Little girl with hole in heart gets care from Yamang Bukid

Published: July 11, 2019 03:29pm | Metro Manila


From their hometown in Mabinay, a farming town in Negros Oriental, the family of Joanna Balansag flew her to Quezon City for the routine tests at a hospital. But her examinations are not the usual types where one can go home hours after being under the glare of the doctor’s instruments. At five years old, the frail body of Joanna, a timid little girl with languid eyes that would have used to be sparkling, has been under stressful laboratory exams that must be unsettling to her due to the presence of strangers and menacing syringes and other hospital contraptions.

“I feel pity of her because she’s so young to endure all this,” Junrel Balansag, a 30-year old truck driver, said of his daughter. He was talking in a mix of Cebuano and Tagalog. Balansag and partner Josephine, 33, brought the baby girl to the Quezon City office of turmeric tea manufacturer Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc.

Joanna sheepishly smiled at the strangers—actually Yamang Bukid employees who warmly welcomed her and her family with smiles of their own and “Hello baby!” coos. Inside the firm’s offices, she was more relaxed and at ease, even lounging on a seat in front a desktop computer showing some Youtube videos. “She loves to eat chicken,” a Yamang Bukid employee who has assisted the family said, referring to a popular chicken fast food brand. The Baguio City-based company, known for its charity works as its wellness products shouldered the costs of bringing the girl from her village to her operation and eventual rehabilitation and healing.

Josephine said Joanna, the second of their five children, did not show any signs or symptoms that something was amiss in her. “When she was five, her preschool teacher noticed Joanna ate little, was too weak to enjoy outdoor games with children her age. She looked and moved very frail,” Josephine said. The girl was coughing heavily that they thought she was having a bout of asthma. Then it was decided she undergo laboratory examinations. There, doctors found a disturbing and frightening discovery—the little girl’s heart has a hole.

Josephine said they were shattered upon hearing the doctor’s findings. Their parental instinct put to the test, they scrambled to look for ways to find money to pay for the girl’s medical needs. “We have nothing, We’re just a poor family,” said Junrel. “Where will we find the money?” So they asked around for help. But whatever amount their friends, relatives and neighbors could scrimp were not enough. And the time for the child to go under the knife was ticking fast. The family had to act swiftly.

With the help of some young friends, the family took to Facebook to ask for help. They created an account under Joanna’s name, posting her pictures and pleading for support. Slowly, their cause snowballed and the little girl’s plight became known to more and more people. It reached to the owners and officers of Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. who then arranged to have the family flown to Manila for Joanna’s eventual treatment. The company and its employees shouldered the family’s board and lodging, food and other expenses while staying at the capital. It also assisted in ensuring Joanna would get the necessary tests before she could be operated on.

“I was moved by the little girl’s dire condition,” a company official, who refused to be identified, said while holding back tears. He said he could relate with what the family was going through because he also had the same experience when a child relative of his also had the condition like that of Joanna’s. Company officials vowed to help the little girl so she could endure the operation and ultimately live, just like the child-relative of the firm official. On Wednesday, July 10, Joanna was taken to the Philippine Heart Center for the routine check-up. Accompanying her and her parents were Aileen Baugbog, YBHPI’s human resources assistant and Dianne Kathryn Datu, the company’s communications and social media content creator.

The little girl who is a fan of shows of comedian Willie Revillame, loves to eat colored candies, likes the color pink and always smiles whenever she’s in front of a camera, was to be admitted at the PHC for several days as she undergoes cardiac catheterisation—a procedure in which a hollow tube is inserted into a blood vessel to determine how well her heart is working. That is, however, a long way before her operation to fix her heart could ever begin. “We’re very thankful to Yamang Bukid for helping Joanna. We pray she would get well,” Josephine said.

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