Mountains of Courage


Arancely with her grandmother, Alicia, at Hospital Arco Iris

Written by Jacqueline Chipkin

Arancely has slept on the third floor of Hospital Arco Iris for more than a month, but during the day she embarks on grand adventures. She hunts for buried treasure off the coast of Cuba, opens a bakery in La Paz featuring her grandmother’s secret recipes and braves ice and snow to reach the summit of mountains. With her imagination, Arancely leaves her failing kidneys behind to explore a world beyond operating rooms and hospital beds.

Before she arrived at Hospital Arco Iris, ten-year-old Arancely lived in San Pedro Prison with her two brothers, two sisters, mother and father. After weeks of frequent and painful urination, vomiting, and nausea, her father called Arancely’s grandmother, Alicia, and asked her to take Arancely’s to a hospital. Alicia lives on the streets, a “blessing in disguise” that she believes led her to Hospital Arco Iris. Alicia had often walked past the hospital while it was first under construction; when she was asked to take Arancely to a hospital, Hospital Arco Iris was the hospital she remembered and chose.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed Aracely with acute pyelonephritis, a bacterial infection of the kidney. When multiple courses of intravenous antibiotics proved ineffective, a team of specialists discovered structural abnormalities in her urinary tract and decided to proceed with two surgeries.

Despite rigorous and painful treatment, Alicia says that Arancely is never afraid. She befriends everyone around her, including doctors, nurses and fellow pediatric patients. When HOPE worldwide Bolivia volunteers bring her puzzles and books, she is always eager to play, read and learn. Upon leaving the hospital, Arancely says she is most excited to return to school. She anticipates having no time to play with her friends because she will be busy completing “a mountain of missed homework.” Her grandmother admires her intelligence and commitment. She hopes Arancely will continue to study and value her education.

Alicia attests that doctors and volunteers cured Arancely’s pain and her own fears with patience and understanding. Alicia draws her faith from God, praying each night for the recovery of not only Arancely but all the hospital’s children. She is deeply thankful for the care that Hospital Arco Iris and the HOPE worldwide Bolivia team have provided for her granddaughter.


Jacqueline Chipkin is a medical student at DUKE and volunteered with HOPE worldwide Bolivia for two months, spending time with patients at Hospital Arco Iris and recording their stories.

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