By Bejay Browne
THE minister of health has stepped in to save the life of an eight-day-old baby girl who is in a critical condition with a serious heart defect at the Makarios hospital in Nicosia.
Her distraught first-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, which would cover medical expenses, as their visas have expired. They were given less than two weeks to raise around €15,000 needed to pay for a life-saving operation.
Following a report in Tuesday’s Cyprus Mail outlining the baby’s plight Minister Petros Petrides has now said the state will foot the bill for baby Zoe to be transported to Israel by air ambulance and to undergo a life saving operation, which will be performed by a specialist team. It is not possible to carry out the operation in Cyprus as a specialist unit is needed.
“The minister said that we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to save this newborn’s life. The ministry of health is very sensitive in these situations and we hope to have a happy end to this story,” ministry of health spokesman Demitris Constantinou said.
Zoe was born at Paphos general hospital on June 25 and weighed a healthy three kilos. Her parents 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 yesterday: “today the minister of health signed all of the papers to enable Zoe to travel to Israel for the operation which she needs. I will be able to keep the baby stable until then – she should be leaving any time between now and Sunday, once all of the paper work is sorted out.”
He continued: “I am very happy about this outcome and in my opinion the baby has a good chance of survival now. It is better that she is going to Israel to have the operation than Greece, as they are better experienced. It will cost around €20,000.”
The baby’s pulmonary valve is almost completely closed and she is being kept alive by medication at present, but this only works for a short period of time and her condition could deteriorate at any time.
The procedure will see a balloon placed inside to open the area and Rousounides said the child will be able to lead a normal life.
But, there is an added problem, as both of the parents visas have expired they may not be able to enter Israel or be permitted to return to Cyprus once they leave.
Constantinou said: “The parents have some difficulties to overcome. As I understand it, if the father accompanies the child to Israel he will not be able to come back to Cyprus. There may be a possibility that a relative will travel with her.”
He noted: “The main concern and the most urgent is that the baby will be able to travel and that is being sorted out.”
Zoe’s parents had appealed to the public in a desperate bid to raise funds to save their daughter’s life; they say they will hand over any money which is raised to the ministry of health.
“We cannot thank the minister enough for his help and we pray that everything will be ok. We have been with Zoe today and she is holding her own,” Virginia said yesterday.
They are hoping that they may be granted special permission to stay in Cyprus for a short period of time until Zoe is out of danger.
The couple had planned on leaving Cyprus for the Philippines but once they found out Virginia was pregnant they decided to stay until after the baby was born.
They said: “She may require further treatment and we are in a very difficult position.”
See related story: Desperate fight to save baby Zoe