Monday, Apr 19

Renal Surgery Brings Hope to a Loving Father

February 18, 2019 | Glenda Bajao

Ner Barrete goes to the ocean for food, and sometimes, healing. Living along the coast of Tagbilaran City, Ner raises his family in peace and honesty. Then one day, he fell ill with kidney stones. 【Photo by Glenda Bajao】

Story Highlights

  • A cascade of illnesses stemming from his kidney stones has all but ruined the life of 42-year-old Ner Barrete. With no ability to pay for treatment, he and his family went to Tzu Chi for help, resulting in his lifesaving surgery in December 2018.


Ner Barrete is a 42-year old security guard. He and his family lives in the seaside slums of Tagbilaran City, often struggling with floods during heavy rains or violent storms. Renting a home in a safer place is not an option for his family since his salary could barely support his wife and two children.

Despite having less in life, the family tries to make ends meet in peace. Until one day, Ner was diagnosed with a rare case of kidney stone growth called staghorn calculi.. This stone is characterized by branches that appear like the horns of a staghorn deer, as if filling the kidney’s many vessels.

Ner was advised to undergo open stone surgery, which he cannot afford. His condition worsened over time with his ankle and feet swelling.

Eventually, Ner developed hypertension, diabetes, and later stroke. He suffered from two mild strokes in a span of two years. Fortunately, the strokes did not permanently damage his body.

All the while, the stones continued to bother him. As urinating normally caused great pain, he had to do so via a catheter. Eventually hospitalized for two weeks, Ner was forced to stop working.

In 2017, Ner’s wife Lilibeth met a Tzu Chi Bohol volunteer who told her about Tzu Chi’s Medical Assistance Program. The couple immediately sought help from Tzu Chi, which paid a visit to their home. With the stone 2.6x1.7x3.3cm as per ultrasound tests, the only effective treatment was open stone surgery.

Months prior to her husband’s operation, Lilibeth officially joined Tzu Chi Bohol’s pool of volunteers. She mostly took charge in cooking for the volunteers and guests.

On December 6, 2018, Ner underwent open stone surgery at the Chinese General Hospital in Manila. For the doctors, a staghorn calculus was difficult to remove, let alone one more than a foot in diameter. His operation lasted for 10 hours, but his suffering would finally end with its success.

“I am grateful to Tzu Chi for giving me a second shot at life. I was suffering from pain for more than a decade now, and Tzu Chi alleviated my suffering,” Ner said.


Life after surgery

Nearly two months after the surgery, Ner is now able to have long walk. It helps that they live near the sea, which aids in his recovery.

“I go to the sea every morning to go swimming. It is a daily exercise for me as part of my rehabilitation. Sometimes, I catch fish for food,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lilibeth appreciates her job at Tzu Chi’s office in the city proper. As it will take a while before her husband will be fit to work again, she fills in for him for the meantime.

Ner is looking forward to a full recovery.

“I want to return to work soon so I can to provide for my family. I want to give them a better life. I wanted to build a decent house for my children and support their studies,” he added.

“I also want to give back to Tzu Chi by becoming a volunteer someday. I want to help other people the way Tzu Chi helped me,” he added further.

  • The Barrete home is built close to the sea, making the family prone to natural calamities. 【Photo by Glenda Bajao】

  • Ner readies some bait to catch fish in the sea. When food is short, Ner relies on the sea to keep his family from starving. Now, the sea is also his companion for a quick recovery. 【Photo by Glenda Bajao】

  • Ner shows his scars from the open stone surgery. After years of suffering, he finally underwent the procedure in December 2018 to extract the 2.6x1.7x3.3cm stone. 【Photo by Glenda Bajao】

  • Ner worked as a security guard before he fell sick. Now, he goes fishing in the sea when money is tight. 【Photo by Glenda Bajao】