In the midst of a busy morning in July, all of us stopped what we were doing as we saw John enter our IDEA office with his teacher. He looked very weak and pale. He was coughing and could barely get his feet moving. Our greeting, “How are you John,” went unanswered which was unusual for him. We all know John to be a very energetic and communicative person since he first began school at Loon. John’s teacher informed us that he had been struggling with a fever, cough, and pain in his sides. Soon after, our nurse brought him to the doctor who gave him medication. He was later diagnosed with an enlarged left kidney.
The next morning, John’s teacher called to say that they were on their way to Tagbilaran City to bring him back to the doctor. Our IDEA nurse, social worker, and staff rushed to the hospital to be with him. John could not walk and was crying out in pain. He was admitted to a government hospital and given an initial diagnosis of septic arthritis and acute glomerulonephritis (acute inflammation of the kidney) due to infection. He was prescribed a strong antibiotic and placed under observation. Even after he was hospitalized, his health continued to deteriorate. The doctor decided to run a series of tests and the results were not what we hoped for. The doctor informed us that based on the results of the laboratory tests and the symptoms that he was experiencing (off and on fever, swelling of his leg, painful urination, appearance of several nodes/lumps on his back, and bruises) that John likely had leukemia. Our hearts were all broken as we heard this diagnosis.
To confirm the diagnosis, John went to Cebu to undergo a bone marrow biopsy. John’s family has little money and would not be able to afford the surgery and so it was uncertain what would happen next. While John waited, we helped to make him feel comfortable and happy at home with his family. We bought him toys and a small video game device so he could have fun and distract him from the pain. We also provided fruits, milk, and biscuits for him to make sure he was getting nutritious food. Within a few days, we found ways to cover the medical procedure he desperately needed. He was admitted to Cebu Doctors Hospital along with his father and our nurse. Instead of the bone marrow biopsy, doctors sent John through other lab tests. Based on the tests, the doctor diagnosed him with Tuberculosis of the Bones (TB) and Anemia of Chronic Inflammation. The doctor prescribed a TB medication and iron supplements for one year. We had some relief in knowing that John’s condition was treatable. We were also grateful that John was eligible for free medication from the government.
John returned home and continued his medication while our nurse and social worker visited him periodically. Between check-ups, he came by the IDEA office to visit. We could tell he was already getting back to his old self. It was great to share lunch with him at the office and to see his appetite return and it made us less worried for him. The medication was working!
Then one day, he complained that he had difficulty breathing so he was brought to a specialist. Lab test results showed that he had Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and he had developed fluids in his lungs. The cause of these complications really puzzled us all. The Doctor advised John take penicillin and stay in the hospital for 10 days for closer observation. After his stay at the hospital, he returned for two post admission check-ups. By this time, it was clear he had lost a lot of weight but we could see him feeling better than the previous few months.
We last had John visit the office to have lunch with us on October 13th. He enjoyed spending a few hours watching animated educational videos on the computer and we also showed him the picture of the new dormitory in Loon and his eyes were filled with excitement. The very next day, he was brought back to Loon School and was able to attend the inauguration of the new dorm.
John is having a good time back in school and at the dorm. He keeps taking his medication and has been able to catch up with his lessons surprisingly quickly. His weight is improving and he has renewed energy, enough to act up and need discipline again. Discipline is his chief need because while at home for the past three months, he received little attention or understanding from his elders. His family has difficulty guiding him and explaining to him what is right or wrong considering no one in his family can adequately communicate through sign language. At the dorm, he gets that attention and discipline that he needs.
When Dennis, our IDEA Founder, or Portia, IDEA staff assigned to Loon students, or anyone from the office visits John at school, he would always give the sweetest hug and say, “MY DENNIS,” or “MY PORTIA.”
We are all hoping to see him make a full recovery with God’s grace. John may be fragile but to us he is larger than life; he is bent but not broken.