Highly curable in developed nations, childhood leukemia known as acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, is too often a death sentence in developing countries.
In Tegucigalpa Honduras, Hospital Escuela, tackles the issues surrounding this disease on a daily basis. The public hospital suffers from the common problems associated with government-funded hospitals in poor areas: lack of funds to purchase drug treatments, run-down facilities and complex bureaucracies.
Such deficiency creates an ongoing problem not only for dedicated doctors who want the opportunity to help patients recover but also for the impoverished patients themselves.
Nonetheless Hospital Escuela is working wonders with their children’s cancer program.
Supported by donations from organisations such as Krebsallianz and aided by a strong local charity, Niños Con Cancer, they are working hard to cure children who otherwise would be left behind.
Krebsallianz donated the valuable chemotherapy L-asparaginase to treat children suffering from ALL, the donation went to partners in Dominican Republic, Mali and Honduras.
Krebsallianz teamed up with Hospital Escuela in Honduras to provide children with a chance of recovery. Osman Hernandez, Oliver Bustillo, Neichmy Aguilar and Neng Williams are four leukemia patients who are still alive because of this donation.
Osman is a lively and bright seven-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just two.
Erika, a single mother, and Osman lived in a poor barrio of Tegucigalpa. After many doctors and tests, they ended up at Hospital Escuela.
Osman battled his illness bravely and after two years he went into remission.
Osman and his two siblings began to live a normal life again. Osman loves thinking games, video games and playing Bat Man. Tragically, this bright period was short lived.
Less than a year later, Osman’s doctors noticed swelling in his lymph nodes and he was readmitted to Hospital Escuela
The timing was lucky, the donation of L-asparaginase from Krebsallianz had just arrived. This drug, often too expensive for families like Erika’s, helped Osman effectively fight his cancer.
Erika is brave. “I have always dealt with life on my own. I’ll keep going forward with the help of God. I am so thankful for the hospital, doctors and these donations. I can see his progress and I know he can recover. I can’t imagine where we would be without it.”
Oliver Castillo Bustillo
Oliver Bustillo’s family suffer a similar fate to that of Osman’s. A poor family who couldn’t afford the first doctors visit, let alone the medical costs that were to follow.
Oliver’s recovery has not only been strengthened by the donation of chemotherapies from Krebsallianz, but also by his loving neighbour.
Omar knew the family well and was determined to get help for Oliver, he took him to the doctors where he was diagnosed with leukemia. The diagnosis came as a total shock.
How were they to afford the treatment? The only chance of survival that Oliver had was in Tegucigalpa, and with Omar’s incredible help, Maria and her children relocated to be near Oliver as he underwent chemotherapy treatment in Hospital Escuela.
Gradually, Oliver improved, until he finally went into remission. Omar decided to stay – he was afraid to move the family back to their faraway hometown.
Twelve-year-old Oliver is irrepressible – the kind of kid who soaks everything in and wants to understand everything that crosses his path.
Oliver’s battle with leukemia has lasted over four years, his bravery and tolerance with his condition has never faltered. He articulates his medical history accurately, without a hint of self-pity.
Oliver lived in Trojes, a small community near the border with Nicaragua. His mother, Maria, was a single mother with three children.
The family was poor, Maria cleaned houses to earn money but it was never enough to live comfortably. Oliver’s symptoms worsened and Maria didn’t have enough money to take him to the doctors.
And sadly, Omar’s fears were not unfounded. Oliver suffered a relapse.
Maria, unable to afford more doctor’s fees tried alternative remedies. Until one day, Oliver collapsed in pain. It seemed to stem from his liver. It was so excruciating that he couldn’t walk.
Oliver was immediately readmitted to Hospital Escuela and Maria was in luck, the L-asparaginase had just been donated and was readily available for Oliver.
He response was wonderful. His pain retreated and his symptoms began clearing.
His progress was promising but he was not completely out of the woods. Oliver is very informed about his health. He treats the issues that he faces factually – while his ‘Dad’ Omar is more emotional.
Omar is overcome with gratitude for the good fortune that has saved Oliver’s life.
He chokes up when he tries to express his feelings. “I thank God and the foundations that have helped my son through this ordeal. Bless all the people who donate and bring these drugs to our hospital – and may they never have to experience this pain.”
These life-saving medication donations are essential to Hospital Escuela and their efforts to provide children in Honduras with the same opportunity to live as children in other more affluent countries.
The doctors are excellent and caring and the ward has had additional funding for infrastructure, from a local charity, Niños Con Cancer.
What they don’t have is enough chemotherapy medications. The government cannot provide adequate funding and support for consistent and high-quality treatments, so the hospital is forced to rely on nonprofit donations.
Neng Williams – Puerto Lempira
The L-asparaginase Krebsallianz donation is not only too expensive for many poor families, like Osman and Oliver’s but often very hard to come by.
Acquisition is especially difficult for hospitals and doctors with little access to larger cities and towns.
Neng Williams and his mother live in Puerto Lempira located in a remote area known as La Mosquitia or the Mosquito Coast.
If someone falls ill and needs hospital treatment, the travel costs are an extra burden for poorer families.
The vast, tropical maze of coastal swamps and impenetrable rainforests, and even the largest town of 4,000 inhabitants, have no paved roads.
There are no highways that lead out of the region or to the rest of Honduras. Transport out is by a myriad of boats and waterways - or air.
The population is poor and mainly survives on subsistence growing and fishing. That is life for Neng and his mother, Swimer in Puerto Lempira.
Neng began suffering from fevers, his joints and muscles ached terribly. He was misdiagnosed as there are many other illnesses that mimic similar symptoms - and in tropical areas these are indicated first. His condition worsened and Swimer took him back to the doctors.
Swimer is a single mother. With three other children and no help from their father, she relied on her family to help.
Neng’s blood was sent off for further analysis and the diagnosis indicated leukemia (ALL). He seemed to be dying in front of her eyes so the family had to act fast.
The church and the family raised money to fly the two of them to Tegucigalpa to get treatment. Neng was immediately admitted to Hospital Escuela and successfully treated.
He and Swimer happily returned to Puerto Lempira. He returned to school. A very bright boy, he was curious about everything. He was enjoying second grade when, nearly one year later, he began to suffer from familiar and unpleasant symptoms. Again, their church stepped in and as soon as possible they made their way back to Hospital Escuela. Neng was prescribed a more effective and intensive chemotherapy treatment, L-asparaginase. Without the help of his family and the church, Neng would never have reached Hospital Escuela for this valuable treatment. He began to show remarkable signs of improvement. Swimer is serious but optimistic. She explains, “When I first heard about this disease, I was really frightened. But I always saw signs, all over the ward, describing how children could be cured of leukemia. This gave me hope. Now I’ve learned that it is possible. That is why these drug donations are so important. Even though I don’t have one penny, my child can get well. Thank you - your foundation is saving many, many lives.”
Neichmy Martiza Aguilar – Tegucigalpa
This valuable donation of L-asparaginase helped Neichmy’s family in a time of despair.
At eight years old, Neichmy has been leukemia free for the past three years. Her life began to return to normal. She loved school and loved second grade.
Then the awful symptoms started to reappeared. Neichmy was scheduled for testing in Hospital Escuela.
She received the results immediately and was admitted that same day – the doctors wasted no time.
Her mother, Kerlin, is a single mum with a low income. Luckily, she is supported by her large family.
They are very close knit and each one of her siblings and their children constantly pitch in to help.
Neichmy received some of the valuable donation of L-asparaginase, Kerlin and Jose are full of gratitude, all they care about is Neichmy’s health, Jose, her uncle who often visits Neichmy says “The first time when she was sick she felt depressed. When she got well she was so happy. But this time the drugs are working well and she is already getting over her sadness. See how happy she is! And that makes us happy.”