Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the successful liver transplant surgery of Baby Sophie Aguilo — an operation done in the Philippines which proves the capability of the country’s doctors and health facilities to handle such conditions.

Baby Sophie, a biliary atresia patient, and her parents first met Go and President Rodrigo Duterte on January 15 this year and requested their assistance for the child’s medical operation.

On November 17, Baby Sophie’s diseased liver was removed, after which she received a graft taken from the liver of her mother who was her donor.

“Nakakatuwang malaman na malusog na si Baby Sophie ngayon. I hope to see her soon. Ingat po parati ngayong panahon na may hinaharap pa tayong krisis na dulot ng pandemya at iba pang kalamidad. Magdasal lang tayo at malalampasan din natin ito,” Go said.

The Senator sponsored a subdued birthday celebration under strict health protocols for the child at The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City on December 11. During a Zoom video call, the Senator gave his warm greetings to the parents and doctors who made Sophie’s liver transplant a success. He also checked the status of Baby Sophie and gave her a message of hope for her fast recovery.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s parents, Kendy Aguilo and Ronald Naval, thanked Duterte and Go for their full support. In an interview after Baby Sophie’s successful operation, Naval said, “Marami pong salamat, binigyan ninyo po kami ng pagkakataon na makapiling ‘yung anak namin ng habambuhay o mas matagal.”

“I’m very, very thankful po na talagang sa awa ng Diyos, napansin po kami at natulungan po kami ng programa na ginawa ni President Duterte at ni Senator Bong Go po,” he added.

Baby Sophie was discharged on December 12 and, along with her parents, was assisted by personnel from the Office of Senator Bong Go and the Office of the President before, during and after the successful operation.

Baby Sophie was supposedly scheduled to undergo liver transplant in India but President Duterte urged that the transplant can be done in the country, citing the expertise of Filipino doctors.

This resulted in the establishment of a consortium among the Office of the President, Department of Health, Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), and TMC. The TMC agreed to collaborate and partner with PCMC as authorized by the DOH under its Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients Program by performing pediatric live transplant procedures to qualified candidates.

Under the agreement, the TMC shall provide surgeons, anesthesiologists, other medical specialists and attending staff, and allow the use of its facilities and all ancillary services for the conduct of evaluation and treatment and/or surgery of pediatric liver patients. The agreement gave way to the creation of the Pediatric Access to Liver Transplant (PasLit) program. Baby Sophie is the first patient-beneficiary under the said program and one of TMC’s few liver transplant recipients to date.

According to Dr. Vanessa de Villa, head of TMC-Center for Liver Disease Management and Transplantation, the success of all these liver transplant procedures can be credited to the expertise and preparedness of the hospital’s liver transplant medical team and the cooperation and support given by various sectors to the patient and her family.

Go has also expressed his confidence in the skills and expertise of Filipino doctors and surgeons. During a Zoom conversation with Dr. de Villa, Go said he hopes that more Filipino patients with liver diseases will be cured by Filipino doctors in the future.

“Alam naman natin, napakarami ng mga kababayan natin ang gustong magpa-opera sa ibang bansa. Sabi ko, ipinagmamalaki natin na kaya rin natin sa ating bansa,” Go said.

“With the success of the operation of Sophie, sana tuluy-tuloy po ito. Ako, malaki tiwala ko sa mga doktor natin sa Pilipinas,” he added.

Dr. de Villa responded and thanked Go for his efforts to facilitate the operation. She added that the successful surgery proves that everything is possible with the cooperation between the government and private sector.

“Napakita natin na kapag nagtulungan ang gobyerno at private sector, pwede talagang magawa lahat,” she added.

Previously, Go has called on the government to further improve the provision of accessible healthcare services and training for health professionals in treating liver diseases, particularly biliary atresia, so that patients will not need to fly to other countries for their operation.

Go, who has helped other families who have babies suffering from biliary atresia, even by helping facilitate their needed operations outside the country, stressed that a lot of Filipinos are suffering from this ailment and asking for help for such operations.

“Kung mayroon tayo dito sa Pilipinas ng mga kailangang equipment, mas maraming well-trained specialists at mas murang operasyon, hindi na kailangang magpagamot pa sa ibang bansa ang mga pasyenteng ito,” the Senator emphasized.

Go committed that he will continue to push for the enhancement of healthcare services in the country to make them at par with the rest of the world in order to cater to the needs of fellow Filipinos.

“Magtulungan tayong maisaayos ang ating mga pasilidad pangkalusugan para hindi na natin kailangang umasa sa ibang bansa para sa mga operasyon, tulad ng paggamot sa biliary atresia. Magagaling naman ang ating mga doktor,” Go said.

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