In the last 28 months, almost 40 Filipino children suffering from Biliary Atresia (BA) were given a second chance at life through a collaborative effort of healthcare institutions from both the Philippines and India on pediatric liver transplant, making it no better time to strengthen not just the two countries’ bilateral trade relations but also people-to-people interaction.
BA is considered to be a rare disease, affecting one in 8,000 livebirths worldwide. It is a condition in infants wherein the bile ducts inside and outside the liver are scarred and bile is blocked from flowing to the intestines which then results to a build-up in the liver.
The disease requires transplants and expensive medical procedures that may cost from P4 million to P6 million if done domestically whereas in India, it can be done at P1.4 million. Travel to India or other countries to get treatment, however, is difficult for Filipino families without financial support.
Apollo and Max, both Indian hospitals, house Filipino children needing liver transplants and provide assistance for costs and expenses for other medical maintenance. Its doctors have been in close cooperation to exchange knowhow and technologies to make liver transplants possible in the Philippines at a cost and success rate similar to that of India.
“Without hesitation (a doctor from Max hospital) helped make it possible for the hospital to accept a guarantee letter from the foundation who was just starting to reach out to children with liver disease. Looking back, I think this was a start for shared mutual vision. A vision that no sick child irrespective of their status in life will be deprived of the cure that he or she deserves,” said Jen Resureccion, a mother of a child afflicted with BA who, sadly, did not survive.
Jen’s daughter was the first child to have the chance to go to India for a liver transplant. It paved the path for other Filipino children to get the medication and treatment they need.
Last 19 October, the effort of two countries was recognized and lauded by President of India Ram Nath Kovind during the Philippine-India Pediatric Liver Transplant Program event held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.
Forty children and their families were presented to India’s top political leader along with First Lady Savita Kovind and his public and private delegates.
Present also were the Philippines’ First Lady Honeylet Avanceña, Philippine Ambassador to India Ramon Bagatsing, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phils.) Inc. and doctors from local and Indian hospitals.
Avanceña expressed her gratitude towards the government of India and the two hospitals who have strengthened and sustained the ties of two countries by providing affordable medical services and saving lives of Filipino patients.
“Our close bonds are evident not just in our culture and traditions but also in various agreements and initiatives that our governments have entered into,” she said. “On behalf of the parents and their children, please accept our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude, and may you carry on with your noble advocacies,” she concluded.
President Ram Nath Kovind, on the other hand, was delighted to have been given a chance to connect with Filipinos through this program. According to him and his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, their people must be at the center of their ties and that India’s engagement with the Philippines through these initiatives brought people’s causes and life-giving projects within their expanding ambit.
“There is nothing more valuable than human life. And for (these) parents, there can be nothing more important than the health and the well-being of their children. So, to see the healthy, happy babies today and the smiles on the faces of their parents is truly heartwarming for me. I am, indeed, moved by the experiences shared by the parents of the babies,” he said.
“At the same time, I’m glad that the Indian medical institutions are involved in the project and working with their counterparts in the Philippines to see how the success rate as well as the cost of similar transplant in the Philippines could be brought down. I wish them success in their endeavors,” India’s President concluded.
Kovind also congratulated all those involved in the project; financial donors, medical institutions, doctors and supporters that facilitated the connection between the Philippines and India. He was in Manila last week for a five-day state visit.