March 2, 2024

For the Abratique family of Baguio City, the saying “Miracles do happen,” at this modern time even, proved to be true when they were confronted with the biggest challenge in their lives after the only granddaughter in the family was diagnosed with biliary atresia, an ailment that required her to undergo liver transplant.
They needed to raise P5 million to save her life.
Aleiah Xuzianne Abratique was born on Nov. 21, 2014. Her grandparents, Atty. Zosimo and Marlin, and parents Lakan Maginoo and Marielle, observed she was not in the pink of health during her first few months. She was sickly, yellowish, and her tummy was getting bigger.
When they brought her for consultation, Aleiah was diagnosed to be suffering from biliary atresia and was recommended for liver transplant, even after they sought for second opinions.
She underwent temporary and immediate remedy procedure at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center and one of her attending physicians then is Dr. Judy Lyn Vitug, who advised the family to bring Aleiah to Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India, since they cannot afford the more expensive procedure in another country.
They had to raise the amount in a short time as the transplant needed to take place to save Aleiah.
“We did not have that much amount. But then we believed that it takes a village to raise a child. So we started all sorts of fundraising activities, name it we had it – concert and sale for-a-cause, small bar gigs, and so on and so forth. We got help from friends, relatives, colleagues, strangers, and even scammers who attempted to take advantage of our vulnerability that time. But we didn’t lose hope. The words ‘let go’ never entered our mind,” Marlin shared during the launching of BGHMC liver center collaboration with Apollo Hospital and first regional liver support lay fora on Dec. 13.
Vitug, a pediatric gastroenterologist at BGHMC and head of the Pediatric Liver Program, suggested to the family to explore the possibility of going to India where she had training on liver transplant procedures.
An initial amount of P600 contributed by a group of health workers from their humble allowance started it all. And the rest as they say is history.
The family of five flew to India on Nov. 24, 2016 and on Dec. 6, 2016, Aleiah underwent liver transplant, with her father Lakan, as her donor.
“We prayed hard, we toured every church. And then my son told me miracles still do happen in modern times. Aleiah is still with us. She is now a bubbly eight year-old girl,” Marlin said.
Zosimo shared they were worried about the procedure then since Aleiah would be the first from the Philippines to undergo it, but they took the risk after learning the hospital’s success rate in liver transplant.
But being in a foreign land without knowing anybody there made them initially uncertain. When they arrived in India, the first thing they asked was if there was any Filipino doctor, nurse, or member of the medical staff in the hospital.
“Because we were outside our comfort zone. We were in a foreign land, we were alone there. But throughout the process we thanked God that we gained friends who were patients as well from other countries. And from the hospital administrators to the support team who frequently visited Aleiah, we didn’t feel alone and feel we belonged in Apollo,” Marlin said as they prayed hard and grateful that many people prayed with for their granddaughter’s successful operation.
Zosimo said the operation was life-changing for them because while they asked why such thing happened to them of all people des- pite being active in church, they realized it would seem their family is being used as an instrument to show and encourage families of other biliary atresia patients that there is hope.
But the struggle did not stop there since after care monitoring is equally important and so religiously, they make sure to follow every detail and instruction, as the process has to be done even while growing up.
Aleiah is now taking the lowest dose of immunosuppressant or anti-rejection medication, which she has to take for life.
“We are thankful to the doctors and everyone who helped and are still helping us. No one really fights alone. We are all superheroes, from the medical team, donors, parents, and everyone else, this is our fight,” Marlin said.
Unfortunately, there are families of patients who give up the battle, and it is their hope that with the planned establishment of a liver center in BGHMC that would make liver transplant and services accessible in Baguio soon, the patients and their families would not give up and continue to care for and support their ailing family member until and after they win the fight with liver ailments. – Hanna C. Lacsamana

SUCCESSFUL LIVER TRANSPLANT — The Abratique family of Baguio shares their journey  of fighting for the survival of then two-year old Aleiah Xuzienne Abratique who was diagnosed with biliary atresia, one of the most common indications of liver disease among children. The child underwent liver transplant and became the first Filipino to have successful surgery at Apollo Hospital in India with help of friends, colleagues, and even strangers by doing all kinds of fund-raising possible to raise the cost of the procedure. — Hanna Lacsamana