In December 2010, when PSHF staff members were visiting sick children in the isolation ward of the Bacolod Provincial Hospital and preparing information for medical grants, they learned the stories of other sick children in the ward who were also from poor families. One of them was Romel Tortogo Jr. (5), and he is now the only surviving child from the ward at that time as all the others have died.
Like any regular child, Romel Jr. goes to kindergarten, and when he is at home, he likes to play with toys and spend time with children of his age. But this happens only when he is well as there are times when he loses his energy and turns pale. This alarms his mother, Mary Joy (41), because she knows his problem, a disease called Pure Red Cell Aplasia and Romel is in Phase 2 of its progression. This is a type of anemia in which the bone marrow does not produce red blood cells. Mary Joy noticed how he would become pale when he was a year old; she had him checked, and since then he has been receiving a series of blood transfusions every month.
I met Mary Joy in the ofﬁce last month when she came to ask for ﬁnancial assistance for her son. My father and I accompanied her to the hospital to see Romel Jr., and he was with his father Romel Tortogo Sr. (32) in the hospital pediatric ward. Romel Jr. was happy to see his mother, though a little shy with us as we were unexpected visitors. He had big round eyes and a nice smile.
Mary Joy assured us that they had a supply of blood for the day and could ﬁnd donors in the hospital precincts when they needed blood as long as they had money to pay the donor, which is a minimum of 500 pesos ($10). Usually, Romel needs four bags or sometimes ﬁve, for his transfusions every month.
Mary Joy and Romel Sr. have been together as common law partners for more than eight years. They would like to get married but they have no savings to pay for a wedding ceremony just yet. Their eldest child, Maria Leny (7), is in her ﬁrst grade of Elementary school and their youngest, Ronel, is just 5 months old. Romel Sr.'s salary as a bamboo cutter is just enough to meet his family’s daily needs.
The PSHF would like to assist Romel Jr. with a grant of 18,000 pesos ($450) to cover the cost of at least three bags of blood per month for twelve months. We felt the pain of the parents in losing children who were with Romel Jr. in the hospital ward in late December, 2010 and we hope and pray that Rommel can win his battle to survive.
Lanie M. De Leon
PSHF Negros Occidental
Romel Jr. with his parents Mary Joy and Romel Sr.