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Damayan boy has new face after four surgeries

Damayan patient Dennis De Leon is shown before the operation (left) and after his fourth surgery. Dennis was born with meningocoele, a condition wherein there is incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord.

MANILA, Philippines - Four-year-old Damayan patient Dennis De Leon had to face ridicule and pitiful stares throughout his young life.

At age three, there were only three words that Dennis knew how to pronounce: papa, mama and kawawa (it’s a pity!).

Dennis’ mother, Myrna, said that Dennis learned how to say “kawawa” because this is the first word that he would hear from people who would see him.

Because of this, Myrna made sure that she will find a way to treat her son’s condition.

Last year, Myrna approached Operation Damayan, the Philippine STAR’s socio-humanitarian arm, to plead her son’s case.

The STAR published Dennis’ story in August 2008.

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Eight months and four surgeries later, Dennis went back to The STAR to show his brand new face.

A disease of poverty

Dennis was born with meningocoele, a condition wherein there is incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord.

In Dennis’ case, the spinal cord failed to close and was left dangerously exposed.

Doctors believe that poor nutrition, lack of vitamins and folic acid intake and genetic and environmental factors play a role in this disease.

Dennis is the youngest of five children of Myrna, a housewife and Carlos, a farmer who earns P80 a day.

They live in a shanty at Barangay Bagong Sikat, San Jose, Nueva Ecija.

Myrna never lost hope that her son’s condition would improve someday.

“I love my son. I don’t think he’s hopeless,” she used to say.

Faced with a P50,000 initial cost of plastic surgery, Myrna approached Operation Damayan and other organizations.

Dennis needed to undergo repeat surgeries because of wound bleeding after the third surgery.

According to doctors of the Philippine General Hospital, Dennis’ case is the best result that plastic surgery has to offer.

“I sincerely thank all my donors for helping us. Without their donations, I really don’t know where I could find the money for Dennis,” Myrna related.

Help for therapy

Although Myrna is grateful that the surgical part of Dennis’ treatment has already been completed, doctors say that he still needs to undergo physical therapy, speech therapy and special education so that he can become productive to society.

At present, Dennis’ legs are still weak and he can’t control his urination and defecation so he uses diapers.

He also has problems swallowing. With physical therapy, Dennis might be able to walk again, Myrna said.

“Right now, we only have P2,000 left in the bank,” says Myrna. “We used up all our donations for laboratory costs and several other operations.”

“My only wish is for Dennis to be able to walk again. Any little help you can offer Dennis will go a long way,” Myrna pleaded.

Each physical therapy session costs P300, and should be done thrice a week. This would amount to P3,600 a month.

Dennis also needs P1,300 a month for maintenance medicine. All in all, Dennis’ medical needs amount to roughly P5,000 a month or P60,000 a year.

For those who would like to help Dennis, donations may be sent to: Operation Damayan Philippine STAR; MetroBank Port Area Branch; Account number 15130-4161-6229; Swift Code MBT CPH MM.

Kindly contact The STAR at telephone number 527-7777 to confirm donations. 

The STAR would also like to thank all of Dennis’ past donors including Sidney Snoeck, Cong. Joseph Violago, Mayor Alex Belena, Pastor Ely, Mrs. Lariosa, Mila Whiting and other anonymous donors.

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