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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 03/10/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) For eight-year-old Lea Joven, her battle against leukaemia is not over yet. The lack of funds has delayed her transfer to Germany where more advanced treatment could set her young body cancer-free.

She was diagnosed with the disease at five. She had successfully received a bone marrow transplant in the Philippines' St. Luke's Hospital in January 2011. Still, she continues to fight for a life free of physical pain.

Relapses came and went until June this year, complications in her lungs brought her back to the hospital.

Doctors at Dubai Hospital say Lea needs to go to Germany for advanced treatment in paediatric and chest care that could cost Dh1.2 million.

"Although she is not in a condition to travel now, once she gets a little better, she needs to be flown to Germany for advanced treatment," confirms Dr Hani Humaid, Lea's current doctor.

"Her condition is very complicated. Her lung is infected very badly."

Lea's parents, Leo Joven, a nurse at Dubai Drydocks, and wife Michelle are struggling to raise funds to fly her to Germany for treatment.

Lea has been in the ICU at Dubai Hospital since September 12, and has only recently shown improvement with doctors suggesting she might be off the tube in a day or two.

From selling property in the Philippines to taking bank loans and creating a Helpline on Facebook, the Jovens are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring their little girl's life is saved.

"It's so hard for any parent to see their child suffer. I sometimes wish I could take her place instead," laments Michelle. "I know I need to be strong for her, but it's difficult. Right now, I'm so tired. Every night I find it tough to sleep. There's so much pain."

Michelle used to work at the Administrative Department of Dubai Drydocks but had to give up her job when Lea's condition worsened in 2011.

"It was tough for me to manage work and the hospital visits."

For the last five years, the Jovens have been ensuring Lea's health is in good shape. They are hopeful that they will be able to get her treated soon.

Michelle is so grateful to many who have stood by them in this crisis. My husband's company, the Dubai Drydocks, has shouldered half of the expenses in Dubai Hospital as Lea's hospitalisation is not free.

Lea used to get it free in Tawam Hospital in Al Ain from June 2011 to June 2012. But, on her way to Tawam Hospital on September 12 this year, she experienced respiratory arrest while still on Shaikh Zayed Road which prompted her parents to take her to Dubai Hospital instead.

"I cannot make this travel for two hours. I can hardly breath," Lea told her parents. "When I saw her this morning, she was telling me how much she loves me and misses me," Michelle recalls.

The last eight months have taken a toll on Lea's weight as well, with her body bloating up due to the steroids and medication.

Michelle adds that the Filipino community in Dubai has been extremely helpful, and has helped generate funds for Lea's treatment.

Lea has a younger sister, Lean, 5, who is slowly getting to terms with her sister's condition.

"She used to visit her often, but after Lea was moved to the ICU, she was in shock. She couldn't understand why her sister was lying still with so many tubes around her. She kept stroking Lea's hands and saying, 'It's OK, you will be fine. I pray for you everyday'. But, when Lean came out from Lea's room, Lean told her dad that she felt scared of losing her sister."

The family will also benefit from the timely help from Ganie David, who recently held a charity flea market at Shelter in Al Quoz to collect funds.

"I've collected Dh9,000, which I will hand over to the family," he says.

David, who also comes from the Philippines, heard about Lea through Facebook, and decided to step in and help.

"When her condition worsened after the bone marrow transplant, she was upset. She asked me why it happened, but I taught her to be positive and to pray, and told her that if she was positive, then things would turn out OK," recalls Michelle. "She's a strong girl. She's still fighting. And I pray she gets better."

By Lily B. Libo-o


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