The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world – some people have lost their jobs, others have not been able to see friends and family, and the loved ones of more than 600,000 people worldwide are grieving.
For 26-year-old Jaina Ramos, the global pandemic meant not having life-saving surgery.
In 2018, Ms Ramos was diagnosed with a renal disease and after years of being medicated, she was set to undergo a kidney transplant this year.
“Because my medications can no longer improve my kidney function, my creatinine level continued to rise and my disease is now End Stage Renal Disease,” Ms Ramos explained on her public Facebook page, Jaina Fighting.
The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown in the Philippines meant Ms Ramos’ preparation in the lead-up to her transplant was cancelled.
The preparation for the kidney transplant started in January this year and the surgery should have happened in April, just when the virus gripped the globe and the Philippines went into lockdown.
A friend of Ms Ramos, who is working for a Sydney-based company and has actively supported the fundraising for the 26-year-old, told Yahoo News Australia Ms Ramos was initially optimistic she wouldn’t need to undergo surgery and the medicine she was on would treat her.
Ms Ramos was also hoping she would not have to undergo dialysis.
“Dialysis is an additional expense, and an additional burden for [Jaina],” Ms Ramos’ friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told Yahoo News Australia.
“She would have to go to the hospital three times a week for dialysis sessions.”
Ms Ramos was described by her friend as “quite tough” and sassy, but also very kind and sweet.
She also loves hiking, something she can no longer do due to her illness, and worked as a human resources associate.
‘It’s stressful and frustrating’
Ms Ramos’ friend said while she waited until surgeries start back up again, the 26-year-old would need to continue to take medication.
“Since I'm sick and due to lockdown I haven't been able to go outside of our house,” Ms Ramos said on Facebook.
The friend explained the lockdown meant only one person from a household could leave the home to get essentials and, like in Australia and around the world, many in the Philippines had lost their jobs.
Ms Ramos’ family had already been saving for two years to pay for the treatment she needed.
Not only has it been hard for Ms Ramos to go to the hospital due to the coronavirus, but the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) had no schedule for the operation, according to her friend.
Ms Ramos was hospitalised on June 16 after not being able to sleep or eat.
After being hospitalised, it was decided Ms Ramos would need to start dialysis three times a week.
“It’s stressful and it’s frustrating because we can’t do anything,” Ms Ramos’ friend told Yahoo News Australia.
“It’s out of our control, even though we can go to the hospital for check-ups, it’s still risky for her because she is immunocompromised already.”
Due to Ms Ramos’ already fragile state, she is at risk of viruses like COVID-19 and suffering a more severe illness as opposed to having mild symptoms and a quick recovery like most.
“[COVID-19] will worsen her illness as well, so it’s frustrating that we can’t do anything at all,” Ms Ramos’ friend said.
To help Ms Ramos’ family pay for the dialysis, which costs about AU$350 per session, and for the upcoming transplant which costs AU$44,000 excluding medications, her workplace and friends have started raising money to help cover the cost.
In addition to the dialysis, Ms Ramos has also had to have several blood transfusions.
Towards the end of June, Ms Ramos had her first check up at the NKTI and it looked as though she might get a transplant soon, although she would need to restart preparations for the surgery.
“According to my doctor, I need to repeat all my lab tests that I have done as preparation for the [kidney transplant] because I had blood transfusions when I was hospitalised,” Ms Ramos wrote on Facebook.
“Thank you so much to those who donated blood to me when I needed it!”
While one of Ms Ramos’ kidneys has not completely shutdown, it is imperative she does receive a transplant soon.
Ms Ramos’ friend said the support the family had received had been “overwhelming”.
“We didn’t expect a lot of support and prayers from other people, especially from those we don’t know personally,” she said.
“COVID affected the country’s economy and most people lost their jobs but they were still willing to help us, even with a small amount.”
On Facebook, Ms Ramos has been keeping people updated on her medical treatment and an operation she received earlier this month.
“So here I am, strong fighting and praying,” she wrote on July 12.
Ms Ramos’ friend said the family was profoundly touched by the generosity from all who donated and, through the Facebook page, people had passed on their well wishes to the 26-year-old.
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