There are people who live simply. They work hard and save as much as they can. They have accumulated their life savings in order to pass it on to their children. But what if sickness steals it all away? #PlsSaveMe
Having a Life Savings
Gia is an only daughter to a Filipino-Chinese couple. They have a small business in Bacolod City. While they were not really well off, they had a comfortable lifestyle. Gia attended a private school and finished with a degree from a prestigious Bacolod university. She went on to become a teacher who is earning quite a lot in terms of salary. Moreover, she had a sideline as a tutor.
As a family, they were also able to build a building with commercial spaces for rent. It became their family business. As a typical Filipino-Chinese household, they also live in that same building.
Her mom took care of the family finances. Gia recalls that ever since her mom was a little girl, Mama Tin saved every bit of penny that she could. She was a wise spender and she also invested in health insurance.
Renal Failure and Dialysis
But things took a different turn when Mama Tin was diagnosed with renal failure. She needed regular dialysis to support her life.
When Gia took over their family finances, her Mama was already undergoing dialysis for three years. It was then she realized that they have already used up most of their life savings for the dialysis and hospitalization. Furthermore, most of their bank accounts have been closed and time deposits were already withdrawn.
Gia laments the fact that people mistake Chinese families in the Philippines as all well off. They think that it’s easier for Chinese families with businesses to deal with expenses related to illnesses.
However, Gia begs to disagree. No one can really be prepared for the financial burden of a kidney disease and the subsequent dialysis required.
They have worked hard, have a business, saved every penny, and avoided luxuries. But these measures were not enough for long-term dialysis.
After Six Years on Dialysis
In 2018, Mama Tin succumbed to cardiac arrest. It had been 6.5 years since the diagnosis of kidney failure.
Most patients who have end-stage kidney disease (ESRD) do not really live long even with dialysis. But because of the family’s care, Mama Tin was able to stay with her family for more than six years.
Admittedly, those years were not easy for Gia and her husband Ryan. It was made harder because on the final years of her Mama’s life, Gia’s dad also became sick. Two elderly patients with no caregiver or helper can be really exhausting.
But their troubles had emotional returns. Gia and Ryan can say that they have no regrets because they have done everything in their power to take care of Mama Tin. To their Mama’s last moments, they were able to show their love and care.
Lose of Life Savings and Left with Debts
On the fateful night that Mama Tin had a cardiac arrest, she had dialysis during the day. Gia and Ryan rushed their mom to the hospital where she was treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She was attached to different medical equipment to keep her alive.
Meanwhile, several doses of a medicine that was supposed to revive Mama Tin were administered. The doctors did everything they could. Gia and Ryan prayed and hoped.
Unfortunately, that was it for Mama Tin. She still passed away, after staying for less than 24 hours in the ICU. But these desperate measures to revive her cost Gia so much. The hospital bill was still almost P1 million!
Gia had to ask for payments to be deferred for two days because she didn’t have that much money on hand. Mama Tin’s body could not be released to the funeral parlor.
Eventually, the body was embalmed but they could not bury her without the death certificate. The hospital had to hold the death certificate pending the full payment.
It was time to be resourceful. Gia approached all the doctors who attended to her mother while in the emergency room. She need them to separate their charges from the hospital bills. Additionally, she also asked if they could allow deferred payments within two months.
Storming the heavens with #PlsSaveMe prayers, the doctors agreed. There were also people who helped and already gave abuloy. Thankfully, family and friends came to the rescue and loaned her money. Gia was able to bury her Mama with dignity.
Mama Tin’s renal disease ate up her life savings and left her daughter in debt. Even Gia’s savings have all been used up. There is definitely no more luxury for this family. Kidney failure is a really insufferable condition.
Slowly Rising Up
It has been more than a year since Mama Tin died. Since Ryan has a salary while Gia accepts students for tutoring. With help from relatives and friends, they were able to pay up the debts.
However, she is still paying her credit card bills on installment. What were charged here were her Mom’s medicines. While there is interest for this account, Gia is still thankful that the major debts have already been paid off.
Furthermore, she is thankful to relatives and friends who came to her rescue when she needed help the most.
About End-Stage Renal Disease
Much like cancer, being afflicted with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) causes so much suffering to the patient and the family. *(1)
ESRD is the last stage (stage five) of chronic kidney disease (CKD). This simply means that the kidneys are only functioning at only 10 to 15 % of their normal capacity.
Aside from lifestyle and genetics, normally those with diabetes and high blood pressure are at risk for CKD. When chronic kidney disease develops into ESRD, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary to stay alive.
Those who start dialysis can live for months to years, depending on the care they are receiving. Their resistance and overall health also matter. Meanwhile, please note that patients who stop dialysis die within one to two weeks only.**(2) That’s how crucial it is to patients with ESRD.
Thankfully, there are government organizations as well as foundations like PCSO that can help in dialysis expenses. These are also covered by the Philhealth. It is really important for Filipinos to be covered by these health policies because they are a big help in times like these.
Tips in Taking Care of a Patient with End-Stage Renal Disease
Gia and Ryan would also like to share some tips about taking care of a dialysis patient. These are summarized in simple terms, but the hardships that the couple endured to learn all these are unthinkable to the outsider.
- Study about the disease, the intervention, and available help from the government.
- Religiously follow doctor’s orders.
- Follow the dialysis plan.
- The caregiver should give tender, loving care. Patients will live longer and happier.
- Provide emotional support to the patient. They can easily be depressed.
- Take advantage of financial support from the government and institutions.
- Save money as much as you can for emergencies.
- Invest in health insurance.
Mama Tin had life savings and health insurance. Gia had a job plus savings. Many people also helped them and they had used up the benefits from the government. But still, they incurred debts. How much more if they didn’t have life savings?
Health is indeed wealth.
Average Expenses Related to Kidney Failure and Dialysis
Gia has approximated the expenses of having a patient with renal failure in the family. This is just an estimate, based on provincial rates, because the family lives in Negros Occidental. It could be more for other cases.
Each dialysis session costs anywhere between P5,000 to P1,000. This covers dialysis fee, emergency medication, round trip fare, plus meals for both patient and caregiver. On the average, they spend P40,000 per month for a twice a week dialysis.
Compute: P40,000 x 6 years = P2,880,000 (ball park figure)
Note: This DOES NOT include inpatient fees for necessary emergency surgery. It can cost at least P15,000 at one time.
Other stories in the #PlsSaveMe Series:
- Losing Their Home to Road Widening Measures
- A Bacolod Single Mom Wants to Earn P10,000/month
- Sickness Hurts Family Finances Badly
- Tumandok Crafts Industries: Rebuilding a Business Ravaged by Fire
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