After four years gathering local experience, nurse Ed Joy Mendiola was already armed with a plane ticket and raring to report for a nursing job in the Middle East when she learned that she had to deal with a bigger challenge.
Then only 29 years old, Ed Joy learned in March 2013 that she had Stage 2 nephropathy, a fairly common kidney disease that may hamper the organ’s ability to filter toxins in the blood.
Her doctor said she could not work overseas because she had to have regular dialysis to reduce the Immunoglobin A (IgA) that is preventing her kidneys from functioning properly.
“Sobrang frustrated talaga ako kasi dapat aalis na ako for Dubai. Umiyak talaga ako nung nalaman ko [I was really frustrated because I was about to leave for Dubai. I really cried when I found out],” Ed Joy said.
The first year was incredibly hard, Ed Joy related, but she later realized that she underwent years of training precisely to deal with similar situations and she knew that her training would help her in the fight of her life.
Even her mother, Ligaya, eventually overcame the grief of learning about the condition of her only child, the only treasure her deceased husband left when he died.
“Every time na naririnig ko yung word na acceptance, naiiyak ako. Parang ang hirap tanggapin kasi [I weep whenever I hear the word acceptance because it seems so hard to accept],” Ligaya said.
Ligaya resolved to become a pillar of support in her daughter’s journey and found herself in a long queue at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in Quezon City to seek help for her daughter’s dialysis.
Ed Joy needs 5000 IU of Recormon three times a week to raise her blood cell production from her current hemoglobin of 9 grams per deciliter to the normal level of 12.0-15.5 grams per deciliter.
At P1,750 per injection, that amounts to P5,250 weekly or P21,000 a month, an amount Ligaya cannot afford.
“I really don’t have words for the enormity of the hope the PCSO is giving my daughter. I couldn’t earn in a day the amount they give us in assistance,” Ligaya said in Filipino.
Ed Joy has been undergoing dialysis for almost five years now, but the fight is far from over for mother and daughter.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the Philippines and kills nearly 16,000 Filipinos each year.
There is no cure for IgA nephropathy, but it can be managed through medication and a healthy lifestyle.
In 2016, the PCSO started to provide medicine assistance for dialysis patients when it learned that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is only covering the treatment sessions and not the medicine.
Lilibeth Javier, one of the supervisors at the Charity Assistance Department (CAD) of the PCSO said patients seeking medicine assistance for dialysis are increasing but the agency is doing its best to help them out depending on the medicine they require.
“The agency assists 70-80 dialysis patients every day,” Javier said. “Aside from the injections, we also give assistance for hemodialysis up to a maximum of 14 sessions in addition to the 90 sessions covered by PhilHealth.”
She said the PCSO has tried to hasten the processing of assistance, but the number of patients can be overwhelming on some days, so patients have to wait a little longer to get their guarantee letters.
“The PCSO understands that there are many patients today that require medicine for their dialysis, so we will try to provide them the assistance that they need,” PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan said.
“Maraming salamat sa PCSO kasi mula noon hanggang ngayon, patuloy pa rin ang assistance na binibigay sa amin, mapaospital man o gamot ng anak ko, nandiyan sila para magbigay ng tulong [Thank you very much to PCSO because from then until now, the assistance they are giving to us is continuous, whether it is hospital bill or medicine of my daughter, they are there to help”], Ligaya said.