Filipina in Dubai seeks help for marrow transplant

Photo Courtesy: Lapis Mia, Kabayan Cancer Warrior Group

Michelle Erika Saldoo Lordan came to Dubai four years ago as a young 22-year-old woman from Manila Philippines to work as a travel consultant for a firm in Karama.

Now, at the age of 27, she is struggling hard to beat blood cancer through regular chemotherapy. She needs urgent marrow transplant surgery to live a normal life.

Her family has flown in from the Philippines because doctors at Dubai Hospital have recommended a bone marrow transplantation as a possible solution to fight growing cancerous cells in her blood stream that has invaded more than 60 per cent of her system.

The family has borrowed from whatever sources they could for the treatment of the now unemployed woman – her four siblings from the Philippines have flown in to establish if any of their DNA matches the patient’s so that an external marrow donor can be avoided.

The surgery facility is currently not available in the UAE and she will need to be shifted to a foreign hospital.

As the family does not have enough money to go for an immediate bone marrow transplantation, Michelle is undergoing chemotherapy, which her mother fears is tantamount to slowly killing her daughter due to its side effects.

Kabayan Cancer Warriors, a small group of social workers, along with other community groups are trying to help the distressed family, but their reach and resources are limited, says Lapis Mia, coordinator of the social workers’ group.

Michaelle, now confined to the seventh floor cancer ward at Dubai Hospital, is preparing to visit the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the Texas University, Houston, America, where she has an appointment with Dr Yezid Alverado at the Leukemia Centre on June 30, 2016.

Among various requirements, an initial payment of $36,000 (Dh132,226) is needed for the appointment.  

The family has been desperately seeking help from the community members and charity organisations. The patient was bailed out earlier by an anonymous philanthropist in Dubai who foot the huge hospital bill of about Dh330,000 for her eight months’ treatment.
The past two months’ bill has accumulated again, and Michelle’s 49-year-old mother is appealing to kind-hearted community members for help.

Dubaiites have helped Michelle to fight cancer, even without a job or family resources. When Michelle lost her job at the travel company due to her prolonged illness – and so could not benefit from insurance – some well-wishers arranged a job for her mother, who now works for a real estate company.

If any one of Michelle’s four siblings’ marrow matches with her for the transplant, the surgery cost will be relatively less.

Her mother’s Emirati employer is helping her stay in Dubai and in arranging visa facility for the sick daughter.

“The Dubai Hospital authorities and Emigration have been very helpful and supportive. We are thankful to Dubai for their generosity. They assured us that humanitarian concern is a priority here.”

Michelle was leading a normal life until February 2014, when she was diagnosed with blood cancer after she frequently suffered from fever, rough cough, swelling on her leg, weakness and sudden loss of weight.

“I was working normally in the travel agency and when I was suffering from frequent fevers, I went to a clinic in Bank Street Bur Dubai. They gave me some normal medicine and antibiotics like paracetamol. When the rough cough, fever and body pain did not ease, doctors advised me for a blood test and X-Ray. I could not take even five steps and I was gasping. I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (monicyctic M5) on April 23, 2014. I was admitted in the emergency department of Rashid Hospital and later admitted to Dubai Hospital,” she said. “Five doctors and a nurse were attending to me and I realised the seriousness of my illness. My mother came from the Philippines to take care of me.”

The latest medical report issued by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on April 14, 2016, said Michelle was initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and was initially given three plus seven induction chemotherapy. It says she was discharged from Dubai Hospital on September 25, 2014, as her condition was stable during the outpatient clinical appearances.

Her mother had come from Philippines on a visit visa to take care of Michelle because she was too weak.

“Thanks to the generosity of the philanthropist from Dubai, my hospital bill of Dh330,000 was paid and I could go home to lead a normal life. However, in the Philippines, I was all alone at home because my mother came to work in Dubai and all my brothers and sisters went out for work or school,” she said.  

“I did not go to any hospitals in Manila because there was no money to pay the doctors. I tried to take some home treatment, drinking only apple juices because I thought my pain in the abdomen was caused by kidney stone. Even when I went to the hospital after my condition deteriorated again, I did not tell them that I suffered from leukemia,” Michelle confessed to Emirates 24|7.  

“My mother send me some money from her salary and I went to the hospital and the Cancer Institute diagnosed me with worsening leukemia,” she said.

With the help of several people, Michelle was brought back to Dubai and admitted again in the Dubai Hospital on March 14, 2016, complaining of lethargy, shortness of breath and dry cough. “Her peripheral blood showed blastemia,” as per the medical report.

“We are ready to give anything to save our elder sister’s life. She has been supporting us when she was working and now it is our turn to support her. Two of us have our DNA test and we are waiting for the result. If a family member’s DNA matches our sister’s DNA, then we can feel a bit relieved because we need not pay for an external marrow donor, which will be quite expensive. We hope some miracle will happen and our sister will return to normal life,” said Van Andre Lordan, the youngest brother of Michelle.

“We have chosen the hospital in America because my cousin who lives there offered me a place to stay and food. We need to arrange only the hospital charges. The cost in India is comparable, but I don’t have any friends or relatives there,” Lordan reasoned.


Note: Dear Reader, Thank you for your offer to help. But as we cannot accept funds, we suggest that you get in touch with the hospital directly to inquire how you can help towards paying the bills. In this case, it is Dubai Hospital’s seventh floor cancer ward. Editor