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Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America

Eduardo is a frightening-looking man. He is blind in one eye, which is clouded over, and his other eye always looks like it is desperately searching for something. His face is so thin that his skin has to strain to cover his prominent cheekbones. He has a pronounced underbite that I imagine makes it difficult for him to chew food. He certainly looks as though he hasn't chewed food in a while. I could tell he was once a large man, but has since shriveled up to just skin and bones.

The first time we went to see him at his home, he had just had his leg amputated due to "poor circulation." He was so weak that he could hardly lift his head off the pillow. His eyes were glazed over, and he was laying in a pool of sweat in a very hot room. The only way he could communicate was to squeeze our hands ... which he did for a long time. I was convinced he was near death. I did not take a picture of him.

The second time we visited him, he WAS near death—white as a ghost and cold to the touch when we arrived at his house. His family had lifted him onto a makeshift wheelchair (a plastic stacking chair placed atop a set of two wheels) and were prepared to wheel him to the nearest hospital, since taking a taximoto (the 3-wheeled taxis that are popular in Villa el Salvador) would have been too expensive. We immediately got him out of the wheelchair, loaded him into our van, and rushed him to the emergency room. We had to place him on a stretcher and push him into the emergency room ourselves, as there were no attendants to do this when we arrived. The last time I saw Eduardo, he was lying on a stretcher in a hospital emergency room with about 30 other people, awaiting his turn to be examined.

We got word yesterday that he will be in the hospital for 2 weeks due to fluid in his lungs, which I'm sure is because he lay flat on his back in bed for days after his surgery without ever moving. (It's hard to move around post-surgery, especially when you have only one leg.) I will pray for Eduardo, but I don't think he has much time left.

Read the rest of the blogs in this series here.

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