Unable to turn a blind eye on other’s sufferings, Bhante Ven Rakkhita Samanera, a Buddhist monk who has been living in the island of Palawan for the past two years, sought help for 36-year-old Lenny Dedace, a goiter patient.
On June 5, through Tzu Chi Foundation’s assistance, Lenny Dedace underwent a surgery to remove her 13-year-old goiter.
Buddhist monk Bhante Ven Rakkhita Samanera first saw Lenny Dedace and the 13-year-old mass bulging from her neck from a photo sent to him by the patient’s relative. The instant he laid eyes on the photo, he had no other thought but to help this 36-year-old mother. So, Brother Ben, as he is fondly called by his neighbors in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, called for help from his followers on Facebook. He managed to raise Php20,000 for Lenny.
However, the money was not enough for a surgery.
So Brother Ben contacted Tzu Chi Foundation’s Manila office to ask for help. The monk is aware that the Buddhist charity group is actively providing medical assistance to less-privileged patients as he had witnessed after attending a convention of Tzu Chi’s medical volunteers in 2016. Brother Ben believed that the foundation would also open its heart for Lenny.
He was not disappointed.
The charity group immediately arranged for Lenny’s needed surgery with Tzu Chi International Medical Association’s (TIMA) Dr. Eric Cu.
On May 16, Lenny, her live-in partner Rogelio, and her mother Lorna, flew from Palawan to Manila. The donations Brother Ben had gathered came in useful for their airfare, and their accommodation and food expenses throughout their stay in the capital.
They rented a room in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City as they awaited the operation. However, when Tzu Chi volunteers visited the family on May 29, they witnessed their dire living condition. The room was dark, cramped and had no windows. Knowing that the patient’s environment is crucial to her recovery, Tzu Chi volunteers arranged to transfer the family to the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary transient home, which is more spacious.
ICM Sister Clarita Dolencio, who manages the transient home, welcomed the family. “We are happy to be a part of serving others,” she said.
Tzu Chi volunteer Ting Ting Pua also went out of her way to help Lenny by processing the latter’s Person with Disability (PWD) card. “I want to help reduce their expenses. This card will entitle her to 20% discount for her surgery, medicines, and food. It will help her a lot,” Pua said.
Pua also had goiter. And the first patient she helped when she became a Tzu Chi volunteer also suffered from the same condition. Pua was beside that patient from the beginning until after her surgery so she was very familiar with the procedure. “I brought a bag of blood for her at midnight and the surgery was successful so don’t worry, you will be fine,” she assured Lenny.
On June 5, Dr. Cu, who waived his professional fee, operated on Lenny.
In a blink of an eye, the mass that burdened Lenny for years had been removed.
“When she gave birth to our fourth child, her thyroid tumors grew bigger. I have witnessed how she suffered. I was very worried but I didn’t know how to help her since we don’t have the money to bring her to a specialist,” recalled Rogelio, a carpenter.
Fortunately, Brother Ben discovered Lenny’s plight and took action.
“I was surprised that someone would help us and relieve my wife of her illness,” Rogelio happily added.
Lenny, a Catholic, echoed this. “Although we came from different religions, he did not hesitate to help me,” she said.
A few days after her surgery, Lenny and her family extended their gratitude to Brother Ben through an online video conference.
Once fully recovered, Lenny plans to look for a job so she can help with the family expenses. She and Rogelio have six children to raise but her condition had kept employers from hiring her.
In addition, Lenny is looking forward to giving back. “I will start donating so that I can also help other poor patients. I will never forget that complete strangers have given me a second life.”
With that in mind, she vowed not to let a single moment go to waste.