‘Gift of Life’


REGALO urges Filinos to donate organs

By Lyka Mae P. Chiang

Most patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) need to undergo kidney transplantation in order to improve their quality of life and prolong survival. However, not many people are given the chance for a transplant due to an inadequate number of donors. During the launch of the ‘Handbook of Organ and Donor Recipient’ at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Dr. Romina Danguilan, head of the organizing committee of the REGALO Organ Donation Advocacy, said that one Filipino dies from kidney failure every hour.

REGALO stands for Renal Gift Allowing Life for Others—an organ donation advocacy

“In 2015, there were more than 18,000 new patients who started dialysis. Here at NKTI, we start about 100 new patients on dialysis every month,” she reported.

Although dialysis is said to be life-extending for ESRD patients, it is considered only as a “bridge” because transplantation is still the best option for such patients.

Medical assistance program

Department of Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial also reiterated the importance of organ transplantation and organ donation. She also reminded everyone that the DOH has a medical assistance program (MAP) to help the poor get access to tertiary care and high technology surgeries.

“’Yan po ang ninanais ng ating pangulo, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, na hindi po magiging dahilan ang kahirapan para hindi po mabigyan ng karapatang serbisyong medical o health service ang ating mga kababayan (That is what the President wants, that poverty should not be a reason why our countrymen cannot avail of necessary medical or health services),” Sec. Ubial said.

REGALO aims to increase awareness on kidney transplantation and encourage more Filipinos to give the gift of life and sign up as organ donors.

Dr. Danguilan also explained that only 495 out of 18,000 patients are receiving a kidney transplant, a portion too small considering that transplantation must be a priority. This is why she is asking the public to help out in this advocacy, by indicating it at the back of their driver’s licence.

“Carry an organ donor card, so that if anything happens to you, doctors will know that you wish to donate your organs. Please give the gift of life and help us give a new life to our patients with kidney disease,” appealed Dr. Danguilan.

NKTI released two handbooks: Gabay Para sa (Guide for) Kidney Donors and Gabay Para sa (Guide for) Transplant Patients, both of which promote the importance of organ donation and kidney transplantation.

The Gabay Para sa Kidney Donors provides basic information about kidney and kidney donation, its benefits, procedures, and the possible effects it might cause the donor;

While the Gabay Para sa Transplant Patients contains information on kidney diseases and transplantation—what and what not to do before and after the procedure, and the financial assistance they can avail for the surgery.

Life-long commitment

During the launch, Gabrielle Anne Gabaton, a transplant recipient, made a testimony with her father, Jumel Gabaton. At the age of 19, Gabrielle was diagnosed with ESRD. She was a Latin honor candidate student at the time with a double major in Management Engineering and Economics at Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU).

On her initial evaulation, they found out that 91 percent of both her kidneys weren’t functioning anymore, that’s why she underwent dialysis and took various oral medications treatment. She was confined at NKTI for 5 months.

“Basically, my academic life was a series of catching up missed lessons, chasing deadlines, and arranging consultations with my professors. If I weren’t in school, I would be at NKTI having laboratory tests and ultrasounds, as necessary workups for the transplant,” Gabrielle said.

Gift of Life 2 - Copy

Aside from the exhausting routine, Gabrielle’s family had also been financially challenged due to the expenses required for her medical needs.

“We were financially drained after a few weeks, so I availed of every government financial support there was,” Jumel disclosed. He added that they even started a GoFundMe account for Gabrielle to raise funds for her operation.

After receiving help from different institutions and individuals, they were able to save enough for a down payment. But then, they still needed one thing—an organ donor.

Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult for their family to look for a donor. Jumel, Gabrielle’s father, is a healthy man who didn’t smoke and drank rarely, and it turned out that they were a match.

On February 10, 2017, Gabrielle finally went through the operation and received one of her father’s kidneys.

Gabrielle is doing well nowadays. She left a reminder that “it wasn’t the end of a kidney journey but rather the beginning of a life-long commitment to care for the kidney through a healthier lifestyle, religious intake of medicines, and regular checkups.”

For Jumel, having served as an instrument to give her daughter a chance for a long and meaningful life maked him jubilant.

“Being a donor and knowing that someone’s life is made better give me a sense of pride and purpose,” he said.

REGALO was founded by the Maria Corazon Torres Y. Javier Foundation, Kidney Foundation of the Philippines, and Kidney Transplant Association of the Philippines in partnership with Novartis Healthcare Philippines.