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Survivor Story

The story below recounted by the survivor Maria Victoria C. Romero from Manila, Philippines spans the course of 6 years before she could receive a surgical solution. She made it through this difficult time with faith, persistence and the compassion of others.

Name: Maria Victoria C. Romero

Age: 52 years old

From: Manila, Philippines

Under: Asian Heart Foundation

Survivor of: Ascending Arch Aortic Aneurysm 7.0cm last January 11, 2011,

at the Asian Hospital under the care of Dr. Jorge M. Garcia.

My moment of survival is something that I’d like to call a blessing especially

knowing that I carried that disease for four years before my faith gave me a

chance to live a longer life.

I first encountered chest pains in the year 2005 and then it continued on to

the year 2006. In the duration of those years, the pain was mild and

tolerable, it would last less than a minute. It would radiate from my back to

my chest and to ease the feeling of discomfort, I would take a break from

whatever I was doing, stopping for a short while until it subsided. Though

after a while of experiencing such pain, I decided to get it checked and had a

chest X-ray but resulted in not getting any follow-ups from my doctor.

From that, I just continued on to work from one job to another. My job as a

customer service supervisor in a retail store was not easy at all. Every day

was a stressful day, I had to attend to customers’ concerns and complaints,

assist my people in the front office, and sometimes even helped push

grocery carts in and out of the store. The job overall was a burden in itself

and it got harder every day.

In November of 2007, I remember having a cough and it wasn’t ordinary like

those I experienced before. I experienced terrible coughing and hoarseness

of my voice. On top of that, I continued to feel chest pains at times. I felt a

need to go and see a doctor since I had just received my company health

card at that time. I went to see a Pulmonologist to have my bad coughing

checked because as I have said, it was not the usual coughing that I

experienced before. Added to the fact that I had been coughing for almost a

month already. After a day, I received my X-ray results and discovered that I carried a

suspicious aortic aneurysm. At that time, I had no idea what that was.

Nevertheless, I went back to work, and as I did, I went to see our company

doctor and showed him the X-ray results. He then told me to see a

specialist, specifically a thoracic surgeon.

In December of 2007, I first consulted a thoracic doctor from the Asian

Hospital and a series of tests was registered to confirm my disease. I took a

CT scan, 2D ECHO, Blood tests, and a CT angiogram. I then consulted other

thoracic doctors from other hospitals in Manila just to get second opinions.

After my last diagnostic test, the last doctor that I had consulted urged that

I have it fixed the soonest. He wanted it done by January of 2008.

Before leaving the hospital, I decided to go back to the Radiology

Department and talk to the Radiology Department head. He reviewed my CT

angiogram plates and explained my diagnosis to me. I remember him telling

me, “Okay, the size of your ascending arch aortic aneurysm is 6.2cm,

it’s quite alarming but the good thing is that there is no dissection at

this time.” then continuing to explain, “Aorta is the main blood vessel

and it’s thick so it won’t easily burst. You just have to take all the

precautionary movements, take the needed medicine prescribed by

your doctor, and the most important thing is to have it monitored

every year.” He even added, “when you feel a sudden pang of pain

from your back to your chest, call me.” and those were his last

words from our conversation.

Within the next year, 2008, I went to see our family cardiologist Dr. Ernesto

Chua. I had presented all of my diagnostic test results to him which resulted

in him giving me an endorsement letter addressed to his good friend who

was also the president of the Asian Charity Foundation Inc., and from there,

he wanted me to apply to Asian Heart Foundation.

With his recommendation, I went to see the president of Asian Charity

Foundation Inc. right away and presented to her the referral letter from Dr.

Ernesto Chua, again, my cardiologist. She then asked me to prepare some

requirements needed for me to apply for the charity. Days had passed. I was

able to prepare some of the requirements and submit them to the secretary

of the foundation. The application took me a year. While waiting, I continued

to work and busy myself to take care of my family.

In the year 2009, I visited my cardiologist again for the yearly monitoring of

my aneurysm. I had another CT angiogram to check the size of the said

aneurysm and it turned out to have grown from 6.2cm to 7.2cm. My

cardiologist advised me to have it fixed already. At that time, our finances

were just enough for my family including the funds for my three children’s

schooling. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t ready to spend such a big expense,

adding on to the fact that I couldn’t take a long leave from work.

In March 2010, I received a call from the office of Asian Charity Foundation

Inc. and they told me that I had gotten approved but only under the 50%

section of the charity, meaning 50% of the hospital bill would be taken care

of. Though, the team of doctors who would perform my operation was

completely free of charge. I was ecstatic and grateful, it was truly such a

blessing. It wasn’t easy to apply, I had to complete all of my requirements

before the good news.

One thing led to another and I suddenly just woke one day and the unfolding

of events was faster than lightning. I was scheduled to be operated on

December 14, 2010, but when my pre-op lab results came out, they had to

reschedule it because I needed to take a coronary angiogram which they

scheduled for January 6, 2011. After that was handled, they rescheduled my

operation for January 20, 2011.

I spent two days in the ICU and five days in a regular hospital room. After a

week at home, I recovered rather fast, if I do say so myself. I do also believe

that it was God’s doing. Throughout the whole process, He was so good to

me. I couldn’t have been more grateful at that time.

Now, 12 years and counting, I am still and will always be proud to call

myself a survivor, or in more fitting terms, a warrior. I am thankful for the

gift of life.

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