One day, in early 2018, Keyla, a 14-year-old pregnant girl, arrived at a hospital in Barcelona, in eastern Venezuela. She was all by herself, running a fever and leaking amniotic fluid. As soon as she was performed an ultrasound scan, the doctors knew that her baby had died. Dr. Nathali Arismendi, at the time an OB-GYN trainee, was amongst those who attended to her. Unknowingly, that young patient would teach her a lot.
First, she hid the fact that she had breast cancer. Then, when she could no longer keep it a secret, she refused to undergo chemotherapy treatment. The disease metastasized to other parts of her body. Milagros was confident that she would live to see the day when Kimberly, her only daughter, graduated as a medical doctor.
Psychologist Gloria Pino —very tall and very thin, like no one else in her family— lived in pain and with fatigue and a pounding heart. She consulted with many doctors, but none would arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Until one doctor took her time to study her medical history thoroughly. That was the day Gloria first heard about Marfan syndrome, a rare disease that affects one in five thousand people.
Nathali Arismendi was still a medical student when, during one of her first shifts, she pricked her finger while suturing a head wound on a homeless woman. Weeks after that work-related accident, she developed a fever and her lymph nodes got swollen. An HIV test came back positive, but she had no doubt in her mind that she had been misdiagnosed.
Martín is an 8-year-old Venezuelan boy. Like so many families, his decided to emigrate. In 2018, they settled in Mexico. Inés Araujo, Martín’s grandmother, who is a psychologist and an educator, joined them and stayed with them for a few months. It is true that psychologists are not supposed to counsel their own family, but, from the kid’s dreams, she explores how he copes with the uprooting experience. This dialogue between a grandmother and her grandson circumvents the protocols of the profession to uncover the powerful mobilization of the forces of the unconscious and imagination in children.
An occupational therapist, Erika Lezama left Venezuela for Perú with the expectation that she could continue to practice her profession. Having overcome more than a few bumps in her road, she finally landed what she thought would be the job of her dreams at a children’s therapy center located in the most exclusive area of Lima. The challenging experience made her realize the kind of professional she wanted to be.
María Laura Silva always wanted to be a doctor. She was presented with many an obstacle as a student of medicine, some of them posed by the crisis facing the country, but that didn’t undermine her determination to graduate. Still, one day in 2018, while at work as a medical intern at a hospital, she began to ask herself whether she should stay the course.
A pioneer in Venezuela in the use of immunohistochemistry —a method that allows for more accurate results in diagnostic pathology—, Dr. Jorge García Tamayo devoted six decades of his life to research and teaching. One day, he invited Elsie Picott, at the time a resident student of Universidad Central de Venezuela Anatomic Pathology Graduate Program, to join him in a research work. She has since considered him her mentor. Twenty years later, she stills asks him for advice, which he delivers, even from afar.
Simple things such as receiving quality care, words of encouragement or a hug can mean the world to patients. That’s what Rubén Darío Carrero learned when he was just starting practicing as a physician. This is his account of the stressful and moving experience behind this reflection.