A benign mass was embedded in Denise Balog’s tongue which deprived her with the ability to breathe and eat through the mouth. With Tzu Chi’s help, she underwent surgery on May 10 at Chinese General Hospital and is now learning to use her mouth slowly.
Denise Balog was born with a cyst on her tongue. This cystic hygroma, later diagnosed by her doctors, has made breathing and eating difficult for her. She can only have food passed through a nasogastric tube (NGT) to be able to survive.
With relatives living nearby, Denise parents Mario and Rejean Balog pulled their resources to help their then-four-month-old daughter. Mario is the sole bread winner working as a truck driver, as well as a motorcycle driver for a local ride hailing service. His income is good enough for the medical bills but not enough for a surgery for Denise.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is that I can’t afford to lose her. Even if we have to get down on our knees and beg, we will do it all for her to get better,” a teary-eyed Rejean shared.
On May 3, Tzu Chi volunteers paid them a visit at their home in Barangay Rosario, Pasig City. Among them is Geraldine Chua, a volunteer was in charge of this case.
“I instantly felt that I have the ability to deal with this sort of problem, so I took action right away,” said Chua. She immediately got in touch with Dr. Frederick Leh, a volunteer doctor for the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA). Dr. Leh was able to perform the surgery on Denise after a week, her months of suffering was alleviated in roughly an hour, but she has to go through the rehabilitation process to be able to be normal.
“The cyst was removed with minimal bleeding. Afterward, we reshaped the tongue and created a new floor for her mouth,” Leh explained after the operation.
Tzu Chi volunteers including Chua paid a visit to the family on July 4, they only saw a star-shaped scar on where the cyst used to be. Although Denise still needs an NGT to eat, her parents are slowly helping her eat through her mouth. But as her mother explains, Denise could now put her hand inside her mouth like a normal infant.
“I felt a mix of emotions upon seeing this, especially when seeing her play with her siblings with such energy,” said Rejean.
Denise will undergo a second operation in December to further correct her tongue and allow her full use of her mouth. For her parents, however, the worst is over for their precious child.