Three years ago, Salomón discovered he was seriously ill with kidney disease. This happened after he was bitten by a snake in a sugarcane field in the municipality of La Gomera, Escuintla, in Guatemala, where agricultural production occupies most of the territory. Salomón, 54, who has no home and lives next to a garbage dump, had to stop working as his health situation became more complicated.
“I promise you that I couldn't move. I felt very weak and as soon as I stood up my knees buckled and I fell to the floor,” he says. For months his companion, Blanca, took care of him because he could no longer take care of himself.
"I promise you that I couldn't move. I felt very weak and as soon as I stood up my knees buckled and I fell to the floor." Salomón, 54, has stage five CKDnt
For his check-ups he had to travel long hours on a bus to Guatemala City with Blanca. The strain of travelling impacted his emotional health and used his few economic resources.
“They even charge you for the bathroom there. Since I couldn't work, we had to sell everything we had. We don't even have a floor here, we live on this small piece of land, which floods every time it rains and smells of accumulated garbage,” he says.
Salomón, like several of his acquaintances and relatives, was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease of non-traditional origin (CKDnt) in stage five, the most advanced stage according to international guidelines on renal (kidney) pathology.
The disease, also known as Mesoamerican endemic Nephropathy, is characterised by a progressive loss of kidney function, which affects the kidneys' ability to perform vital functions like eliminating wastes and concentrating urine.
According to medical anthropologist Frida Romero, this pathology “differs from chronic kidney disease because it affects young men without a history of chronic diseases, who generally work in agricultural crops, in extreme physical conditions, with high temperatures, in impoverished environments.”
In March of this year, because of health campaigns run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to raise awareness of this disease, Salomón decided to approach the MSF team.
Pablo Izeppi, a psychologist, went to visit Salomón at his makeshift home to assess his condition and has since provided him with psycho-emotional support. “At that time, he did not look well, neither physically nor emotionally,” says Izeppi. “We referred him to the health centre, did the screening tests and referred him to the National Centre for Chronic Renal Disease because of the seriousness of his stage.”
Now, Salomón has a palliative care plan that allows him, in the short term, to improve his emotional and physical health.
Mesoamerican endemic Nephropathy (MeN) a humanitarian crisis in Guatemala