Ailing girl, 12, needs support to survive

>> Monday, September 26, 2016

Ramon S. Dacawi

Once in a while, a story comes along that needs to be told- and retold - for the virtue it radiates.
One such story revolves around Marie Joy Manojil Ligudon, a 12-year old girl from Ifugao who has become the youngest  among a steadily growing number of kidney patients  undergoing  hemodialysis treatment  at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
Thanks to an Ibaloi family from Kabayan, Benguet, Marie Joy, fourth of five children of a marginal farmer-couple in Aguinaldo town, has gone this far in her expensive twice-a-week dialysis for kidney failure that has to be sustained for a life-time, unless she undergoes kidney transplant.
The kid’s struggle for survival began in April, 2003 when she was brought to the hospital by Aguinaldo town mayor Gaspar Chiilagan  for treatment of urinary tract infection.
Her adoptive mother, Gina Epe, recalled she and her twin daughters - Jordynne  and Lordynne - met the kid in the isolation room of the BGHMC when they visited a sick relative, Lilibeth Epe, who was then  undergoing chemotherapy.
“ My daughters overheard the nurse asking  the kid’s father several times why Mary Joy’s prescription medicines had not been bought,” she recalled.
‘My twins asked me for an amount  for the medicines they bought after  the kid’s dad, Johnson Ligudon, admitted he had no cash and had no relatives here to borrow money from.”
With help from friends and officials like then Benguet barangay councils’ president Bernard Waclin, Epe’s family supported the girl’s healing.
“For two months, my daughters were bringing packed meals daily to the girl everyday before going to school at the University of the Cordillera,” Epe said.
When the girl was about to be released, her father asked if they could leave her to the care of Epe’s family as he could not cope with the expense should her illness recur.
Under her adoptive family’s care, the kid underwent regular check-ups for nephrotic syndrome. Last May, she was diagnosed for end-stage renal failure that more than doubled the  financial stake and care needed  for her survival and chance to grow up.  
Since then, the girl has been undergoing twice or thrice-a-week hemodialysis . Since then, the financial pressure has been mounting, forcing the kid’s adoptive mother to knock on doors for help.
“My twin daughters are now grown-ups and we depend on their support from Australia where they now work as nurse and accountant for their kid sister’s survival,” Epe said.
At two times dialysis per week aside from the cost of maintenance medicines, the girl needs over P10,000 a month, a figure hard to come by and sustain even by overseas workers.
Gina, who operates a jeep ferrying  mountain trekkers to foot of Mt. Pulag in Kabayan town,  and her husband Brando,  a teacher in Bokod, Benguet, had been left with no choice but to knock on doors of Samaritans.
“Mountain trekkers and guides heard of the kid’s predicament and are proposing a climb-for-Marie Joy,” Gina said.
Meanwhile, people who can help may course their support may foot the bill for a  treatment session costing an average of P2,200 at the BGHMC cashier’s office in the name of the  kid  and presenting the receipt to the BGHMC dialysis treatment staff.
For that arrangement, they can get in touch with dialysis center nurse Carmen Bumatnong  (cell phone  09155368289) or BGHMC social worker Nora Mangusan (CP 09984651939).
Others can call up Epe, through CP No. 09198169234. or visit the kid during her four-hour blood-cleansing sessions set every Wednesday and Saturday  from 7:00 a.m.  to 11 a.m.
Many of those who got  wind of the heavy  financial, and emotional difficulties  Marie Joy, her natural and adoptive families are undergoing- wonder what inspires such fortitude.
“Perhaps it’s because of the fact that when I delivered my twins, I could not singlehandedly nurture my babies with my milk,” Epe recalls. “The hospital then, as it does now,  discouraged use of commercial infant formula.”
She was referring to the advocacy of the late Dr. Natividad Clavano who established  BGHMC as the pioneer advocate and world-wide model for immediate  breast-feeding and early mother-and-baby bonding and rooming-in.
“It was then that a woman from Ifugao, who also had just delivered her baby, offered and did feed my twins with her own breast-milk,”  she said. “Her kindness continues to inspire us to work to help Marie Joy grow up like a normal kid.”
“At her young age, her strong determination to survive had convinced me to (eventually) let her undergo kidney transplant, for which her father is willing to donate one of his kidneys.”                               


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