Home Missions Medicine Medicine News A life saved above and beyond the call of duty

A life saved above and beyond the call of duty

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 10:10 AM | ARTICLE BY | Jonas Trinidad
Gratitude comes to Tzu Chi volunteers from Ma. Christina Malate, mother of three-year-old heart patient Martin, in the form of letters. She wrote letters to all eight donors by hand, expressing her appreciation for their help in funding Martin’s surgery. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • As many as eight Tzu Chi volunteers and their acquaintances rallied to pitch in what they can to fund three-year-old Martin Malate’s heart surgery. Their donations, to them, are a small price to pay if it can save a life that—in the future—might save more.

Nobody wants to undergo surgery, not just because of the struggle before and after but also the cost. But one that struggles with life and death doesn’t have the luxury of refusing, no matter the circumstance.

Diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect (VSD), three-year-old Martin Christius Malate doesn’t have a choice in the matter. A hole in his heart’s septum or wall forces oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix, resulting in shortness of breath. As a result, he has missed years of his life playing with the other kids his age and exploring the outside world. He spends his days confined at home in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City with his older siblings and toys to share.

“I was scared all the time. Whenever he loses consciousness, I run to my neighbors to help me get him to the hospital. Sometimes, along the way, he would regain consciousness. The doctor told me that it’s normal because he lacks oxygen in his brain,” says his mother Ma. Christina.

As much as Martin’s parents wanted to push through with surgery following his birth, he was too young and may not survive. For three years, medications such as furosemide and digoxin kept him alive. Of course, parents can’t help but fear for his life whenever he loses consciousness all of a sudden.

“It’s very sudden. One minute you see him playing, the next he suddenly collapses. I would be scared since the child’s life is on the line,” says his father Mario.

A surgery costing upwards of Php750,000 is Martin’s only saving grace. Despite having secured Php600,000 through government assistance, his parents can’t afford the remaining Php150,000 balance. Mario would have to work for months on end earning Php8,000 a month as a truck driver to save enough—months the Malate family doesn’t have.

Word of the family’s struggle reaches a handful of Tzu Chi volunteers and their acquaintances. With their donations covering the balance, Martin was finally admitted to the Philippine Heart Center on August 5. Because of a fever, however, the actual operation was put off until early September.

The donation from Tzu Chi volunteer Beng Lim, straight out of her savings, accounted for a third of the total balance. Having been briefed of Martin’s case, she thought that Php50,000 is a small price to pay for a child’s life.

“I told myself I can afford the Php50,000 donation. I just have to cut back on my expenses for a while. I have so many blessings in my life that I should share it with others, which is what Master Cheng Yen has taught me,” Lim says.

“I want to make one person happy, even for just one second,” Lim adds.

Fellow volunteer Nelly Yung donated an equivalent amount through inspiring her colleagues at work. For her, by helping one life, she gives him the chance to help another. The cascade soon spreads to a broader spectrum, helping countless lives all because of one life helped.

“When we help a person, we give him or her the chance to help another. This is what I always take to heart: to help those in desperate need,” Yung says.

Today, Martin is still confined in the house as he gradually recovers from the surgery. But his mother brings him outside from time to time for some fresh air. The dread of darkening lips and fingertips are all but gone. Support for the family continues in the form of rice and groceries.

Out of sheer gratitude, his mother gives the eight donors—Tzu Chi volunteers and everyday people—a letter, each written by hand. Perhaps deep in her heart, no words can describe the great strides the donors made to save a life.



Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2017 10:10 AM

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