Marciel, age 12, is the oldest of three children. Her father abandoned the family many years ago after suffering a highway accident that left him disabled and unable to work. Marciel’s mother, Alicia, took over as head of the family, farming their fields in the remote town of Mizque, Bolivia.
Overwhelmed with the demands of raising three children by herself, Alicia did not make medical care a priority. Even when young Marciel developed a severe sore throat and then came down with rheumatic fever, Alicia told her there was no money for doctors. Over the following years, her health quickly declined. By the time she approached puberty, Marciel suffered persistent headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pain. She couldn’t walk more than short distances, and some days was unable to get out of bed.
When Alicia invited another man to move into the family home, Marciel asked her aunt Delfina to take her in. Delfina has provided a more stable and loving home, including better attention to her medical needs. In late 2014 Marciel was evaluated at the Albina Patiño Hospital in Cochabamba, which referred her to Clínica Belga for further studies. There, cardiologist Dr. Irma Patiño determined that the untreated strep throat and subsequent rheumatic fever had damaged Marciel’s mitral heart valve.
While a simple course of standard antibiotics would have resolved Marciel’s strep throat before any damage was done, the lack of such basic medical care had left no option but to replace the heart valve, an extremely expensive and complex surgery available in only a few Bolivian hospitals.
On May 14, 2015, Marciel’s damaged heart valve was replaced with a mechanical valve in a lengthy open heart surgery performed by Dr. Carlos Brockman at Clínica Belga. Marciel continues to recover and build strength, and hopes to return to school soon and catch up with her studies. Her dream is to bring her younger brother and sister to live with her at her aunt’s home in Cochabamba.
Delfina is grateful to all those who helped her to secure the care so desperately needed by her niece, who she now sees as her own daughter. We are especially grateful to the skilled team at Clínica Belga, and to Isaac and Renee Goff for their generous support.