From Filipino Reporter
By Liberto Pelayo
Four Filipino children with congenital heart defects are scheduled for lifesaving surgeries, three of them at Montefiore Medical Center and one at Westchester Medical Center, almost in close succession starting next week.
But not before three of them hurdled heart-wrenching ordeals to secure visas from the United States Embassy in Manila.
In fact, two of them already were rejected, one somewhat rudely, but only the intercession of the new Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Albert F. del Rosario, helped reverse the denials by U.S. consular officers. Eight-month-old Joshua Mark Perez, who arrived with her mother, Almira, Thursday (Jan. 10) from Manila aboard a Northwest Airlines flight which offered free round-trip tickets, is scheduled for surgery at Montefiore on Jan. 15.
Joshua will be followed by Jerden Sampang, 2 years old, who will undergo surgery Jan. 22, instead of Jan. 8, as Montefiore scheduled, because he and her widowed mother, Eden, 31, were denied visas on Dec. 27, 2001.
A third patient, John Morados, 3 years old, will be operated on Feb. 8.
The fourth and eldest patient, Khalid Marco Flores, 13, who is already in the United States. with his mother, Grace, will have an open heart surgery on June 10, 2002 at the Westchester Medical Center.
Flores was slated for surgery on Dec. 5, 2001 but a preoperation test showed that he had asthma and had to be treated for that condition. He was put on Prednisone medication but developed a rare complication which aborted the surgery. Flores is now out of the hospital and is living with Luis and Barbara del Rosario at their Elmsford, N.Y. residence. Luis is the brother of Ambassador Del Rosario and was a past president of the Westchester Rotary Club, which brought Flores and his mother over here.
On Jan, 17, Westchester Rotarians and officers of the U.S.-based Gift of Life Foundation, will host Ambassador Del Rosario at a reception at Tony La Stacione restaurant in Elmsford, according to Luis, who owns the Elmsford Raceway, a model-car racing center in Elmsford.
The raceway is a mandatory stop for children who are, wrote The New York Times in an article, "in effect, racing against death." Like his diplomat brother, Luis went to Xavier, a Jesuit high school on 16th Street in Manhattan, and to New York University, and settled in Westchester after marriage.
"Our grandfather, Simplicio del Rosario, was a signer of the Malolos Constitution," Luis proudly told the Filipino Reporter. "I was invited to go home at the centennial of the signing of the Constitution but I did not make it."
The Gift of Life program started in 1975 and is sponsored by Rotary Club International. The first recipient was Grace Agwaru, then a 3-year-old from Uganda, who underwent open heart surgery at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, N.Y.
Since then, thousands of children around the world have made trips to the U.S. under the program. Darelle "Dajed" Montojo, 2 years old, was the first Filipino beneficiary of the Gift of Life program. Dajed had a successful valve homograft placed inside her chest, available only in the U.S., on Sept. 27, 2001, also at Montefiore. She had no main pulmonary valve, and the procedure was her only option to survive.
Joshua Perezs surgery will treat a rare ailment called tetraleg fallot. His trip is under the auspices of the Gift of Life chaired by Reverend Andrew Topp.
In almost all cases, Northwest Airlines offered to fly the patients with free round-trip tickets between Manila and New York.