DAVAO CITY – For this family, the string of misfortunes had stretched back even to the months before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic broke out.
In 2019, the eldest son of Lerma Decena and Dexter Vinarao, Joshua, died.
And as they were trying to cope with Joshua’s passing, they also learned that their youngest son, Lexter, was suffering from a congenital ailment – an imperforated anus with rectovesical fistula and stoma prolapse.
“Wala pong butas yung puwet niya. Ang sabi po sa amin ng doctor, sa 5,000 na pinapanganak na bata, may isa daw pong ganito (His posterior did not have a hole. And the doctor told us that for every 5,000 infants that are born, only one ends up like Lexter),” said Lerma.
Doctors have had to make an opening, or stoma, on Lexter’s side so that his wastes could be collected using a colonoscopy bag.
And then the pandemic struck early this year, which all but made treatments for Lexter all the more difficult.
Worse, due to some foul-ups in the three operations Lexter had to undergo, the family had to further endure, requiring a total of six operations on the young boy.
“Dapat sana tatlong operasyon lang ang gagawin sa kanya subalit dahil sa failure na opera niya ay umabot ng anim. Halos mag-dalawang taon po siyang ganito (He was supposed to have only three operations, however due to a failure in operation he underwent six operations. He had been like this for almost two years),” he said.
Of course, the bills have also piled up for the young family.
And on a rainy Tuesday afternoon last September 15, Vinarao, who works as a computer technician, could be seen by the roadside of a private hospital in this city, selling stuffed toys to passers-by and visitors of the medical facility.
He has even gone live on Facebook just to sell the toys and augment his income so that they could finance Lexter’s treatment.
“Nagbenta po ako ng pony para pandagdag po namin sa pampahospital ni baby ko kasi lumalaki na po bill namin sa hospital at halos araw-araw po kami kami hinihingian ng initial payment para po maipagpatuloy ang mga gamot ng anak ko,” Vinarao told The Manila Bulletin.
Going live on Facebook and selling stuffed toys was just one of the ways Vinarao had undertaken to raise funds for the medication of Lexter.
And now, as the family looks forward to Lexter’s second birthday this October, Vinarao has proudly shared that his son is already out of danger.
Going on social media helped so much in gathering enough funds to pay for Lexter’s medical needs, according to Dexter.
“Kung hindi sa mga ibang tao na tumutulong sa amin, malabo po na mapaoperahan namin si Lexter hanggang sa anim na operasyon niya (If not for the persons who help us, we will not be able to pay for Lexter’s six operations),” he said.
But even amidst that feeling of finally getting Lexter over the hump, Dexter couldn’t but remember the tribulations the family had to go through, starting with the passing of Joshua.
“Kaya ganito kami ka-desperado na gawin ang lahat para sa anak namin na bunso (That is why we were this desperate to do all we can for our youngest son),” Dexter said, as he swore that he would not be a father who grieve and bury a second son.
But all that’s behind them now.
Vinarao said the stuffed toys he sold at the sidewalk near the private hospital came from the Filipino American Worldwide Cares Foundation.
He said they took pre-orders of the stuffed toys and shipped them to buyers. The profit he earned from the stuffed toy was used to buy Lexter’s supplies, including diapers.
Some netizens also donated cash. He described the netizens who helped them as “good Samaritans.”
“Mga good Samaritan po na nakilala lang namin sa Facebook (netizen) lalo na ang founder ng foundation na Filipino American Worldwide Care na siyang nagpupursige sakin na lumaban. Si Dr. Cristina McDaniel po (We got to know these good samaritans on Facebook especially the founder of the Filipino American Worldwide Care, Dr. McDaniel, who encouraged us to fight),” he said.
Baby Lexter was discharged from the hospital last September 23, with his parents looking forward to celebrating his second birthday, and a chance at a normal life.