This is Jasmine. She is fourteen-years-old and lives in a small village up the river, about three hours from Iquitos. At the age of ten she mysteriously became paralyzed from the waste down. One day she was fine and two days later she could not move her legs, feel sensation of any kind or control her bodily functions.
I met her while visiting the private hospital we are partnering with and was struck by many things as we got to know each other. Jasmine had been there for fifteen days and according to the doctors she was, "So much better, but had a long way to go." They are getting the infections under control and she is gaining some much needed weight.
Her family is terribly poor. They are unable to provide any medical care....of any kind. It was the generosity of a foreigner, Robbie Dowling, from Ireland, who was visiting their village that even landed her in the private hospital to begin with. She was terribly underweight and the open sores on her legs were infected from the open wounds created by crawling on her elbow to "get around." There is great danger in feeling no pain as the skin on her lower extremities has been damaged over and over again.
The more serious infections were in the massive bed sores on her lower back and bottom. Month after month lying in bed without the proper support, rotation or physical therapy has taken it's toll on this little girl and because she can't feel those problem areas the necessary attention is not demanded. The infected area is difficult to keep clean in a primitive jungle village without the proper sanitary diapers or clean linens.
(below you can see Jasmines elbows. The skin is Thick and leathery from 4 years of crawling on them)
The devastation of not being able to run and play or being helpful around the house was made complete as Jasmine started losing her eyesight. She can see colors and objects and a few larger letters up close but she recognizes people by their voice and simply listens to the cartoons playing on the hospital television. She knows that she is a burden to her large family but told me that her brothers and sisters do the best they can to help her.
We are currently looking for a wheel chair for Jasmine that will help her be mobile and relieve some of the bed sores caused by lying down all the time. We brought in a neurologist to examine Jasmine and his only recommendation after this length of time is some neurological testing, leg braces and physical therapy that can only be done in Lima. Of course the family is unable and Jasmine is afraid to go alone....This is the plight of poor people in this country.
Jasmine has won my heart. You would love her too. Saturday morning I took her some chocolate milk and a solar powered, audio Bible. She was thrilled, and the other day when I stopped to see her, the milk was gone but she was holding the bible in her hand waiting for the sun to break through the clouds and recharge her battery.
Jasmine's mother needs to go back to their village. Jasmine's bed sores are not healed. Her eyes are getting worse, her days are long and boring but her spirit is bright...tears filled her eyes today as we talked about her going home. I can only imagine what life is like away from the visitors, a clean bed with a mattress, showers in an actual bathroom and the assistance of a nurse, three meals a day and maybe a little hope that things will change.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2018
This story was written in 2007 and for 6 years People of Peru Project provided medical care and supplies to Jasmine and her family through the support of volunteers who knew her. Jasmine went to Lima for extensive tests and therapy but returned to Iquitos without a conclusive diagnoses for the sudden and irreversable deterioration that ultimately led to her death.
This little girl and the love that Robert Dowling had for her led to a journey that is far from over. He has launched the greatest "Bathtub" story that you will ever hear. Sheila, the tub, has taken him down the Amazon River, ridden on his back to the top of Killimanjaro has been lost and stolen, ransomed and found, three times on two continents, and is now on it's way from Africa to Ireland to be prepped for a journey around the Salt Flats of Bolivia, harnessed to the back of this passionate man.
Robert is raising money for medical care, surgeries, education and social development in Iqutios and the jungle villages where he first met Jasmine. He and Sheila are getting the attention of the world.....Good things are coming as a result of the craziest bathtub story you will ever hear.
If you would like to help support Robert in his quest to help the children of the Amazon in Iquitos, You can go to the donation page on our website to make a tax deductible donation and include the name Robert Dowling Project in the comments section. 100% of this help will go directly to Robert as he creates a story that shows the needs of those who suffer silently in the Jungles of Peru.