Hope for Coby: A growing community of life savers

Even strangers who follow Coby's story on social media have started various fundraising events for the newborn

A FATHER'S LOVE. Emer Castillo's only wish is for Coby to be healed completely. Photo by Lea Castillo

MANILA, Philippines – At 3 months old, Coby Castillo is fighting hard to prove his doctor wrong.

He was born in October 2013. Two months after, his parents Emer and Leah had to bring him back to the hospital again when he fell very ill.

Coby showed severe symptoms such as an enlarged abdomen and blood-streaked vomiting, with initial tests showing that his liver was not functioning properly and that he would need surgery. 

Last January 4, doctors at the Medical City broke a series of bad news: Coby has severe neonatal hepatitis, other related treatable causes have been ruled out, and the test results by all indications were “incompatible with life.”

Coby’s only chance at survival is a liver transplant that can only be done once he turns a year old, his father Emer was told by doctors. Until then, they can only provide supportive medication and nutritional care so he can be physically ready for an operation. 

According to Paediatr Child Health, severe liver disease in newborns is relatively rare, but diagnosis and management of patients with the disease are often complicated because of what little is known about the clinical spectrum of neonatal liver failure.

The couple decided to bring Coby to Singapore for a second opinion. Doctors there are also inclined to recommend liver transplant for Coby, according to James Bitanga, a lawyer based in Singapore who is a good friend of the couple. 

Pick a fundraiser

“Due to the urgency of Coby’s needs, we are seeking treatment abroad where success rates for surgery on young infants are more optimistic,” Emer said in a message that kicked-off “Songs for Coby,” a fundraising mini-concert held last January 18 by vocal ensemble Hangad.

“Songs for Coby”is just one of the numerous fundraising campaigns initiated by family friends and even social media followers of Coby’s story to help out with the family’s expenses. 

The treatment and transplant procedure is expected to reach around P12 million, excluding maintainance medications and the family’s living expenses in Singapore.

Emer, 40, is a sales and marketing manager in a fast moving consumer goods company, while Leah, 36, is a senior key accounts manager in a pharmaceutical company. Emer is currently on indefinite leave from his company. 

The family started Facebook page Hope for Coby a day after they learned of Coby’s condition. It has already gained more than 6,000 likes since it was created in January 5.

Some fundraising events are still ongoing, while others are lined up for next month. Take your pick:

Filipino celebrities have also shown Coby their support, as seen in one of the albums of the Facebook page.

In his message, Emer said they are also seeking the assistance of foundations and institutions to continue fundraising for immediate and long-term medical expenses.

“We appreciate the initiative of friends and family, tirelessly conducting fundraising drives, whether through small or big events. Our heartfelt thanks. We have received so much support from many, even people we don’t know,” he said.

A lot of Filipinos based in Singapore have also extended support and comfort to the family.

For Emer and Leah, and the friends they made along the way, all it takes is a smiling Coby to keep reminding them why they’re fighting on. – Rappler.com

The Hope for Coby Facebook page keeps track of different ways people can help Coby. See their list here.