of the month

By Rich Petersen

Irma Janet Rivera Puga


janetriverapThis young lady with the beautiful smile is 13-year old Irma Janet Rivera Puga, known at home as “Janet.” Janet lives with her parents, Irma and José, in San Antonio Tlayacapan; she is the youngest of four children all of whom still live at home.

About three years ago and out-of-the-blue, Janet awoke one morning to discover she no longer had any feeling in or control of her lower extremities. She had been previously healthy with no signs or symptoms of anything wrong. Doctors at the Hospital Civil in Guadalajara were able to give this “mystery” a name, however----transverse myelitis. This is a viral or bacterial infection of the spinal cord which causes inflammation of the nerves in the spinal column. Inflamed nerves are no longer capable of sending their “messages” to the brain, and thus a patient has limb weakness, back pain, sensory disturbance, and incontinence.

In Janet’s case the doctors diagnosed a viral infection and as true with all viruses, there is no medicine or other agent that can cure the inflammation. Physical therapy is thought to be the only method of reversing or ameliorating the virus’s effect on the spinal cord.

Janet’s father came to Niños Incapacitados after about six months of taking her to twice weekly therapy sessions. The therapists and doctors had recommended more intense therapy with specialists, and in addition the fitting of a special hip brace and leg supports so she could gradually learn to bear weight and hopefully strengthen her muscles and stimulate the damaged nerves. Such an appliance would cost 15.000 pesos, much more than the family could afford.

Sr. Rivera is fortunate to have a job with SIMAPA (the water company) but notwithstanding, and with three other children, the cost of ongoing therapy and the brace was too much. SIMAPA has been good enough to allow him to take off work in order to get Janet to her therapy sessions (although he must make up the time), and they offered to pay for half of the brace and leg supports. Niños Incapacitados has paid the other half and continues to pay for her twice-weekly physical therapy.

Dad and Mom have to do everything for their daughter at this point. Janet is in school, however, and a very good student. Her favorite subject is Science and she is thinking about a career as a veterinarian. One might think that her demeanor and outlook would be pessimistic and negative, but when she and her family attended our meeting, Janet’s smile and positive attitude showed that this was not the case. Janet and her father demonstrated how she is learning to stand on her own and bear some weight on her legs, albeit with her Dad right behind her and holding on. She has had the brace and leg supports for only about a month and the process will take time to achieve any amount of rehabilitation. We of course wish her and the family great success in the future.

Janet is now 15 years old and has just graduated from high school with very good grades and will attend the “Prepa” in the fall. She continues with her weekly therapy at the Ajijic Clinic, and while she still cannot walk on her own, she is showing significant progress.

Niños Incapacitados is “taking the summer off” in the sense that there will be no monthly meetings until September, Thursday the 9th to be exact. We will of course continue our support of our children during the summer months and will bring you other stories during this hiatus. Please join us in September at 10:15 at the Hotel Real de Chapala (La Floresta) to learn more about our organization and the children we assist.

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