Reniel started his life at a disadvantage. Abandoned by his father, Reniel is being raised by his mother Riza who earned income doing odd jobs. Amidst poverty and rejection, he was a healthy and happy baby, and Riza was excited to see her boy grow.
However, when he turned one, Reniel began to grow sickly and weak. He suffered from recurring coughs and colds despite constant medication. At age three, things turned grim for Reniel. A doctor told his mother that he had a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot and that he would not live long.
Riza was devastated. But Reniel, despite his weak and failing body, showed a strong and positive spirit. He overheard the doctor and declared “I will not die!” fully convinced that he would triumph and live long.
Without the needed surgery and treatment, Reniel’s brave words were futile, and Riza knew that. She was crushed even more knowing her little income from doing odd jobs would never suffice for his surgery and treatment. Her son needed help urgently, but she had no idea where the help will come from.
Through a routine visit by the ICM education team, Reniel’s brave declaration began to take form. During the visit, he was enrolled in an ICM kindergarten and was even spotted answering an exercise in mathematics despite his weak condition. ICM learned about the defect in his heart and initiated efforts to summon help and resources to rescue Reniel from imminent death.
Responses were overwhelming. National flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) flew mother and son to Manila to connect with specialists in the Philippine Heart Center (PHC). For their accommodations in Manila, ICM partnered with the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. Diagnosis, laboratory tests and surgery were done by specialists from the PHC. Expenses were covered by subsidies from government health insurer PhilHealth and by PHC’s charity program.
Amidst the flow of resources, the journey to full recovery was hard and sometimes lonely, especially for Riza. Relatives had limited time to lend comfort and moral support. Riza was hopeful that they would be home in Palawan by Christmas, but complications arose that required another treatment. Last January, doctors found a leak in his lungs, and his lungs had to be drained through another surgery. “The readmission to the hospital scared me, but I had to remain strong for Reniel,” said Riza.
Through the long journey, the ICM Manila staff made sure she and Reniel had others to count on. Lending their own personal time and resources, the staff stepped in to become their new family. The staff took turns visiting, encouraging and providing moral support. Some staff donated blood for his surgery, and one staff member even shared his home for Christmas.
After eight months of a long and arduous battle, Reniel finally triumphed. He and his mother Riza look forward to resuming life back in Palawan. Riza has made arrangements for Reniel to join first grade in a local public school. He is excited to be back in school. “He loves to draw and is into art,” said Riza.
And as Reniel’s newfound friends at Philippine Airlines fly him and his mother Riza back home, he will resume his life, no longer disadvantaged. The tremendous help and support he received will form many unforgettable memories that will make his already brave and positive spirit a source of hope and inspiration for others.