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HK OFW weakened by stage 4 lung cancer flown home

13 November 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Mercy being wheeled to her departure gate at HK Airport with Gina (in white) by her side

Longtime Filipina domestic worker Mercy E. should have been enjoying her first full day of rest back at home in Cavite on Thursday, had typhoon Ulysses not come, unleashing strong wind and rain, and causing a power outage that lasted for hours.

But bearing the full wrath of the typhoon paled in comparison to what Mercy had to go through starting in March this year, when she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer while on her 22nd year of service to her employers in Fortress Hill.

Mercy, 59, flew home to the Philippines early on Wednesday, after her doctors in Hong Kong had all but given up hope of treating her debilitating disease. She was accompanied on the flight by her sister, Gina, who also works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

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What should have been a smooth passage for the tired, sleepy and desolate sisters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport turned into a near-nightmare when they were told by staff at the Bureau of Quarantine that they would not be allowed to go home after their swab test.

This was despite a “certificate of acceptance” issued to them by their barangay in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite, that they would be allowed to spend their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Gina’s house there.

Gina also tried to show all of her sister’s medical certificates, indicating her fragile and serious condition, to no avail.

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Hearing about their plight, one of their Hong Kong friends frantically issued an appeal for help to The SUN, saying Mercy was already getting stressed from the hassle, and Gina was in tears.

Luckily, Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration instantly responded to the appeal forwarded via messenger.

“We will help po. Our counter at the airport is at the lobby. But we will look for her po,” said Admin Cacdac.

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He also said it was not that nobody from OWWA helped the sisters, but it was most likely that the Coast Guard did not endorse them or informed OWWA about the situation.

Within minutes, the sisters were out of the holding area, and were loaded onto a van hired by their family for their trip home.

Admin Cacdac said OWWA could have taken Mercy home, but the relatives were welcome to provide their own vehicle for the trip.

Mercy being loaded onto a van that took her home (photo from Admin Cacdac)

In Hong Kong earlier, the sisters were taken to the airport for their early-morning Cathay Pacific flight to Manila by Mercy’s kindly employer, Mrs Leung, who also bought a wheelchair for her loyal helper, and reportedly paid her far more than what is required under the law.

On top of this, Mrs Leung also shouldered all the costs of Gina’s travel home, as well as the expenses for her Covid-19 test and hotel quarantine when she returns to Hong Kong next month.

More importantly, the employer gave full backing to Mercy’s wish to submit herself to radiation treatment in a last-ditch bid to ward off the disease, despite pleas from her siblings to just go home and rest.

“I hope you and your family can understand that we are all trying our best to comfort her and stay positive. I think that’s they key for now. Maybe your family can talk to her more about happy things so she can go through the treatment with positivity,” said the kindly employer in a text message to Mercy’s sister, Gina.

“We sincerely hope for the best for her and will continue to take care of her until her treatment is done and (she is) rested.”

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The treatment at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, carried out shortly before her flight home, left Mercy barely able to stand. A follow-up checkup led doctors to conclude there wasn’t anything more that could be done for her, as the cancer cells had already spread in her body.

One of her friends in Hong Kong, Fine Cariaga, said she and a few other friends managed to chat with the sisters online while they were waiting for their flight to Manila, and they were disheartened to see Mercy looking very frail and weak.

Hindi na niya halos maitaas ang kamay niya para kumaway sa amin, at hindi na rin siya makakita (She could barely lift her arm to wave goodbye to us and she also couldn’t see anymore),” said a sad Cariaga.

Her most recent call to Gina revealed Mercy’s situation had deteriorated further, said Cariaga.

Hindi na raw tinatanggap ng katawan niya ang mga gamot niya at sabi ni Gina ay hindi na niya kayang alagaan mag-isa si Mercy (Her body can no longer take in the medicines, and Gina said she could no longer take care of Mercy alone).

All their other siblings are now at the Cavite home, said Cariaga, anxious to provide much-needed comfort to Mercy.

"Kailangan po niya ng dasal," said Cariaga.

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