Oil spill evacuee needs medical assistance

September 14, 2006

Visayan Daily Star
Sept. 14, 2006

EVACUATION CENTER, Cabalagnan, Nueva Valencia – Mely Galleto, 46, a fisherman’s wife who is among the evacuees due to toxic fumes caused by the oil spill, has an enduring wish when her son, Jehmel turns 14 on Sept. 27.

“I hope kindhearted individuals will offer us help,” she said in an interview with St. La Salle Mass Communication students at the evacuation center at the elementary school in this barangay, which is among the worst hit of the coastal villages of Guimaras.

Jehmel has been diagnosed as suffering for about 10 years now from Hirschprung Disease, or megacolon, a defect at birth.

Dr.Reginald Hao, a Bacolod-based pediatric surgeon, told the DAILY STAR those suffering from the disease suffer from bowel movement difficulty due to the absence of nerves in the wall of the bowel.

In Jehmel’s case, his mother said, the boy cannot defecate unless aided by a suppository or Laxoberal tablet or syrup. “There are times he cannot move his for days because we run out of funds,” she added.

“We can’t afford to buy medicines now that my husband can no longer fish. She said as tears rolled down her cheeks.”

Hao said the use of suppositories is not good for the boy, adding that immediate surgery is needed for the boy. Patients suffering from this disease are usually operated on at a very young age, he added.

Consequently, the boy’s growth has been stunted. At 13 years old, Jehmel stands 3 feet 8 inches tall.

Jehmel was diagnosed as having the disease when he was 3 years old. Five years ago, they wanted him operated on but she said they didn’t have the money for surgery expenses that will amount to more than P50,000. Today, the operation costs about P100,000.

Global medical records show one Hirschsprung case per 1,500 to 7,000 births. Many of those who suffer from the disease grow up up to be anemic, They look pale and tire easily.

Jehmel said he wants to play, too but he settles with children’s card games because he does not have the resistance and the build to play with boys his age.

“My heart is wrenched when I see my boy complaining of stomach discomfort and swelling when he could not move his bowels and this happens very often,” the fisherman’s wife said.

His physical condition also prevents him from making good grades in school, his mother admitted, where he is a second-year high school student.

Dr. Hao said Jehmel’s case requires a “pull-through operation” which involves the taking out of the part of the intestine that does not work and connect it with the healthy part that’s left to the anus.

Readers touched by Jehmel’s plight may course their help to the DAILY STAR, which will turn over their help to government social workers in Guimaras.

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