Nearly thirty years ago and several years before our first clinic, a group of Somos Amigos high school students built a school for a community called Los Arroyos. The community was so isolated that one could not get there by road; the closest road ended in Diferencia, and from there it was an hour trek up the mountainside to Los Arroyos, by foot or mule. As we had a rented flatbed truck that we used to bring in supplies from the city (all of which was then transferred to mule), we needed a secure place near the end of the road to park for days at a time. Tomasa, or Tomassina as her friends knew her, happily opened her small yard to us. We became fast friends, and in the second or third year of our clinic, Tomassina became a patient.
Tomassina had an infectious smile and a hug that could snap you in two, but she struggled with diabetes and all of the complications the untreated disease invites. For many years we were able to help her control her diabetes with oral medications, but the disease continued to progress and ravish her body. She needed insulin, and the prospects of her getting it, along with the supplies, the monitoring, etc., was simply impossible. Tomassina died in 2017. It was losing her, only the most recent of several diabetic patients we had lost through the years, that prompted us to spend a year investigating solutions that would eventually lead to the inauguration of our insulin outreach program. Our initial cohort of six patients has grown to more than twenty, patients who live in isolated farming communities that dot the mountainsides near our clinic. All of them receive their insulin and supplies at no cost, they are monitored regularly, visit with us in person every three months, and see an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist at least annually. We are incredibly proud of our ground breaking and life-saving insulin program. You make it possible. Thank you.