Swedish journalist named Theo who is in
Iquitos to write an article on life in Belen.

Camilla knows all the processes and procedures, if you want
to call them that, for getting medical attention. It only took a few minutes of
administration before Camilla sent us back to Ruth’s house so she could get the
red tape rolling. She told us to meet her back on the street where Rita parks
motorcycles in an hour so I took Ruth back to her house and passed out some
more shoes to the kids in Belen while we waited.

When the hour was up, Theo and I went to the appointed spot,
Camilla was waiting for us but Ruth was a no show so off we go back to her
house. We found her underneath the house next door which acts as the
neighborhood shower/laundry spot. Actually it is just a pipe coming out of the
dirt foundation with a continuous flow of dirty water. Since there is no
privacy the neighbors who bathe here do so in public so they wash fully
clothed, it’s kind of like taking a shower and doing your laundry at the same
time.  Ruth was taking a bath and
brushing her teeth in this nasty makeshift bathroom while she held her baby
brother, who was not happy at all about the situation.

Ruth got ready and we headed back to the hospital, the poor
thing looked pitiful. When we arrived the waiting game began, almost 3 hours
later we were finally called in for a 5 minute physical by the doctor. The
nurse was so engaged she had fallen asleep on her desk. Armed with our prescription
we headed to the farmacia. When we dropped little Ruth off she was armed with a
bag of drugs for her symptoms.

Today I found out the tests they ran on her urine found 3
different kinds of parasites, now Ruth has even more medicine to pump in her
little body. The really sad point is that if I or someone else with money had
not come by there is a good chance Ruth’s ailments could have been fatal. The
$15 it cost for the doctor’s visit and medicine would have been an impossibility
for her Mom to afford and like so many children in Belen Ruth could have easily
become a statistic of her environment. For me it was a rewarding day spent
helping my little friend.

As you take your walk through life the footprints you leave
on the ground soon will be gone, the footprints you leave on someone’s soul
will remain with you for the rest of your life.Today Ruth placed her little
footprints on my heart and soul.

Pictures by Theo Erbenius