BAGUIO CITY – Journalists joined patients, nurses, doctors and other well-wishers in greeting Marie Joy Ligudon last Tuesday, a day after the girl turned 13 and submitted herself for her thrice-a-week hemodialysis due to kidney failure at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
Two cakes were delivered, the symbolic candles of one she blew while she was attached to the dialysis machine.
Her act brightened up the mood in the 20-capacity dialysis center where patients of all ages are into their twice- or thrice-a-week blood-cleansing sessions of four hours each which they would have to undergo for life.
The message of it all was scribbled on the icing of one cake: “Life is beautiful.”
As the youngest among the steadily increasing number of patients undergoing dialysis, Marie Joy personifies that message. Her endurance to pain during the regular insertion of dialysis needles into her veins three times a week has endeared her to the staff and to the other patients, many of whom are now in their senior years.
“We are experiencing a steady rise in the number of patients and while this is alarming, it would be doubly sad if we have another child like Marie Joy coming in for the life-time procedure,” nurse Carmen Bumatnong said.
“Children should be out there enjoying life, not being chained to life-time treatment,” television journalist Dhobie de Guzman of ABS-CBN said when his crew accompanied restaurateur Roland Chong of Luisa’s Café and journalists Lyn Ramo,Malou Guieb and this writer to Marie Joy’s bedside.
The other cake was provided by barangay kagawad Bernard Torcedo of Hillside, Baguio City who is also undergoing dialysis at the center.
For Gina Epe, the kid’s adoptive mother, the birthday marked her tenth year caring for the kid, fourth of five children of a couple from Aguinaldo, Ifugao who could not, on their own, shoulder her life-time dialysis treatment.
Epe, a native of Kabayan, Benguet met the kid in 2003, when Marie Joy was confined by the BGHMC for urinary tract infection.
Epe and her own twin daughters – Jordynne and Lordynne – were visiting a relative who was also hospitalized when they overheard the kid’s father, Johnson, admitting to a nurse he was not able to buy his kid’s prescribed medicines as he had no cash.
The twins asked cash from their mother and bought the kid’s medicines. When Marie Joy was about to be released from confinement, her father asked if she could be under the care of Gina, given his family’s inability to sustain the prohibitive cost of now and then bringing her to Baguio for her regular check-ups.
“We took in the child, a decision the whole family wanted, especially my twins who developed an attachment that bloomed when they were delivering meals for two months to the kid in confinement,”Epe recalled.
She did not say what softened her up but Epe recalled that when her twin girls were born, her husband, a teacher in Kabayan, had a hard time looking for other lactating mothers to help her nourish her babies.
“There was a woman from Ifugao who then had just also delivered her child and she offered to help breast-feed my twins,” she recalled.
When news of the adopted daughter’s story came out, among the first to respond was former world karate champion Julian Chees who is now based in Germany as head of the Shoshin
Karate Associaiton affiliated with the Japan Karate Association.
Chees, a native of Maligcong, Bontoc, Mt. Province sent P16,452.25 that covered more than half the kid’s hospital bills incurred during several confinements last year.
“Right now, we are appealing for blood donations as the kid needs transfusions, and those who can donate may just submit themselves to the extraction room of the BGH and indicate it’s for Marie Joy,” she said.
She explained that blood donations of any type will replace bags her kid used during transfusions.
People who would like to help may ring Epe’s cellphone number – 09198169234.
By Ramon Dacawi