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Woman saddled with $100,000 bill for surgery asks for help

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Marilyn Santioque awaiting surgery at Lahey Hospital and Medical Centre in Burlington, Massachusetts (Photograph supplied)
Marilyn Santioque (Photograph supplied)

Marilyn Santioque is in a bed at Lahey Hospital and Medical Centre wondering how she is going to find the $100,000 to pay for her brain surgery.

An air ambulance took her to the Burlington, Massachusetts care facility last week after doctors at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital discovered that a knot of veins had formed in her head and was in danger of rupturing.

Marilyn, who moved to Bermuda from the Philippines to work as a cleaner 15 years ago, is covered by HIP.

Told she would have to pay 40 per cent of her medical costs — $20,000 for the air ambulance and $100,000 for surgery — she decided to return to the Philippines where treatment was cheaper but doctors advised against it.

“A flight from Bermuda to New York would be two hours,” her sister-in-law Lynn Santioque said. “Then there would be a 14 or 16-hour flight to Manila. Her doctors said if she flew all that way there was a chance the veins in her head could rupture. It would not be good for her.”

The Association of Filipinos in Bermuda helped her to borrow money from the Lady Cubit Compassionate Association to pay for the air ambulance. A guarantor then stepped forward for the cost of the medical treatment.

Marilyn’s husband, Arvin Santioque, is in the Philippines with their two daughters, Missy, 19, and Monica, 15. He is unable to join her in the United States as his passport has expired.

The family is hopeful that the public will come to Marilyn’s aid.

The cleaner noticed that she was getting headaches soon after Missy was born in 2003.

She thought they were related to high blood pressure, which runs in her family.

“Then one day I was cleaning windows when I noticed there was a bump on my forehead,” the 47-year-old said. “I couldn’t remember bumping my head.”

She kept massaging the spot, which felt “soft”.

Deciding that something was off, she went to KEMH, where a computed tomography scan revealed that she had an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection between arteries and veins that had likely been there from birth. The bump on her forehead was caused by a knot that had formed recently.

Were the vein to rupture, she would be left in a coma, doctors said.

Two days later she flew to Lahey, where doctors confirmed the diagnosis she received in Bermuda.

“They wanted to be very careful in how they proceeded,” said Lynn, who travelled with her.

On Friday, Marilyn had an angiogram, an X-ray of her blood vessels, and an embolisation — a procedure that uses particles such as tiny gelatin sponges or beads to block the flow of blood to an abnormal area of tissue.

Doctors then found there were other veins in her head with problems and gave Marilyn two treatment options: radiation therapy or surgery.

“The radiation would take three years to complete,” Lynn said. “And there was a chance she could get cancer from that treatment.”

The hope is that Marilyn will go into surgery tomorrow or on Thursday.

“We are trying to push her to be positive,” said Lynn, who came to Bermuda as a cleaner in 2006 and encouraged Marilyn to join her.

“We told her to fight. Everyone is fighting for her. Everyone is supporting her.”

She described her sister-in-law as “a hardworking person”.

“She cooks and walks,” Lynn said. “With the type of work we do, we don’t have much time for hobbies. On her day off, Sunday, she goes to St Theresa’s.”

Their church family has reached out every day with prayers and support. They are also very grateful to the Association of Filipinos in Bermuda.

“It feels good that they are helping me,” Marilyn said. “It is a big help.”

Lynn, who is not being paid while she is in the US supporting Marilyn, will soon have to return to Bermuda.

“In a few days I will switch over with my younger sister,” she said. “After the surgery Marilyn needs to fully recover. After six months she will probably be able to go back to her normal life.”

People who wish to help Marilyn can make a donation to the Association of Filipinos in Bermuda: Butterfield Bank account 20006060-258 -204-100. Donors are asked to make a notation that the money is for Marilyn

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Published October 04, 2022 at 6:02 am (Updated October 05, 2022 at 5:21 am)

Woman saddled with $100,000 bill for surgery asks for help

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