With their eight-year-old daughter battling luekaemia, a couple from the Philippines is struggling to raise funds to fly her to Germany for treatment.
Lea has been in the ICU at Dubai hospital for the last 11 days and has only recently shown improvement with doctors suggesting she might be off the tube in a day or two.
From selling property in Philippines to taking numerous bank loans, to creating a helpline on facebook, the Jovens are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring their little girl’s life is saved.
“It’s so hard for any parent to see their child suffer. I sometimes wish I could take her place instead,” laments Lea’s mom Michelle.
“I know I need to be strong for her, but it’s difficult. Right now, I’m so tired. Every night I find it tough to sleep. There’s so much pain.”
Michelle, who has been working in Dubai, had to give up her job recently after Lea’s condition deteriorated.
“It was tough for me to manage work and the hospital visits.”
For the last five years, the Jovens have been ensuring Lea’s health is in good shape.
The mother is hopeful that they will be able to get her treated soon.
“When I saw her this morning, she was telling me how much she loves me and misses me.”
The last eight months have taken a toll on Lea’s weight as well, with her body bloating up due to the steroids and medications.
Michelle adds that the Filipino community in Dubai has been extremely helpful, and has helped generate funds towards the treatment.
According to doctors at Dubai Hospital, Lea needs to go to Germany for advanced treatment in paediatric and chest care that could amount to Dh300,000.
“Although she is not in a condition to travel now, once she gets a little better, she will need to be flown to Germany for advanced treatment,” confirms Dr Hani, who is treating her.
“Her condition is very complicated. Her lung is infected very badly.
She needs help.”
Lea has a younger sister Lean, aged five, who is slowly coming to terms with the impact of her sister’s condition.
“She used to visit her often, but after Lea was moved to the ICU, she was in shock.
"She couldn’t understand why her sister was lying still with so many tubes around her. She kept stroking Lea’s hands and saying, ‘It’s OK, you will be fine. I pray for you every day’.
“But, when she came out, Lean told her dad that she felt scared of losing her sister.”
The family will also benefit from the timely help from Ganie David, who recently held a charity flea market at Shelter, in Al Quoz, to collect funds. “I’ve collected Dh9,000 which I will hand over to the family,” he confirms.
David, who also comes from Philippines, heard about Lea through facebook, and decided to step in and help.
Lea, who was first diagnosed at the age of five, was in remission after four weeks of chaemotherapy sessions, only to relapse a second time in 2010.
In January 2011, Lea’s parents were able to secure enough funds through charity donations, bank loans and property deals, for her bone marrow transplant that was successfully completed in Taiwan.
However, 46 days after the treatment, she was identified with graft-versus-host disease of the skin, that later spread to her lungs as well.
Ever since Lea has been in and out of the hospital, with medical experts and her family trying to ensure she will recover.
“When her condition worsened after the bone marrow transplant, she was upset. She asked me why it happened, but I taught her to be positive and to pray, and told her that if she was positive then things will turn out OK,” recalls her mom.
“She’s a strong girl. She’s still fighting. And I pray she gets better.”
Michelle’s mother, who is back in Philippines, had taken care of Lea and Lean during their early childhood.
“I was in Dubai for work, and my mother used to care for them. But, she is so far away. She is worried for Lea, but I’ve told her that we have to stay strong and positive.”
With their financial inability a handicap, the family is seeking help for their daughter's life.