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For patients in Guatemala suffering from heart attacks or plagued with blocked arteries, the options for treatment in the past were severely limited. More than 75-percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty line, two-thirds of those in extreme poverty and they cannot afford medical treatment. With the help of a pivotal donation from AmeriCares, however, patients now have new options and a greater chance at getting that relief.
When cardiologist Dr. Rómulo López started the cardiology ward at Hospital General San Juan de Diós, the public hospital in the capital of Guatemala City, he had just an EKG machine and “a hook to hang his coat on.” Patients experiencing symptoms which required angioplasty or stent implants were sent to a semi-private hospital, which charged patients for the care. For many Guatemalans, paying for that care was impossible. The average patient earns just US $3 per day working in the fields and less than 60-percent of the population has health coverage. López lobbied the government numerous times for monies to support a cardiology ward, but was met with little response. Then in 2003, Dr. López and his small cardiology department received a donation of catheters and 1000 stents from AmeriCares as part of a regular monthly shipment AmeriCares sends to its partner in Guatemala, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Rolondo Colindres was one of the first patients to benefit from the AmeriCares donation. In his late 50’s, Colindres experienced extreme fatigue on a regular basis. He worked at a tobacco factory breathing in pollutants from the tobacco and dust day after day for 26 years. He had difficulty working, due to increased exhaustion and discomfort, but could not take any time off to rest as he had six children to feed. Eventually, Colindres became so uncomfortable that he visited his local health clinic, which is affiliated with Hospital General San Juan de Diós. At the clinic, Dr. Edgar Rodriguez diagnosed him with hypertension and angina. “If not treated for the unstable angina, he definitely would have had a heart attack,” said Dr. Rodriguez. As a result, that same year, Colindres underwent a procedure to insert two of the stents donated by AmeriCares into his clogged arteries. He has since changed jobs and now works in the fields cultivating coffee. After suffering from fatigue and chest pain for fifteen years, he now enjoys life and is able to live and work pain-free and at age 62, he continues to provide for his family. So far, thanks to the stents donated by AmeriCares the hospital has helped 350 patients with similar stories. After recognizing the achievements Dr. López and his growing department had made by improving patients’ lives, the Guatemalan government decided to grant the cardiology ward at Hospital General San Juan de Dios $150,000. With that money, Dr. López and his team expanded their ward by 24 more beds and now see 1,500 patients per month with all types of heart problems. “The stents changed our lives,” said Dr. López. “With that donation, the hospital shifted from a place that could only diagnose patients with heart disease to one that could actually treat it.”
AmeriCares has been donating medicines and medical supplies to the people of Guatemala since 1986.
To learn more about AmeriCares work in Guatemala, please click here.