November 16, 2007
Another DAUSA protégé, 9-year old Keith Casas Montesuso of Suba, Danao City, finally arrived Los Angeles on Friday, November 9, 2007, after over a year of waiting for a life saving and urgently needed open heart surgery.
On the last day of the DAUSA Medical Mission on September 2006, a father pushing a stroller carrying a frail and bluish 8-year old boy showed up at Danao District Hospital asking to see a DAUSA doctor. He was referred to Dr. Anita Cal-Jackson, Chief of Medical Mission.
Mr. Archie Montesuso showed to Dr. Jackons his son’s medical records indicating congenital heart defects known as pentalogy of fallot, as diagnosed by a pediatric cardiologist from Perpetual Succor Hospital in Cebu City.
(Keith (center) with host family in Los Angeles)
According to the boy’s dad, Keith was in and out of hospital due to heart failure caused by exertion or infection. He also said that the cardiologist at Perpetual Succor Hospital, had explained to him it would cost over a million peso for the hospital to perform the very delicate procedure.
Being unemployed at the time, it was impossible for Keith’s parents to come up with that amount. Their only hope was DAUSA, the father said.
November 10, 2007
By: PHIL STRICKLAND – For The Californian
(DAUSA Editor’s Note: Merylou underwent a 12-hr surgery on Thursday, November 10, 2007, at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles involving 9 medical-surgical specialists led by a prominent plastic surgeon, Dr. Mark Urata. She is still confined at the hospital. Monching)
What you first notice is that where there ought to be a child’s smile is instead a freakish card dealt her at birth. Between Merylou’s eyes, brow to chin, is a deep opening that is her mouth, cleft palate and all.
It’s not easy to look at, which accounts for the ever present, rarely removed, white surgical mask that hides from the world the 12-year-old Filipina’s affliction.
The surgery necessary to even begin to make some difference in her appearance is nonexistent in the Philippines. And, even if it were, Merylou’s family —- her mother sells food in the streets of their squalid slum and her father paints when there is work —- couldn’t begin to afford it.
A turning point in Merylou’s life came more than nine years ago when her mother Merilyn took her to a clinic in Danao near the one-room shack where she lives with her mother, father Rosendo, an older brother and a younger sister.
It was there that Merylou Barriga and the members of the medical mission team from Danao Association USA, a nonprofit organization composed of Filipinos who have emigrated to the U.S., first came together.
Among the Filipino immigrants in America volunteering their time for the mission that September in 1998 were Dr. Anita Jackson, a Temecula physician who is Merylou’s primary doctor in this country and was chief of the medical mission, and Ramon Barriga, a state-employed legal secretary who is no relation and lives in Winnetka, and was then president of DAUSA.
Jackson and her fellow volunteers immediately set about trying to find help for Merylou.
It proved to be a daunting task, said the Temecula doctor.
Treatment was sought in Japan and South Korea, but “for one reason or another, it just wasn’t available,” Jackson said.
“At long last,” she said, what began that day now will play out in a series of major craniofacial reconstructive surgeries to be performed on Merylou at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles thanks to the determination of DAUSA members, assistance from the International Craniofacial Children’s Fund at the hospital and Mending Kids International, and the generosity of others from whom help was sought.