Baby boy gets life-changing surgery, thanks to $4m fund

Ms Ayunina Banez with her husband Aldillan Aman and their son Aariz Mikhail, who had ventricular septal defect. He is now healthy after going for surgery sponsored by Parkway Pantai's Life Renewed programme.
Ms Ayunina Banez with her husband Aldillan Aman and their son Aariz Mikhail, who had ventricular septal defect. He is now healthy after going for surgery sponsored by Parkway Pantai's Life Renewed programme.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

8-month-old who had congenital heart defect among those helped by Parkway Pantai's initiative

In the two months after Aariz Mikhail Aldillan was born in Parkway East Hospital prematurely at 32 weeks in April, his mother Ayunina Banez barely slept at all.

Her baby boy, who had a hole about 7mm wide in the wall of his heart, suffered from ventricular septal defect, a congenital heart defect.

Simply breathing in and out was a Herculean effort. His lips turned blue from the lack of oxygen that his body was getting, and it took him five hours to drink just two ounces of milk because of his breathing difficulties, his mother recalled.

"I was so sad. I had to keep waking up to check on whether he was still breathing or not, and kept thinking about whether I had done anything wrong when he was still in my tummy," said Ms Ayunina, 37, a housewife with two other children, aged two and seven.

By the time he had his third check-up in June, Aariz's doctor told Ms Ayunina and her husband Aldillan Aman, 39, that he would need to have surgery as soon as possible as the hole in his heart was not closing up. It could lead to other complications, such as permanent damage to his lungs.

But the surgery would cost about $70,000, a huge sum for Mr Aldillan, a logistics product support assistant earning around $2,000 a month. He is the family's sole breadwinner.

"We were going to ask my mother for a loan as we wanted to do everything we could to save our baby," he said.

While the couple were considering their options, a text message came from the specialist whom they had been referred to at Gleneagles Hospital - baby Aariz was eligible for free treatment under private medical group Parkway Pantai's Life Renewed corporate social responsibility initiative.

They filled in the necessary forms and, within a few days, Aariz had successfully gone for surgery.

He is now a healthy eight-month-old baby, weighing in at around 10kg. "He used to cry all the time but now he likes to smile and laugh, and we can take him to the playground and swimming pool," said Ms Ayunina.

The Life Renewed programme, which was started in 2013, sponsors medical treatments for patients in financial need.

Parkway Pantai has committed $4 million to the programme since its launch, with 353 medical procedures that have been sponsored at the group's four hospitals, including breast and colorectal cancer treatments, congenital heart operations, total knee replacements and cataract operations.

Potential beneficiaries need to hold either a blue or an orange Community Health Assist Scheme card to qualify. They may be referred for the programme through hospitals under Parkway Pantai, as well as voluntary welfare organisations. Besides Gleneagles and Parkway East, Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital are also owned by Parkway Pantai.

Mr Goh Cha Boh, 66, a retired bus driver who gets by on about $800 of his Central Provident Fund savings every month, is grateful for the scheme, which has helped him to save about $2,000 on eye cataract surgery. He had the operation in July.

"My favourite hobby was reading the Chinese newspapers every day. I would spend two hours doing it. But my eyesight was so bad that I needed a magnifying glass to help me make out the words. Now, I don't have to do that any more."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Baby boy gets life-changing surgery, thanks to $4m fund'. Print Edition | Subscribe