Impoverished Philippine teenager to have life-saving surgery in Sudan
An impoverished Philippine farmer’s teenage son will fly to Sudan next week for potentially life-saving open heart surgery thanks to an Oscar-nominated film and an Italian charity, his sister said Friday.
Reynaldo Nilo, 17, will head to Khartoum on Monday for the free treatment at a hospital run by EMERGENCY, an Italian doctors group, to arrest the onset of rheumatic heart disease, sister Sarah Joy Nilo said.
“The cardiologist said surgery was urgently needed, otherwise the valves would deteriorate and cease to function,” she told AFP.
“The treatment is locally available, but he was among a long list of charity patients and we did not know when he would get his turn.”
She said it cost 1.6 million pesos (US$35,600) at other local hospitals, a sum the family, which raises ducks for a living, can not afford.
“We’d lost almost all hope until we were introduced to this foundation.”
EMERGENCY, which works in 16 disaster and war-torn nations, said its cardiac hospital near the Sudanese capital Khartoum was the only one of its kind in Africa where patients were treated for free.
U.S. director Kief Davidson went to Khartoum five years ago to film “Open Heart,” a documentary about eight Rwandan boys who were treated at EMERGENCY’s Sudan hospital.
The film, which received an Oscar nomination, was seen by the Filipino teen’s sister on television last year, reviving the family’s flagging hopes.
“She recognized that the condition described was the same as her brother’s, waited for the credits and then tracked the producer Cori Stern down with a one-line email. ‘My brother has this, please help,’” the statement said.
Stern, an American, endorsed the Nilo sister to the aid group, which agreed to provide either partial or total replacement of the teen’s heart valves.
The group said it would also pay for other required medications for the rest of his life, adding he would likely die within a few years without the operation.
“Reynaldo had strep throat as a child, which if not treated with antibiotics can lead to a rheumatic heart disease that usually leaves young adults dead by 20,” it said in a statement.
The sister, 25, said her brother was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.
He became bedridden and was unable to finish his high school studies, while also requiring his sister to take care of him full time.
EMERGENCY said the siblings would be flown to Khartoum for free by Turkish Airlines.