Cyprus Mail

Desperate fight to save baby Zoe

By Bejay Browne

THE distraught parents of a seven day old baby have less than two weeks to raise around 15,000 euros needed to pay for a life-saving operation, otherwise she will die.

The baby girl is in a critical condition with a serious heart defect at Nicosia Makarios hospital, and doctors say her condition could deteriorate at any time.

The government medical services provide treatment free of charge or at a reduced rate for a significant proportion of the population but a medical card is needed to be eligible.

Pic 1 for lead story, Zoe's parentsFirst time parents, 31-year-old former student John Dhull from India and Virginia Taguinay, 32, from the Philippines, are not able to obtain a medical card as their visas have expired.

“We were preparing to leave Cyprus to go back to the Philippines, but I discovered that I was pregnant, we were overjoyed and decided to stay here until I had the baby and then return home afterwards,” Virginia explained:

The new mother says that the couple could have managed to pay the 800 euros that Paphos general hospital said it would cost to deliver the baby naturally, but Virginia had to have a caesarean delivery due to the position of the baby.

Zoe was born at the hospital on June 25 and weighed a healthy three kilos. According to her parents, they had no idea their baby had any health issues until two days after she was born.

They were informed that she had severe breathing complications caused by a heart defect.

The baby was then rushed by ambulance to the Makarios hospital in Nicosia.

The hospital’s paediatric cardiologist, Dr Andreas Rousounides, who is treating Zoe said: “The baby’s pulmonary valve is almost completely closed which means she is now receiving medication to open another artery which is usually closed. This is keeping her alive at present, but this only works for a short period of time and her condition could deteriorate at any time.”

According to Rousounides, children suffering with this condition are usually transported by air ambulance to Israel for a life-saving operation, which will cost around 20,000 euros. It is not possible to carry out the operation in Cyprus as a special unit is needed.

“The procedure will see a balloon placed inside to open the area and the child will be able to lead a normal life,” he said.

In this case, the doctor said that a similar operation in Greece could be carried more cheaply, around 10,000 to 15,000 euros.

“The parents are not insured and I contacted the ministry of health, who are not willing to pay, the couple will have to communicate with their embassy to ask for help,” he said.

The desperate new mother says the ministry of health informed her that because the couple don’t have valid visas, she is not entitled to a medical card and neither is the baby.

Members of the PASYKAF charity, the Association of Cancer Patients and Friends contacted the Cyprus Mail in desperation. The baby’s father has helped out as a volunteer at the charity’s shop, every weekend for the last two years.

“Everything has been such a huge shock and now we have to somehow find thousands,” said Virginia.

The parents say they have no option but to appeal to the general public to help raise the cash needed to ensure that Zoe is at least given the chance of survival.

“It’s heartbreaking and we are very sad. I had no idea that there were any problems with Zoe. I went for regular check ups and we weren’t expecting any bad news. As far as we knew our baby was healthy and we don’t know how or why this has happened,” she said.

Meanwhile, Paphos general hospital has informed the pair a total bill for Virginia’s caesarean of around 2,000 euros, will be presented to them in a couple of weeks.

Virginia says she is still being closely monitored by her doctors as the shock of her child’s life hanging in the balance has caused her blood pressure to soar.

The couple is due to visit the Philippines Consulate in Nicosia today to plead for help.

“They are processing Zoe’s documents so she can travel to Greece for her operation. We will ask them if they will give us any financial assistance as well,” she said.

The couple will also have to find funds to cover the baby’s stay and treatment at Makarios hospital.

“We are hoping that we will be given permission to stay in Cyprus for a year to enable us to get Zoe the treatment she needs. Then we will go back to the Philippines, which was our original plan,” she said.

The new mother is also travelling to Nicosia today to hold her baby for the first time since she was transferred.

She said yesterday: “I haven’t been able to travel because of my caesarean, I’m so happy that we will be able to spend the entire day with her tomorrow.”

To donate funds to help baby Zoe get the life saving operation she needs search for Zoe Dhull on facebook.

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