53-year-old heart patient needs pacemaker

Dr. Willie T. Ong - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A 53-year old heart patient is seeking the public’s support so she can get a pacemaker that could help her live longer.

Teresita “Tess” Pantaleon, who wrote a letter to the Philippine STAR’s socio-humanitarian arm Operation Damayan, is a charity patient at the Philippine Heart Center.

“My doctor says I need P80,000 for a pacemaker in order to live. I know it is impossible for me to get this money. I have tried my best but I can’t raise the amount,” Tess told The STAR.

“I wrote to Congress and they gave me a referral to PCSO. I got a P15,000 guarantee letter from PCSO, but this has expired already last March 15. I also went to Radio Veritas and was able to raise P4,200 but my cheque has also expired (since I couldn’t raise the other funds). I went to the Rizal Capital and our governor gave me P500. I spent the money to go to the Senate, but I didn’t get any response from our senators,” Tess narrated further.

The patient said she feels she is just waiting for her death, as her old pacemaker expires this year and her chest is always in pain.

The STAR contacted Tess upon receiving her letter and learned that the single parent is suffering from complete heart block, which slows down her heartbeat.

Tess, who works as an extra in a garment factory with a meager salary, lives at 31 Lt. Aguinaldo St., Barangay Kalayaan, Angono, Rizal and takes care of her mother, age 73 and an aunt, age 84.

She has a son and two grandchildren.

Complete heart block

A complete heart block is a severe form of heart rhythm disturbance. The heart is composed of two atriums and two ventricles. The heartbeat starts at the atrium and goes down to stimulate the two ventricles. But in the case of a complete heart block (also called third degree heart block), there is a blockage in the electrical conduction from the atrium to the ventricles.

In Tess’ case, her ventricles are not being stimulated and only beat sporadically at 20 times a minute.

This translates to one heart contraction every three seconds, which is not enough to sustain life.

Complete heart blocks can be due to coronary heart disease, a heart attack, some drugs or a congenital anomaly.

Symptoms usually occur when the heart beats at less than 40 per minute. Patients experience dizziness, weakness and chest pain.

The only treatment for most patients is an artificial pacemaker, a matchbox-sized metal device programmed to stimulate the ventricle and/or atrium of the heart. The battery usually lasts for 10 years.

Pacemaker implantation is a relatively safe procedure performed by cardiologists-electrophysiologists. The cost of a pacemaker ranges from P80,000 to P250,000, depending on the model’s capabilities.

Tess had undergone an emergency pacemaker implantation in 1998 through the kindness of Ramon Cumagon of Heartbeat International.

Last year, Tess’ doctor told her that she needs a new pacemaker within one year.

Ideally, Tess needs the P250,000 pacemaker model but because of poverty, the P80,000 model (which is 30% less effective) will do.

Between heartfelt sobs and tears, Tess said she wants to live longer.

“I still want to see my two grandchildren, I don’t want to die yet,” she said.

Those who would like to help Tess can contact her at 0909-658-3366.

Donations can also be made through Operation Damayan.

The STAR would also like to thank all the people who helped and advised on Tess’ case, especially cardiologists and pacemaker experts Dr. Giselle Gervacio-Domingo of St. Luke’s Medical Center and Dr. Clara Tolentino, fellow-in-training at the PHC.

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