Cyprus Mail

Baby Zoe celebrates first birthday

Zoe Dhull: health ministry stepped in to save her

By Bejay Browne

A BABY GIRL, who underwent a life saving heart operation in Israel last year, celebrated her first birthday on Wednesday.

When the Cyprus Mail covered the baby’s desperate plight on its front page in 2013, the health ministry stepped in and offered to pay the costs of the heart operation.

Zoe Dhull was born at Paphos general hospital on June 25 last year, two days later she experienced severe breathing complications caused by a heart defect which had gone undetected during pregnancy. First-time parents Virginia Taguinay, 32, from the Philippines and John Dhull, 31, had planned to leave Cyprus shortly after their daughter’s birth.

Instead, the baby was rushed to the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia; her parents were given less than two weeks to raise the €15,000 needed to pay for a vital cardiac catheterisation procedure in Israel, as the operation cannot be done in Cyprus. The couple had no private medical insurance and was unable to obtain a state medical card, which would have covered the baby’s medical expenses, as their visas had expired.

After the Mail highlighted the baby’s plight, the health ministry stepped in and offered to pay the costs of the operation. At just three weeks old Zoe underwent the procedure on July 7 at the Schneider Children’s Medical Centre in Israel.

Her mother said: “We are so grateful for Zoe every day and we chose her name because it means ‘life’ in Greek. We will hold a party for her with our friends and Father Carlos and Father Miguel from the St. Paul’s catholic parish at our home this weekend.”

Zoe is now crawling and being taught four languages by her parents, Greek, English, Hindi and Filipino

“She understands a lot but isn’t speaking much yet. She is a very good and happy baby and she is our world.”

Although she is doing well, Zoe may have to undergo a further procedure to keep a valve to her heart open, said Virginia. The one-year-old still has to visit the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia periodically. Her next scheduled visit is in August.

Her parents are still hoping that the ministry of health will grant Zoe a medical card to cover other costs of almost €7,000, which have been incurred due to the baby’s poor health.

These include hospital stays at both Paphos and Makarios, as well as medication which kept the baby alive. The family has no way of covering these costs on their own.

They are living on the poverty line, reliant on help from friends, a local church and Solidarity charity. Despite their difficult living circumstances they said they remain a happy family unit and thankful for the gift of their daughter’s life.

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