PAL Foundation

New heart, new lease on life for this kid from Palawan

By Pinky Mag-iba Balagtas

A three-year old boy is usually tireless and energetic. But not Reniel - a thin and frail kid from Palawan.

He was told to refrain from playing ball games after doctors diagnosed him with a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. It happens when a baby’s heart does not form correctly as the baby grows and develops in the mother’s womb during pregnancy.

His mother, Riza, took the sad news with a heavy heart. She had suspected earlier on that something was wrong with her son. When Reniel turned one, he became very sickly and weak and started suffering from continuous cough and colds. He would have difficulty breathing and his lips would turn blue when he got tired after playing.

“Ang hirap pong tanggapin. Dalawa na lang po kami sa buhay ni Reniel, kapos pa kami sa pera tapos madadagdagan pa na ganitong kabigat na suliranin,” laments Riza, a single mom who supports her son through odd jobs from laundry to vending. Reniel’s father abandoned him before he was born.

But despite the challenges, Reniel remained active and high-spirited. “Hindi ako mamamatay, Mama”, said Reiniel when he overheard the doctors explain his condition to his mother.

Doctors scheduled heart surgery for Reinier at age three, but it could not be done due to lack of funds. The surgery was then rescheduled until Reinier would turn six. For three consecutive years, Reniel did not receive the medical treatment he needed.

In July 2017, Reniel’s fate took a leap. He and his mother were flown from Puerto Princesa to Manila through the help of Philippine Airlines Foundation for Reniel to undergo the much needed and long-overdue heart surgery at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC).

Various non-government organizations including International Care Ministries Foundation and Mabuhay Deseret Foundation pitched in for help, from arranging the sponsored surgery to providing board and lodging. Some volunteers donated blood for Reinier’s surgery, and one even shared his home for Christmas.

In October 2017, Reniel finally went under the knife. The operation was a success and he recovered well. However, later on, he developed a complication called Chylothorax, an injury to the thoracic duct (left of the chest wall) which caused fluids to leak inside his chest, compressing the lungs. It is a serious complication arising from the cardiac surgery, with a poor prognosis unless treated immediately.

The sad news did not dampen Reniel’s spirit. He submitted to another round of medication with a positive mindset.

Doctors ordered a specialized diet to reduce fluid accumulation and ultimately stop the leak. In January 2018, he was readmitted at the PHC for treatment and close monitoring. Two months after, he was tested again, and this time Reniel showed no sign of complications. He was allowed to resume his regular diet.

After eight long months of battle, Reniel was declared free of complications.

Last summer, Reniel and his mom flew back home to Palawan, courtesy of Philippine Airlines. Last June, he went back to school while his mother looks for a new job.

The mother and son are starting a new life filled with hope. They carry with them happy memories of people who gave them overflowing love that healed their broken hearts.

For more inquires on PAL Foundation's Medical Travel Grant, please send an email to palfoundation@pal.com.ph. 

 Reniel and his mother, Riza, paid a courtesy call on PAL President Jaime J. Bautista
at the airline’s headquarters in Pasay City prior flying back to Palawan.