A Story of Hope By: Maria Rheana A. Caparoso EGT-1, Sabang Bao Elementary School

January 5, 2016

“No man must despair, for as long as he breathes. While there is life, there is hope.” This adage holds true for Jay-an Arabis and her family. Born on November 17, 2003 in Brgy. Sabang Bao, Ormoc City to Arsenia Gian and Bienvenido Arabis, Jay-an is the third child in a brood of four. Her mother is a house wife while her father is a farmer who also does carpentry jobs in between. The family is hardly able to make ends meet as they live with meager resources.
When Jay-an was born, her parents were ecstatic because she was a healthy baby, or so they thought. Until four days later when she started having high fever which would result to convulsions. She wasn’t brought to a doctor for a check-up right away because they had no money to pay for it. Which was the reason why her mother opted to give birth at home with only a traditional midwife to cater to her delivery. It wasn’t until two weeks after that she was brought to the doctor because her convulsions were becoming persistent. The parents were adamant to know her condition because they couldn’t understand why a healthy looking baby would have convulsions like their daughter was having.
It was during that visit to the doctor that they found out the truth behind Jay-an’s constant fever and convulsion attacks. They were told that Jay-an had a congenital defect known as Imperforate Anus or improperly developed anus, a medical condition that affects one in 5,000 babies wherein the rectum, bladder and vagina typically share one large opening. Stool is not properly excreted out of the body and if it is not given immediate attention could lead to more complicated problems. Which explains Jay-an’s high fever and convulsions.
It had been hard for the parents to accept the reality they had just heard from the doctor who looked into Jay-an’s condition. The family was already experiencing hard times and the condition of their newborn was but an added blow to their present hardship. It was recommended by the doctor that Jay-an undergo temporary colostomy. The doctor will create a small opening in the baby’s abdomen and attach a colostomy bag. And so when Jay-an turned two months old, she underwent temporary colostomy.
Jay-an’s parents were aware that it was indeed a temporary solution to their daughter’s condition as Jay-an still would eventually need to be operated on.
Given her medical condition, Jay-an attended regular school. But she would often make absences because she gets sick easily and is often tired. As her mother would put it, Jay-an can hardly cope up with the lessons and couldn’t concentrate well. She recalled incidents where her daughter would get bullied in school because she has a colostomy bag attached to her body. Her colostomy bag is an improvised one with a piece of cloth and a plastic roll bag that has to be changed as soon as it is soiled. Her mother, Arsenia would stay within the school premises for when Jay-an needs to have her colostomy bag cleaned. She has to check on Jay-an every now and then to see if she has passed stool and clean her up.
Her condition didn’t fan down the little girl’s spirit. Jay-an continued to attend school with her mother’s support. Albeit a little withdrawn and shy than most kids, Jay-an managed to live a normal life.
Jay-an’s parents were worried as she was growing up because they knew that they have to find ways and means to finance the operation that she has yet again to undergo the soonest possible time. They went to ask for help from different LGU and NGO organizations but they weren’t able to find one that would commit to help them in the operation which was estimated at over ₱100,000.00 in cost. Still, they did not lose hope and prayed that one day God would send them an angel and help them with their current situation.
It seemed that their prayer was heard at just the right time. In June 2014, ABS-CBN Network went to Sabang Bao Elementary School to distribute school supplies to the pupils. It was then that, Ms. Trinidad Caberos, Jay-an’s teacher, approached the staff after the distribution and inquired about the network’s foundation. She went on to tell the staff that she has a student with a medical condition that needs to be operated. The staff told Ma’am Tinie that they won’t promise as they still have to call the foundation and relay her request for help. But their response was rather quick because fortunately the following day, Jay-an was brought to Ormoc District Hospital for a medical check-up together with her parents. And since there was no doctor specializing on Jay-an’s condition, they were referred to Tacloban Medical Center to see Dr. Florentino Merin. The foundation, represented by Mr. Freddie Dugay, kept constant communication with Ms. Caberos during the entire course of Jay-an’s treatment. It was Ms. Caberos who assisted the parents all throughout.
The following week they went to see Dr. Merin who explained that after Jay-an undergoes thorough physical examination, X-ray, ultrasound and laboratory work ups she will undergo two operations. The first one will be a procedure to create an opening for Jay-an’s anus. The second one, which will be done 7 months to a year later after Jay-an’s first operation, will involve redirecting her rectum to her anus. All in all, both procedure’s estimated cost was at ₱140,000.00 excluding medication, laboratory and hospital fees. ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, spearheaded by then chairman, Ms. Korina Sanchez-Roxas promised to shoulder all these. Expenses for Jay-an’s regular check-ups and travel expenses were also covered by the foundation.
On August 4, 2104 Jay-an underwent her first operation. It was a success. She had check-ups during the first five months and monthly visits to the doctor thereafter until she was fully ready for the second procedure.
Ms. Korina Sanchez-Roxas came to visit Jay-an and her family in November 2014. As fate would have it. Jay-an finally met the people who helped her with her condition. In addition to their help for Jay-an’s treatment, her family was also given livelihood assistance by the foundation. During their visit, they brought uniform, shoes and school supplies for Jay-an. The foundation also gave rice and some grocery items to Jay-an’s family. And to top it all, the foundation bought a carabao for Bienvenido, Jay-an’s father which was a big help to him in his farming. Ms. Korina named the carabao ‘Sarah’ after Sarah Geronimo who is Jay-an’s favorite singer. This delighted the family especially Jay-an all the more.
In August 4, 2015, exactly a year after her first operation, Jay-an underwent the second operation. This is to redirect her rectum to her anus and close the stoma on her abdomen which had been her excretory orifice since she was a baby. After both operations, Jay-an could now lead a normal life without the burden of her colostomy bag which had been with her for the past 12 years.
Now, four months after Jay-an is a mirror of high-spirit. She has returned to school three weeks after the procedure. She is now a healthy Grade 5 pupil who displays so much enthusiasm and zeal for life. “Thank you”, was her short response when asked what she’d like to tell the people who helped her in her road to recovery. For a child so grateful and overwhelmed with all the help she got, we believe there is no sweeter way to put it. She flashes her genuine smile as she says those words, and we know she meant it in the deepest recesses of her heart.
Indeed, we must never despair while we still breathe. While there is life, there is hope. Humanity, after all, is still alive. The world has not lost it.