Dr. Zulma Perdomo

Dr. Zulma Perdomo

As told by Global Ministries Volunteer Paul Jacquay

Dr. Zulma Perdomo is working with all eight weekly clinics that Project MAESTRA is conducting in Paraguay.  She is a 32 year old family practice doctor who finished her residency in January 2008.  She is married with a one year old son.  Her road to this current position has not been easy.   She was born in northern Paraguay near Concepción. When she was five years old her parents sent her to Asuncion to live with her aunt and to attend the public schools there.  However, she cried too much when she went to the school and was sent back home.  The next year she tried again and did well, one year older and a little bit wiser.

She had always dreamed of being a doctor so she could take care of poor people, so when she finished high school she took the test to enter the national medical school. There is no charge (except for books) for those who score well on the admission test and are accepted into the school.  Since Zulma had no money she knew that this was the only way that she could fulfill her dream.  She did not score high enough and was not accepted, so she studied for a year and tried again.  This time she made it.   During her first year of the seven-year program she began experiencing joint pain and swelling.  Subsequent testing revealed that she had Systemic Lupus Erythemetosis (SLE).  Fortunately she was able to continue attending classes as she underwent a six-month course of chemotherapy and her illness went into remission.  She completed medical school without further problem.  

Before she started residency she was enjoying a game of soccer with her friends when she broke both bones in her right leg and needed to have surgery.  She developed a bone infection and was hospitalized for intravenous antibiotic treatment.  One day while laying in her bed she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her back.  X-rays showed a cyst on her spine and further testing revealed spinal tuberculosis.  She became paralyzed from the waist down and surgery was required to remove the area of infection and relieve pressure from her spine. Her recovery was slow as she underwent daily physical therapy.  After two months she was able to walk with a walker, then with a cane, and finally unassisted.  She recovered well enough to begin the family practice residency program and also to get married.

One day she noticed that her vision was not right; she could not see anything to her sides. Once again she underwent a battery of tests and learned that she had had a stroke. The cause was that her SLE had caused a rare bleeding disorder. She started on blood thinners and was able to recover, but not before she became pregnant and miscarried.  The cause of the miscarriage was a blood clot that would not allow the placenta to develop properly. When she became pregnant a second time she was started on daily injections of heparin in order to prevent another miscarriage.  She developed weakness and a rapid heartbeat and was diagnosed with severe anemia.  Ensuing studies revealed that the SLE had affected her kidneys.  They were not making the hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.  In addition to the heparin injections she had to get regular shots of this hormone in order to maintain normal blood levels.  Miraculously she was able to carry the child to term and “Jesús” was born.  In order to complete the rigors of her residency, she had to send Jesús to the care of her mother in northern Paraguay for ten months.

Now, in spite of all of the adversities, she is living her dream!  She takes several different types of medications to control her problems associated with SLE, including bi-weekly injections to stimulate her red blood cell production.  She is a very good doctor.  She speaks Guaraní well and is able to relate well with the people who come to the clinics.  She could work for the government or private insurance companies and make much more money, but the philosophy of Project MAESTRA of providing services aimed at those who cannot afford it and do not have it readily available is exactly what she has always wanted to do.