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5-year-old girl liver disease survivor inspires patients

A proof of hope, Baby Xia continues to live normally and in good health state after her successful biliary atresia operation in 2019. In fact, she celebrated her fifth birthday on June 24, 2020.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go sent his well wishes to Baby Xia, whom he assisted to have a biliary atresia operation in 2019.

Biliary atresia is a liver disease common among babies affecting their bile ducts, the tubes in the liver. These tubes are blocked, forcing the bile to back up in the liver. This eventually damages the liver, affecting many body functions. If untreated, the disease can be fatal.

As she celebrates this milestone, a life free from the disease that almost took her life away, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who was instrumental in assisting her and her family so they can get the proper help for the operation in India, sent his well wishes to Baby Xia.

“Nakakatuwa na nakikita kong napakalusog ni Baby Xia ngayon. Baby Xia, I hope to see you soon. Ingat po parati ngayong panahon na ito. Magdasal lang tayo at malalampasan din natin ito,” Go said in his greeting.

“Alam ko pong mahal na mahal niyo po siya. At gusto ko siyang makitang lumaki na isang mapagmahal na anak. Salamat at happy birthday, Baby Xia,” he said to the parents.

In an interview with Baby Xia’s parents, Eric Ngo and Rowena Quipanis shared what they both went through while then seeking medical intervention for their daughter. Rowena said that they did not expect Baby Xia to have biliary atresia at a very young age of only two months.

“Bale noong sinabi lang ng doktor na kailangan temporarily ma-operahan, hindi namin alam ‘yung gagawin namin at awa ‘yung naramdaman namin para sa anak namin. Pero pinilit namin magpakatatag kasi in-expect namin na after operation ay tapos na, pero hindi rin pala kasi kailangan pa i-continue ‘yung hanggang ma-achieve namin ‘yung liver transplant,” she said.

“Doon gumuho ‘yung mundo namin na hindi namin alam kung paanong solusyon ‘yung gagawin namin. Gumawa kami ng paraan para kahit papaano po ay makalikom po kami,” Rowena added as Baby Xia’s condition got worse overtime, even vomiting blood.

They had to sell designed t-shirts and asked relatives and friends for help. They also sought help from non-government organizations and various support groups.

“Noong panahon na ‘yun, hindi ko na iniisip ‘yung para sa sarili namin, kundi para na lang sa anak namin. ‘Yun nga po, lumapit po kami kung saan-saan,” Rowena said detailing their experience.

“Naranasan namin matulog at mag-intay sa labas ng iba’t ibang opisina. Tapos, naranasan din po namin (magbigay ng) alkansya, ‘yung lata po kung saan-saan po namin iniiwan kung sino pong papayag, sino pong tatanggap,“ she added.

Fortunately, both parents of Baby Xia attended an event in Taguig City last October 14, 2018 where Go, then the Special Assistant to the President, was a guest of honor. In their chance meeting, Go heard their situation and immediately provided assistance.

Rowena said, “Hindi siya nag-atubili na kausapin kami, na nakinig po siya sa side po namin, sabi ko po na tulungan niya po ‘yung anak namin na mabuhay po.”

Rowena recalls that Go told them, “’Hindi ko man maibigay ‘yung dalawang milyon na kailangan para sa operasyon, at least kung ano po ang maitutulong ko.’ Itutulong po niya, sabi niya sa amin. Doon po, nabuhayan na po kami ng loob noon…hindi niya talaga kami pinabayaan.”

Through the help of Go, other government agencies, private donors and the Office of the President, Baby Xia was sent to India in April 2019 and had a successful operation. The after-care medical assistance was also provided continuously months after the operation.

“Bale po ‘yung binibigay sa amin monthly ‘yung mga pangangailangan ni Xia, ‘yung mga laboratories niya, mga para sa ospital po niya, ‘yung mga parang kailangan po niya mga gatas, diaper, groceries po, ‘yun po,” the mother explained adding that they were also given the chance to personally meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

On his end, Go called on the government to further improve the provision of accessible healthcare services and training for health professionals in treating liver diseases, particularly biliary atresia, so that patients will not need to fly to other countries for their operation.

The government is currently enhancing the capability of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) to perform such operations.

For the short-term solution, a consortium was formed among the Office of the President, Department of Health, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and The Medical City, a private hospital. Under this consortium, an estimated budget of P3.6 million is provided to each beneficiary wherein P2.9million of which will be spent on the operation at TMC while the rest of the budget will be for pre-operation and post-operation care at the PCMC.

For the long-term solution, the government will be developing the facilities of NKTI and will be sending its specialist staff to Kaohsiung Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan for training. The government has budgeted P58.1 million for the equipment NKTI needed and P1.3 million for the batch of twelve specialists to be trained in Taiwan for one to two months.

“Nais natin na ang mga pasyente ay magtiwala po sa kakayahan ng ating mga doktor. Gusto nating sabihin sa kanila na hindi na nila kailangang pumunta ng ibang bansa para sa liver transplant. Magtiwala sila sa ating local doctors,” the Senator said in previous statements.

“’Yun po ang objective natin dito, as soon as possible sana. Sana ay maging at par tayo sa ibang bansa pagdating sa ganitong specialized healthcare services,” he added.

Go, who has helped other families who have babies suffering from biliary atresia through facilitating their operations outside the country, also said that a lot of Filipinos are asking for help for such operations.

“Kung mayroon tayo dito sa Pilipinas ng mga kailangang equipment, mas maraming well-trained specialists at mas murang operasyon, hindi na kailangang magpagamot pa sa ibang bansa ang mga pasyenteng ito,” the Senator emphasized.

Initially, a liver transplant in the Philippines is at least three times more expensive than the operation in India which would need around P1.2 million only.

“Magtulungan tayo maisaayos ang ating mga pasilidad pangkalusugan para hindi na natin kailangang umasa sa ibang bansa para sa mga operasyon tulad ng paggamit sa biliary atresia. Magagaling naman ang ating mga doktor. Lets aim to make our healthcare services at par with the rest of the world to cater to the needs of our fellow Filipinos,” Go said.

Aside from Baby Xia, the Office of the President and Go also assisted babies suffering from similar illness, such as Eren Arabella Crisologo from Butuan City and Dionifer Zephaniah Itao from Cebu.

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