Young Guatemala girl with grave disease helped through support of UMCSC
By Jessica Brodie
Thanks to the donations and prayers of South Carolina United Methodists and others, one little girl in Guatemala is in South Korea this week getting a bone marrow transplant that is expected to save her life.
Dulce, age 10, is living with Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic bone marrow disorder that is a form of aplastic anemia and carries a grim prognosis. She and her family came to know Dr. Luke Rhyee, a South Carolina United Methodist pastor who leads a medical mission called Healing Guatemala in the Chuisajcaba, Guatemala, region, where they live.
Rhyee started a fundraising campaign in December and January to help raise money for Dulce to receive a bone marrow transplant. A transplant is the only treatment for the disease, Rhyee said, and someone with Fanconi anemia typically dies at an early age if he or she does not get treatment.
Healing Guatemala was able to find a hospital in South Korea, JeonNam National University Hospital in HwaSun, to help financially and do the procedure, but additional funds were needed to support the cost of treatment and travel. Thankfully, South Carolina United Methodists and other Healing Guatemala supporters stepped up with the necessary funds, and as of press time she was undergoing surgery.
“Thank you each and every one of you who has been praying for Dulce and supporting with monetary donations,” Rhyee said, noting his heart is full of joy at what all were able to accomplish for the girl. “The hands of God that are seen through the journey of salvation of Dulce may be seen at every moment of your and my daily life. Keep lifting Dulce in your heart and especially the medical team in South Korea who is going to take care of Dulce.”
Rhyee, an ordained elder with the South Carolina Conference who founded Healing Guatemala, said Dr. Kook Hoon is performing the transplant. Hoon is a world-renowned pediatric oncologist and Rhyee’s former professor when he attended medical school.
Team Dulce—which includes a Healing Guatemala staffmember along with Dulce, her mom and her 4-year-old sister and donor, Sofia—left Guatemala in early March after a harrowing and critical experience. Rhyee said that in late February Dulce began vomiting blood and entered the emergency room of Roosevelt Hospital, fighting for her life with a seriously low platelet count.
“We could have lost Dulce. However, our faithful Lord, through the hands of medical professionals and through the donation of blood and prayers of the saints, recovered Dulce’s life,” Rhyee said.
They also faced other obstacles, including a need for visas for travel and for her sister, Sofia, to have a successful gene analysis and no genes causing fanconi anemia so she could donate her bone marrow. Both of these were resolved, Rhyee said, “by the grace of God.” Also, Rhyee said two major issues popped up at the last minute at the airport, which could have caused the trip to be postponed.
“However, our faithful Lord prepared two angels who made it go through,” he said.
Team Dulce arrived at Incheon International Airport in South Korea March 3, and now they are all at the hospital in in HwaSun.
Rhyee urges all to join in prayer for Dulce’s recovery, and he said he is so grateful for all that has been done until now.
Dulce and her mom will stay in South Korea for the next six months to get close observations of graft versus host disease, Rhyee said, as Guatemala does not have any medical facilities to do the follow-ups. The others on her team will return to Guatemala April 14.
The Advocate will run another update on Dulce’s surgery in a future edition. For more on Healing Guatemala, visit https://healingguatemala.org