MANILA — Some people say parents would move heaven and earth if their kids are in danger.
For Jonalyn Belista, it was faith in God and technology that kept her holding on to save her baby Jermaine.
Two years ago in September, Jonalyn gave birth to Jermaine Briseis, her second child.
Jonalyn’s pregnancy was normal and she had a normal delivery. When she saw the baby, however, it seemed like Jermaine’s umbilical cord surrounded her neck.
“I also noticed her eyes and skin are yellowish. I thought she had such color because I was always craving for potatoes during pregnancy,” Jonalyn told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.
She brought Jermaine to a center, and was told the baby has physiological jaundice. ”Gumuho ang mundo ko (I was devastated),”Jonalyn said.
She went to the Philippine General Hospital, but claimed they were not accommodated because the country was hosting the APEC Summit at that time. “(The hospital) didn’t want to accept us, and we were told there was no one to entertain us,” she lamented.
She was told Jermaine has neonatal hepatitis and patients with that condition normally live for just about five years.
When Jermaine turned six months old, her hemoglobin became very low and her health deteriorated. The baby was diagnosed with colidocal cyst, a congenital condition involving cystic dilation of bile ducts.
Jonalyn was disappointed. She said it could have been avoided had her baby’s condition was detected earlier.
She wanted Jermaine operated but didn’t have enough money. She was also aware that the needed operation costs much. ”I would be needing at least PHP5 million to avail of the needed operation here,” she said.
By God’s Grace
At seven months, Jermaine vomited blood and needed a liver transplant. Jonalyn learned about the LITRO (Live Transplant Operation) Babies Phils., Inc., which describes itself as a group of parents united for babies with chronic liver disease and who need liver transplant.
LITRO helped Jonalyn to raise funds for her baby. It was also through LITRO that Jonalyn learned about Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India. Apollo Hospital does pediatric liver transplants.
Also, it uses liver from living donors, instead of organs from cadaver. ”Sana bigyan N’ya (Lord) kami ng chance makapag raise ng funds,” was Jonalyn’s prayer at that time.
They had PHP300,000 which was not enough for them to fly to India and avail of the operation for Jermaine.
The mom of two said she was so afraid to lose her baby. ”I told myself, ‘lilipad kami ng India kahit kulang pera namin. Kahit magpakulong ako sa India basta mabuhay ang anak ko (I told myself we will go to India even if we lack money, even if I eventually land in jail in India as long as my baby lives),” she narrated.
She explained she was confident enough that even if she didn’t have enough money, God would provide everything they need once they are already there. ”I (also) believed that once I’m able to process (the papers), that’s a sign that everything’s okay,” Jonalyn continued.
After two weeks, Jonalyn was able to raise PHP2 million. ”I surrendered everything to the Lord,” she said. She also noted that she believed that Apollo Hospital could take care of her daughter, since she sees the hospital is equipped with the right technology, and has already done several liver transplants.
“We have invested a lot in technology,” said Anupam Sibal, MD, medical director of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital Delhi, in a separate interview with PNA.
According to him, Apollo Hospital is India’s first internationally-accredited hospital. ”We invested on modern technology, such as the 3D MRI, and we also have India’s first PET-MRI which helps in cancer detection,” he added.
Sibal, noted, however, that the hospital also provides TLC (tender loving care). The hospital, he said, is careful in checking whether the donor’s liver is compatible with that of the patient.
Doctors are also working on managing the anesthesia in order to wake up the baby immediately after the transplant.
Liver transplant at Apollo
Since 1998 when Apollo Hospital conducted its first successful liver transplant, it has already performed 2,900 liver transplant operations, according to Sibal.
More than 200 of these were performed among children. The doctor admitted that the success rate of the liver transplant is 90 percent, with 80 percent survival rate in 10 years.
“It’s very important to prevent (liver) rejection, and the first seven months is the most critical period,” Sibal said.
He emphasized that undergoing a liver transplant would need a lifetime treatment, as the patient would need to take medications.
Ten percent of those liver transplant operations conducted at Apollo Hospital were unsuccessful, he admitted.
At Apollo Hospital, doctors usually use livers from living donors, and Sibal said this is because there are only very few cadaver donations in India.
“There is a large team conducting a liver transplant. They are more than 40 in the team, consisting of surgeons, specialists,” he cited.
The medical director explained that the whole liver is being removed from the baby’s body, but the donor would just need to donate a part of his/her liver.
“This will depend on the size of the baby,” he added. So far, the youngest liver transplant patient that they had was a five-month old.
Sibal said the donor would only need to stay in the hospital for 10 days, while the patient might stay for about 21 days. In Jonaly’s case, her husband (the donor) only had to stay in the hospital for eight days.
In Sibal’s estimate, a patient would need USD33,000 to undergo liver transplant operation at Apollo Hospital and stay in India for some days.
“That’s equivalent to PHP1.6 million, compared to the PHP5 million they would need to undergo the transplant somewhere else,” he said.
Jonalyn’s family have spent a total of PHP2 million during their stay in India. Apollo Hospital Delhi has already entertained six Filipino babies needing liver transplants, said Sibal.