Couple to raise funds for child’s surgery

National 3 minutes, 8 seconds


ON JUNE 8, two-year-old Miguel Alfonso Toquero was diagnosed with a tumour the size of a plum on the left side of his brain.

After weeks of experiencing seizures, cold shivers and eye-twitching, Miguel’s mother, Arlene Toquero, noticed her son began to show muscle weakness in his right arm and leg.

“At first, the doctors thought it was epilepsy because we have a family history, but on June 1 I noticed he didn’t want to play using his right arm, and his leg was weak too. He looked like someone who had had a stroke,” she told _The Brunei Times _yesterday.

After he was rushed to the emergency room at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, an electroencephalogram (EEG) showed nothing abnormal in Miguel’s brain activity, so a CT scan and MRI was scheduled, albeit in one month’s time.

“We thought we had to wait for one month, but one of the doctors showed Miguel’s case to a specialist, and they asked us to come back straight away,” said Arlene, who hails from the Philippines. “After all the tests, the neurosurgeon explained there was a tumour 7cm by 9cm on the left side of Miguel’s brain.”

Arlene and her husband, Michael, have lived in Brunei for five years – where Miguel was born – working as teachers at the Seri Mulia Sarjana School in Beribi. The news left them devastated.

“The doctors at RIPAS were very honest with us; they explained that they could perform the surgery to remove the tumour, but that they had never done this kind of procedure before. It is very high-risk based on the size of the tumor and its location near the blood vessels, and could cause permanent disability affecting Miguel’s thinking and speaking abilities.”

Arlene and Michael are currently exploring the option of performing the surgery in Manila, where they will meet with several specialists to determine the best course of treatment for Miguel.

“At first we wanted to do radiosurgery, because it is less risky than open surgery but the doctor in Manila said the tumour is too big for radiosurgery,” she added.

Once the tumour is removed, a biopsy will be done to determine if the growth is cancerous or not.

“The specialist at RIPAS said there is a high chance that the tumour is malignant and that Miguel will have to undergo chemotherapy. They told us to be prepared for what may come.”

The surgery alone could cost the couple up to $30,000, Arlene said, as Philippines does not have a universal healthcare system like Brunei.

“We’ve been very grateful as many people have come forward to offer their support, and a teacher from Miguel’s playgroup at International School Brunei organised a collection for him, and people have pledged almost $10,000 towards his medical fees.”

Arlene and Michael’s employer, Seri Mulia Sarjana School, will also be organising a car boot sale on June 18 and 25 to raise money for the “Miracle for Miguel Fund”. They have also set up a Facebook page to update his supporters on his progress.

“We asked the doctors why and how did this happen – he is only two years old and the tumour is already so big,” said Arlene, who is currently staying with her son at the Intensive Care Unit at RIPAS Hospital.

The couple plans to fly back to the Philippines with Miguel tonight so he can receive immediate treatment, with the surgery is likely to be performed within the week.

“We want to thank all our supporters and people who helped raise funds for our trip back home and Miguel’s medical fees. We are truly grateful for your help and God reassures us that anything is possible when we believe.”

The Brunei Times