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Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Funds woefully short two days to child's brain surgery date
Stabroek News
Desean Noel

Two days before the date given for urgent surgery to fix little Desean Noel's brain, his parents have not even raised half of the $3M to pay for the surgery in neighbouring Trinidad.

His mother, Althiea Sampson, yesterday told Stabroek News that they have raised just over $500,000.

But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo's Kids First Fund (KFF) is moving to have the operation done at the Mount Hope Hospital in Trinidad where it would be less expensive. The First Lady told Stabroek News yesterday that KFF had put in the request and expected to hear from the hospital any day now and once that happens, KFF would help the family with meeting the cost.

The surgery was expected to be performed at the Community Hospital, Cocorite, Trinidad. Because it is urgently needed, Dr Richard Spam, who saw the child at the Davis Memorial Hospital and agreed to do it, had set Thursday, April 6 for the operation. He had said the sum (US$15,000) was all-inclusive and the child and his mother would just have to get tickets and accommodation for the mother.

The desperate mother with tears in her eyes told Stabroek News of the pain she experienced when looking at her three-year-old son who has become immobile and almost blind. He is currently a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

The woman said she had visited the Ministry of Health where no help was forthcoming as she was told that there was a process that had to be adhered to.

A release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) yesterday confirmed that Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, had said that recipients should not expect immediate assistance.

Explaining that some of the treatment could be had locally and this should be first explored, the minister said a written request from a patient's doctor should be made, indicating that the patient is in need of overseas medical attention for a particular diagnosis.

He said several requests were made and not approved because the correct procedures were not heeded. He explained that many letters appeared at the ministry without any specific indication of the diagnosis and treatment required.

"The local physician - both public and private - has to make a referral of the patient to the Georgetown Public Hospital so what we [the ministry] can do is say that we are going to entertain a request from the patient for treatment because the patient's doctor has written to the ministry saying what the problem is and referring the person for treatment abroad because the treatment is not available here."

He said a request to the ministry is usually a time-consuming venture given that there are certain other procedures which may take weeks to complete.

He explained that the ministry may have the money available but still had to await a response from the hospital where the patient was seeking treatment and this could take two to three weeks.

Noel is his mother's only child. She said he was "normal" until early in February when he began to suffer from headaches and vomiting. He also had a high fever and was rushed to the hospital where he remained for 19 days.

During that time an MRI scan of the brain was ordered and this was done at St Joseph Mercy Hospital on March 3, revealing a large left frontal tumour that extended into the third ventricle resulting in obstructive hydrocephalus.

The mother had also said that late last year the child had developed an abscess at the back of his head but this was treated at the hospital and they never suspected there was a much larger problem.

She appealed to public-spirited citizens to assist by putting money in the account at the New Building Society (NBS) D15453. Relatives of the child could be contacted on 643-2654 and 646-0262.