When a child is diagnosed with leukemia, the last thing parents should have to worry about is figuring out how to cover medical expenses.
On Tuesday, February 18, Gabriel Rezer Buttner, a 9-year-old expat from Brazil, reported a strong pain in his left side. His parents, Fredy Buttner and Ivone Rezer, took him to Tongwah Hospital. The doctors could not find any abnormalities and sent him home.
The pain continued, so his parents took him to Kanghua Hospital the next day. After undergoing extensive exams, doctors diagnosed Gabriel with Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+all leukemia)—a diagnosis no parent wants to hear. Ph+all leukemia is a rare form of leukemia with a 70 percent chance of recovery.
“We didn’t even finish doing all the exams when they (doctors) already called me… ‘As soon as you are finished with this exam come to this doctor’s office because we need to discuss his exam and it is urgent’,” Barbara Rezer Buttner, abriel’s older sister said.
When she saw the blood results, she noticed the white blood cell count was high and the thought of leukemia crossed her mind but said she did not think that could happen. Gabriel needed to undergo more testing and was immediately hospitalized. The family got the official diagnoses while signing the admission papers.
Gabriel is a student at Winnerway Foreign Language School and is in good spirits. His family keeps him entertained in the hospital by playing cards, games, reading books and watching TV together.
He began his first chemotherapy session shortly after being diagnosed, and is not feeling any side effects from the first session, such as nausea or hair loss. Barbara said that is normal and side effects are usually seen in the third or fourth session.
Fredy said his number one concern is the health of his boy, but the reality of the expenses is quickly setting in. He is facing the growing cost of medical bills presented by the hospital daily.
“We never thought anything like this would happen to us. Most of the common stuff, like cold, we can cover that,” Fredy said.
The family does not have insurance and the thought did not cross their minds in the past because of an overall good health history. They said they are try to cover the first month of costs, which is at an estimated 200,000 RMB, but the chemotherapy and treatments are projected to last up to two years or more. The estimated amount for the total medical expenses is about 1 million RMB.
They must cover smaller costs such as food and living, too. Gabriel has a low immune system and needs to eat fresh cooked food every day. His father prepares the food at home and takes it to him in the hospital.
The family is asking for donations to help cover the medical costs. Those interested in donating can send to Barbara through WeChat at Babi_BR. Barbara is working on establishing an official donation channel.
Gabriel needs blood transfusions. With COVID-19 in Dongguan, not as many people are donating and the blood banks are running low. Below is the information for a blood donation center in Dongguan for those interested in donating.