Teen with spine defect appeals for help

Just aged 16, Maher Shila Pamintawan is about to undergo her sixth operation due to Spina bifida or "split spine." It is a birth defect in which the spine does not develop fully, leaving a gap.

The wheelchair-bound Maher has been in the care of her aunts since her parents split up when she was just two years old. They have not gotten in touch with her since then and no one knows their whereabouts.

"She has stayed with me since 2007 when another sister of mine begged off from the difficult responsibility of taking care of her," said Maher's aunt, Theresa Ganuelas, who has a 10-year-old daughter with husband, Ronald, a former furniture worker.

Theresa and Maher have moved from Cagayan de Oro to Tarlac province in order to be closer to Philippine General Hospital in Manila where the teenager has been seeking treatment. They are staying with Theresa's friend, Margielyn Mendoza.

Over the years, Maher has been operated on five times, once for hydrocephalus, another time for a gallbladder problem and twice for her spine ailment. In 2014, she underwent surgery once more so that doctors could put in an implant to support her spine.

"The steel bar that was inserted to support her spine has been dislodged and needs to be removed to prevent an infection. The operation is urgent," Theresa said.

She appealed for help because the operation would cost P250,000 (S$7,635.975), including the expenditure for the CT scan which must be done before the procedure.

Theresa can be reached at 0906-6366239 or 0929-2357893. For donations, please deposit in her RCBC bank account (#6019-710512406307) under her maiden name Theresa L. Libusada.