We have always been taught that giving is better than receiving. Generosity is a beautiful trait most Filipinos have by heart. We’re always ready to give more of something, not necessarily material things, than what is necessary or expected.
In Buddhism, generosity is one of the 10 perfections and is the antidote to the self-chosen poison called greed. But among Filipinos, we have seen politicians and businessmen who have become rich out of greed but they still give to charity. At least they’re not totally unselfish by keeping their monies all to themselves.
How we wish that all acts of generosity goes with honesty and patience, traits that we all probably wish we had more of. The world would certainly be a better place if more people showed generosity to others.
In giving, we are inspired by the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness,” said Dalai Lama XIV.
In the Bible, Proverbs 19:17 states, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
We Filipinos naturally have a big heart and we will always try to help other people.
It is in this context that the family of 16-year-old Gonzalo Inductivo Chua who was diagnosed in July with Severe Aplastic Anemia (SAA), a very rare disease, has been counting on generous souls to help them cope with the high cost of treatment.
Aplastic anemia occurs more frequently in eastern Asia countries. It can affect people of any age, but it is most common in people in their teens and 20s. Some studies showed that it can be caused by exposure to chemicals, drugs, radiation, infection, immune disease, and heredity; in about half the cases, the cause is unknown.
SAA is a disease in which the bone marrow does not make enough blood cells for the body. This causes a deficiency of all three blood cell types (pancytopenia): red blood cells (anemia), white blood cells (leukopenia), and platelets (thrombocytopenia). Aplastic refers to inability of the stem cells to generate the mature blood cells.
Low numbers of red blood cells cause weakness and fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, and unusually pale skin. Low numbers of white blood cells can lead to frequent or severe infections. Low numbers of platelets can lead to easy bleeding or bruising, bleeding that is hard to stop, and tiny red spots on the skin.
In severe or very severe aplastic anemia, infections or bleeding can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
Since June, Zalo, as he is fondly called, has already had several hospital confinements and has been at the intensive care unit (ICU) of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City for weeks now.
All the tests, procedures, blood screenings, platelet apheresis and other related expenses have fast been depleting the family’s resources. He is now dependent on almost daily transfusions and his doctors say that his best option is a bone marrow transplant, which is very costly.
Zalo has a brother but their bone marrows don’t match. He is on alternative treatment called ATG that involves suppressing his immune system so that it will not continue attacking his bone marrow while the drugs try to sort of jumpstart his bone marrow to develop new blood cells.
I came to know about Zalo’s condition when my friend Cristy Defensor took me to a benefit concert of one of the country’s top bands, the South Border, a couple of weeks ago. The band, joined by Bleu Rascals, Ariel Rivera, Duncan Ramos, Raya, Joey Ynion, among other volunteers, hoped to help raise money for a bone marrow transplant.
Sharon Inductivo, Zalo’s aunt, could hardly control her tears while reading her sister Kaye’s message about her son. Here it goes:
“Zalo was a colicky baby and cried all night for three months straight. My gentle mom thought he had an unusual temper – and ‘unusual’ he was in so many different ways and levels I had never prepared for.
“He may be strange in his ways – but he has endeared himself to people for exactly that reason. He is so innocent, and devoid of malice and ill will. Show him just a little bit of kindness and attention – whether it is showing interest in his love for helicopters – or just spending time explaining why regular people’s way of thinking can be illogical sometimes – and he is your friend forever.
“I can’t help but think of how even in sickness he gets the really rare one. He was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia on July 10 – just two months ago. This disease, also called bone marrow failure, where the bone marrow does not produce enough red blood cells (to carry oxygen around the body), platelets (to control bleeding) and white blood cells (to fight infection), ails only about 5 out of one million people.
“Three months after he first showed signs of this condition, he has already become a veteran of hospitalizations, weekly (now daily) blood transfusions, injections, and very strong drugs – and its very unpleasant side effects – to treat his disease. He’s had an overnight stint in ICU and is currently fighting off three different infections that his body, with a meager couple of hundred WBC’s compared to the normal 4,500, is valiantly trying to fight with the help of aggressive antibiotics.
“And yet through all this – he has been trying to be strong fighting off the loneliness, boredom, longing for home . . . and trying to deal with pain and discomfort every day. On good days, he talks to his bone marrow and dreams of McDonald’s French fries and getting well and back to normal – and fantasizes about the day he is discharged from the hospital and he would just go straight to his own bed while the homecoming party is going on… On bad days, he asks me if it is all right to cry on my shoulder – and I let him. After a few minutes and a good cry, he’s ok… I don’t know how he can manage to do that. Every day I learn something new from him.
“I wish all of you could see how brave he really is, and how kind and caring he is – even in pain and extreme discomfort he manages to apologize to me, to the nurses for the inconvenience he is causing…
“Zalo has small dreams and big dreams. One moment he is a fighter jet pilot, next thing he is a jeepney driver. Just recently he told me that he has changed his mind and would like to be a racing driver. For him nothing is too grand or too lowly – he does not believe that one should be stopped from pursuing anything – if he hurts no one, and it makes him happy.
“I know despite his protests about having his picture and his name all over the posters and tickets and shared Facebook walls about this benefit show for him – he would have wanted to be here tonight. He knows that every single one of you here right now is one way or another, a part of him.
“Thank you so much from the deepest part of our hearts.”