When Briseida was twelve-years old, her mother Raquel gave birth to a baby boy she named Brayen. Two months later the infant contracted meningitis and was taken to a Panama City hospital where he slipped into a coma. Weeks later when he recovered, the doctors diagnosed him with meningitis and a hydropcephalic condition that would require several surgeries throughout the years to insert and replace shunts. However, Brayen was now blind, and later was unable to speak or walk. He also required frequent medication to control convulsions caused by the meningitis. At the time, the doctor gave Raquel his samples of this medicine, but now that source is not available and she has no way to pay for it.
Today Brayen, now fourteen, and his mother Raquel live with Briseida and her four children in a small makeshift tin and bamboo house surrounded by sugarcane fields. The landowner has granted her the right to live in this house and tend a small garden rent-free. Brayen’s time is spent inside his tiny windowless bedroom or outside in his donated wheelchair. He delights at the vibrations when the children tap on the arms of his chair and embrace or tickle him. Besides his mother who devotes all her time to him, Britany, Briseida’s ten-year old daughter, is Brayen’s most abiding playmate and companion.
Britany is a bright curious child who loves school and learning; she keenly misses attending school during this pandemic. She says that she wants to learn English so she can go to the United States and become a doctor one day. Then she would return to Panama and help people like her Uncle Brayen, she added.
Britany, her four-year old sister Kristel and her two-year old brother Kristian, welcomed another sibling to the family when Briseida gave birth to Edward three months ago. Kristian and Edward’s father gives Briseida $70 a month for their care and this is currently her only income. However, he is also paying $20 a month for Briseida’s new sewing machine. She is now making dresses for her family and plans to make naguas (indigenous dresses) to sell to other ladies in the area. This income will help her not only afford food for the family, but will also cover her $6 monthly electric bill, as well as Brayen’s adult diapers and convulsion medicine. Briseida and her family are BVB’s most recent clients and they are about to receive their first food basket this month. Raquel speaks for the entire family when she says, “This is going to make our family so happy!”