Nonie Herida, 11, was discovered by TIMA doctors and Tzu Chi volunteers last November 23 during the first batch of medical mission held in Tacloban City. Nonie delighted the volunteers by his ability to speak in English and translate Waray and Tagalog languages for them. This has helped the doctors better understand their patients’ condition.
It was found out that Nonie Herida has pulmonary hypertension due to the hole in his heart. Upon knowing this, Tzu Chi volunteers made arrangements to fly him and his mother in Manila for further analysis. The Buddhist group has also given him seven months supply of medicines for maintenance.
During the first batch of Tzu Chi Foundation’s medical mission in Leyte Progressive High School, Tacloban City last November 24, an 11-year-old boy became the delight of visiting Tzu Chi volunteers and TIMA doctors. His name is Nonie Herida.
No one would ever think that at such a young age, Nonie is able to speak three languages. During the free clinic, the volunteer doctors sought for his assistance in translating Waray or Tagalog phrases in English if patients are not able to speak or understand the latter.
“(The doctors) told me that they are having a hard time comprehending the Taclobanons. They wanted somebody to translate for patients who cannot understand English.”
Nonie says that he learned the language two years ago from a classmate whose father is half-American. “When she asked me if I wanted to learn (to speak in English) is said ‘yes’,” Nonie relates. He adds that watching American TV shows also helped in harnessing his accent.
However, behind this intelligence he possesses is an illness that has plagued him since birth. Nonie suffers from pulmonary hypertension due to having a hole in his heart. According to his mother Maritess, Nonie was about one year old when he was rushed to the hospital because his skin was turning blue, apparently from lack of oxygen.
At that time, Maritess was told by the doctors that Nonie has a heart problem and needed an operation in Manila to treat it.
“We were asked to prepare P100,000 but we don’t have that kind of money. Actually, the medical procedures that were made (in Tacloban) like the 2D Echo was paid by a charity organization because we don’t have the capacity to pay,” she says.
Maritess’s husband works as a fish vendor earning P300 a day at most and she as a barangay health worker is given P1,000 stipend. The small income, she says, is only enough for their basic needs and sending her two children to school.
At six years old, Nonie’s parents stopped having him checked by a doctor saying that his condition will not change.
Nevertheless, the inability of Nonie’s family to have him operated on was compensated with much love and care for the boy. Maritess adds that her steadfast faith and prayers to God and Sto. Niño (infant Jesus) became a sort of miracle for Nonie to have lived this long.
“Starting when he was six years old, I always bring him to the feast of Sto. Niño and place him closely to the statute. It has been five years since then but Nonie is still here and alive. I really think it’s a miracle.”
Upon hearing about his illness, several Taiwanese TIMA doctors and Da Ai reporters, decided to help Nonie. He and his mother were flown to Manila by the Buddhist group on December 5 to have him checked by doctors there.
On December 14, Dr. Edison Ty from the Chinese General Hospital was able to check on the boy’s condition and found out that besides the hole in Nonie’s heart, the organ only has one vein. This, said Dr. Ty, puts too much pressure on the single vein to pump blood throughout Nonie’s body. It also has affected the boy’s lungs in the process.
As such, opting for an operation would highly be risky.
Although Maritess decided not to pursue with the invasive procedure for her son, she adds that her gratefulness to Tzu Chi Foundation is beyond words.
“I’m really thankful that they’ve brought us here to Manila to have my son checked. This is the first time in six years that he underwent a check-up. Somehow, (typhoon) Yolanda became a bridge for us to meet. Tzu Chi has helped a lot of people,” Maritess says in relation to the massive relief and rehabilitation efforts done by Tzu Chi in Tacloban City.
The foundation will provide for Nonie’s medicines -good for seven months- that will help control the blood pressure and circulation in his heart. But aside from this, his friends from Taiwan also sent their gifts to him.
Friendship beyond differences
On December 21, Tzu Chi volunteers paid a visit to Nonie in Quezon City. The group brought gifts for Nonie that came from a Da Ai crew whom he met in Tacloban last month. Nonie gave a small ball to the reporter as a gift to the latter’s children.
He adds that giving the ball shows his desire to become a giving person. “I just want to give (share) to everybody even if they are not Filipinos,” he says.
In return, the two Taiwanese children sent their Christmas letters, toy trucks, and a Jing Si Aphorism cards. An autographed baseball was also given by a Da Ai videographer. Nonie was delighted with the presents and says, “Thank you and Merry Christmas!” to all of them.
Aside from this, Nonie and his mother received grocery items and others Christmas gift from the Tzu Chi volunteers. The boy was also visited by Rachel and Leah Awel –the former conjoined twins who underwent a successful operation in Taiwan through Tzu Chi’s support back in 2003.
Even though an operation for Nonie is not entirely practical, he would definitely bring home a cheerful and grateful smile in Tacloban this coming Christmas.