Isabella is now attached to an oxygen machine and is cared for at home Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A 22-month-old Filipino girl is fighting her frail heart with a dose of good cheer.

Shaikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital (SKMC) in Abu Dhabi has waived more than Dh1 million in bills accumulated during Isabella Mae Concoles' five-month stay at the hospital, after she was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. She is now attached to a machine which is her best hope of living.

Her 35-year-old father, Fiel, a Dubai employee who draws a salary of Dh5,000 a month, can't stop thanking the hospital staff and the government enough for the magnanimous gesture.

Isabella, the Concoles' second child, was diagnosed with the condition shortly after birth on October 11, 2009. She underwent two total anomalous pulmonary venous drainage (TAPVD) repair and redo repair operations in the Philippines before she turned eight months.

Shortly after her father moved her to Dubai, she was admitted to Al Wasl Hospital for chest infection and pulmonary hypertension. But within a week after she was discharged, she was back in hospital with severe chest infection and cardio-respiratory failure — this time at SKMC, managed by Cleveland Clinic.

Seven-hour operation

Tests revealed an obstructive collection of her right pulmonary vein, among other problems, which led to a seven-hour procedure performed by experts at SKMC.

Less than a month later, she underwent cardiac catherisation at the same hospital. It identified the stenosis of the new implanted pulmonary vein which was successfully treated with a "balloon" dilation. On May 15, she underwent a tracheostomy — a surgically made hole that goes through the front of the neck and into the trachea — to help her breathe. "She's active and plays a lot and she's showing progress," said Fiel.

Despite these invasive interventions on her little frame, Isabella is fighting back.

"Neurologically, she is alert, awake and gets agitated at times," said Dr Malaika Mendonca, head of the Paediatric Cardiac Intensive Care unit at SKMC, in her report.

Isabella was discharged on September 15.

Her mother Maria Cecilia, a full-time housewife, has completed post-op training and the hospital secured all her medical equipment and supplies to allow Isabella to be cared for at home. "When there's excess secretion the phlegm needs to be suctioned regularly... to prevent her from choking," said Fiel.

A child like Isabella, who is now technologically dependent, requires a medical home where she can continue to have comprehensive care, said experts.

"Without this kind of medical care, this patient would suffer severe consequences, including death," said Dr Nizar M. Kherallab, a consultant for paediatric pulmonology at SKMC. "Without medical insurance that guarantees such services, discharging to home is very risky and not advisable."

Fortunately, Fiel said, the generosity of anonymous benefactors has helped prolong his daughter's life: A Dh30,000 oxygen machine they took home to their flat in Sharjah after discharge has been paid for by an unnamed sponsor from the UAE.

"Before Isabella was discharged on Thursday, we were told our bill has ballooned to over a hundred thousand dirhams. But we were allowed to leave without paying a dirham," said Fiel. "I can't thank these people enough. I believe that God will bless them immensely for their goodness of heart."

  • 1 million dirhams was waived by skmc towards isabella's five-month treatment cost
  • 30,000 dirhams, the cost of the oxygen machine donated by an unnamed sponsor