Angel found herself alone in the world after her mother died in childbirth and her father felt unable to support her. It wasn’t just the thought of caring for an infant that overwhelmed Angel’s birth father, it was the fact that Angel was born with a blocked (imperforate) opening to her anus that would require costly medical treatment and three surgeries. Angel’s birth father asked another family to foster his infant child. Despite having four children of their own, the family readily agreed to take Angel in.
Angel’s foster family live in ultrapoverty, meaning their income is less than US$0.50 a day. The family’s survival is dependant on Angel’s foster father’s income as a temporary farm laborer. All seven live in a small shack made of scrap material. Despite their grim circumstances, they looked at the arrival of baby Angel as a blessing, not another unfortunate expense.
The first step to healing Angel was installing a colostomy bag to collect feces in a changeable bag outside the body. The colostomy bag saved Angel’s life, but also increased the risk of infection and created a huge financial burden. It clearly was not a long-term solution. Although it was costly, Angel’s foster family paid for the surgery and the medical supplies needed to maintain the colostomy bag and its care. The daily challenges of caring for Angel meant that only her foster father was able to work, reducing their family’s income by half.
The second step, completed several months later, was fixing the cause of the obstructed bowels. Thankfully, with the expenses were covered by global funding platform Watsi, this second procedure created an opening in the anus to allow stool to pass through.
The third and final step of the process – closure of the colostomy, was funded by ICM’s Medical Mercy Fund. The successful surgery, completed on August 19, 2015, permanently removed Angel’s discomfort and dramatically improved her quality of life. The surgery also removed the large financial burden of buying medical supplies regularly and the daily difficulty of caring for Angel.
Angel’s foster parents are incredibly grateful for the financial support they’ve received and continue to care for Angel and her siblings. Angel celebrated her second birthday on September 10, 2015 with her forever family and has a lifetime of health to look forward to.
In the lives of many that live on subsistent level, one medical crisis can wipe out any progress made in the fight out of poverty. ICM works with families to help them remove as many barriers to quality health care as possible. In 2014-15, ICM assisted 61 patients with surgical needs and 1,892 patients with non-surgical needs.
By Jennefer Lubiano, ICM Medical Care Coordinatior, Bohol