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June 1, 2018

Lepanto’s Medical Mission: stories of hopes, smiles, and dreams

Of broken hopes and incomplete smiles

It’s not easy to imagine how Dave would look like as a man. He would definitely be as good looking as his father. His eyes twinkle when he smiles, tries to smile that is. Because a normal smile he cannot give at the moment. 

 

Dave was born in a community hospital in Barangay Poblacion, Quirino, Ilocos Sur. Everything seemed so perfect at that moment for Jennifer and her husband James, who both have been praying for a baby boy, after their eldest daughter Zydane. Dave came out with complete set of toes and fingers, two eyes, and one split lip and palate – a birth defect that has been crushing Jennifer and James’ hearts until now, each time they see their child quiet, oblivious to the teasing of normal-looking kids around.

 

James is the sole breadwinner. He works as a laborer in construction jobs and sometimes helps in tilling a small farmland he does not own. At the end of the day, he comes home with 300-400 pesos, a meager amount just enough for them to get by. With the hand-to-mouth existence they’re in, a surgery to cure Dave’s defects remained a pipe dream.

The couple saw a glimmer of hope when they learned about a medical mission in La Trinidad in November of 2015. They then braved the six-hour winding trip to La Trinidad with high hopes and aspirations for their son. But Dave was only five months old then and couldn’t possibly endure long hours of surgery as doctors advised. The doctors said they can only fix Dave’s cleft lip at that moment, and a follow-up surgery for the cleft palate will just be slated when he turns a little older.

Dave’s parents conceded and just hoped and prayed for a favorable result. After the surgery, James and Jennifer heaved a sigh of relief, seeing Dave’s improved condition. But after a few months, they noticed a portion of Dave’s hard palate was poking through his upper lip and this became even more prominent as months passed by. They found out later that there had been a post-operative complication on Dave’s surgery. They tried reaching out to the doctors who performed the surgery on Dave, but they were too late, as the doctors already flew back to their home country. James and Jennifer were left heartbroken, hopeless, and just prayed for a miracle that could fix Dave’s depressing condition.

Just like Dave, Angela was born with a cleft lip and palate.

Her mother Xyza was only 16 years old when she gave birth to Angela in June 2016. Xyza’s relationship with the father of Angela soon turned sour and he left young mother and daughter with nothing. Much worse, his promises of providing financial support for Angela ended up as false hopes. Xyza’s father Nestor, an LHD operator in Lepanto, shouldered the responsibility of providing for his daughter and granddaughter.

 

About a year later, Renzel came to Xyza and Angela’s lives. He not only loved the beautiful young mother but took her daughter as his own. Xyza and Renzel got married in a civil wedding ceremony in Poblacion, Mankayan last  March.

Renzel is a hardworking man; he used to be a mucker for eight months until he was hired by Lepanto in 2018 as a laborer, under the Project Engineering Department.

As the sole breadwinner scraping to make ends meet, Renzel admits that his earnings alone will never be enough to pay for Angela’s medical needs. But they remained optimistic for Angela, praying and hoping for a possible medical mission that will soon put a smile on her mouth to match the smile in her eyes.

Operation hopes and smiles

Dave and Angela’s parents were hoping against hope. Little did they know that hope could come, and that it would be from Lepanto Mining.

Dave and Angela are just a few of the thousands of beneficiaries of Lepanto’s 4th Medical-Surgical-Dental Mission that rolled out in May 6-8, covering Mankayan, Benguet and Cervantes and Quirino in Ilocos Sur.

A total of 30 major surgical operations were performed at Lepanto Hospital, not just Dave and Angela’s cases, but also other cases like cholecystectomy, thyroidectomy, tubal surgery, and cheiloplasty.

About 170 indigent patients also availed themselves of free minor operations such as excision and circumcision, while close to 500 individuals benefitted from other medical services.

Around 120 children benefitted from pedia services, 200 others from dental services, 65 received free optical services, while 58 individuals benefited from derma services.

Doctors from the University of Sto. Tomas, Philippine Military Academy Hospital, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office spared most of their time and services for free in the 3-day humanitarian mission.

A plastic surgeon, Dr. Paul Adlai Quitiquit, from Sant Louis University (SLU) Hospital in Baguio City, drove all the way to Lepanto Hospital to perform the expensive surgery on Dave and Angela for free. Dr. Quitiquit finished the initial surgery on Dave and Angela in a day.

Regaining lost hopes and recreating smiles

With both Dave and Angela’s surgeries still fresh and wounds still healing. Both kids would still need more surgeries to complete the process.

Dave had another surgery in June at the SLU Hospital in Baguio City. This was to help close his palate. The surgery to close his lips would follow in a few months, nevertheless he is on his way to full recovery.

Angela is also recovering but is still set to have her cleft palate operated on when she turns three.  

“Parang nabunutan po ako ng tinik ngayong na-operahan na si Dave. Hindi ko alam kung ano gagawin naming mag-asawa kung wala itong medical mission ng Lepanto, kaya ang laki po ng pasasalamat namin sa kompanya,” Jennifer said with a sigh of relief.

“Nagpapasalamat po kami sa Lepanto, dahil sa medical mission na ito, ay natulungan po ang aming pamilya, lalo na po para sa anak naming si Angela. Napakalaking bagay po ito sa amin na makitang maging normal ang buhay ng aming anak,” Xyza shared.

The children’s smiles are still a work in progress, but little by little, sooner or later, they will be wearing the sweetest smiles on their faces.

A mother’s hope restored; a son’s future ensured

Lepanto Mining’s biennial medical-surgical-dental mission has been touching lives since 2012. More than 13,000 indigent residents from Mankayan, Benguet and the nearby towns of Cervantes and Quirino in Ilocos Sur have been provided with utmost medical care.

One of the previous beneficiaries is Winrey, born with a cleft lip and palate, which was successfully operated on in 2014.

Winrey was found by the Lepanto Medical Mission team by “accident,” as he was just spotted playing along the street in Barangay Namitpit, a remote village in Quirino, Ilocos Sur. His mother Brenda, 64 and a widow, only relies on her occasional income from laundry services in their neighborhood. Brenda kept on working despite her age, hoping to earn at least P100 each day for them to get by, while supporting Winrey’s schooling.

Brenda told the Lepanto team that they learned to embrace Winrey’s condition and didn’t even think of having it repaired, given their life’s hardships. But it pains her to see Winrey crying quietly as he mercilessly gets bullied by his classmates, all because he can’t speak to defend himself.

Winrey, who was in Grade 3 then, was doing good in school. He didn’t let his condition get in the way, making him even more gritty to finish his studies. His teachers can vouch for his determination with his perfect class attendance.

Learning about the free medical mission, Brenda wasted no time to grab the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that she knew can change her son’s life, forever.

The Lepanto team came to visit Winrey again, four years after his successful operation.

Winrey is now a happier and brighter version of himself. He can speak clearly, earning him more self-confidence, raising further his self-esteem.

“Na-boost yung confidence level ni Winrey. Very active siya sa mga extra-curricular activities sa school. Masayahing bata si Winrey and he has found many friends sa mga classmates niya,” shared Santos Bal-iyang, principal of Quirino National High School where Winrey is currently enrolled in.

“Malaking pasasalamat ko sa Lepanto kasi libre na lahat para sa operasyon ni Winrey, wala kaming binayaran. Kung wala yung mission na ito, hindi siguro ma-o-operahan yung anak ko kasi wala talaga kaming kapera-pera,” Brenda tearfully remarked. “Malaking naitulong ng operasyon na ito sa pag-aaral ni Winrey kasi hindi na siya tinutukso ngayon at mas madalas na nakakalabas na siya ng bahay.”

Just as Brenda and Winrey thought they’ve had enough blessings from the company, little did they know, something bigger was still coming along their way.

Upon learning Winrey’s inspiring story, Lepanto President and COO Bryan U. Yap pledged to personally pay for all of Winrey’s school expenses including transportation and lodging allowance and a monthly stipend. All these until Winrey can finish high school and be eligible for the Lepanto Company’s college scholarship grant.

The assistance came just in time when Brenda was about to give up on her son’s education.

But giving up was never an option for Winrey. He spends his weekends helping in available construction and farming jobs in their village just to add up for his weekly allowance and other school expenses. Despite all these hardships, Winrey remains among the top performers in his class.

When asked what his ambition is, Winrey spoke very clearly.  He wanted to become a mechanical engineer---a dream he can now confidently reach, with his head held high, wearing a proud smile on his face.