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How Much is One Child’s Life Worth?

2 July 2009

As I wrote out the title for today’s post, I felt a heaviness in my heart. What if this was a picture of my own child? What would I do?

charmaine Lim of Singapore

This is Charmaine Lim, a four year old in Singapore, who has just had her birthday. She is dying of a rare cancer. She has already had chemotherapy and a major abdominal surgery last week. This has bought her some time, but the cancer has already spread beyond her abdomen, and as you read this, she is having even more chemotherapy.

Five years ago, I went through the nightmare of my husband having cancer. Every moment of every day was filled with doubt and fear. Every day the weight – of everything – got heavier and heavier. The only thing we didn’t have to worry about were the medical bills, because in Australia, everything is paid for by a government insurance scheme – Medicare. We didn’t have to wonder whether or not we could fight for his life.

I remember before my husband had one of his operations, he said to me: “This could be worse.”

I cried and asked “How?”

“It could be our son who has cancer,” he replied. And I knew he was right.

It is a cliché, but it is true. Nothing is worse than the thought of your child dying young, not even the thought of your partner dying. Almost any parent would choose to give up their own life before their child’s. It’s what parents do.

But Charmaine’s family have a much greater challenge than my husband and I have ever had. They are working against time just to get the money to fight for Charmaine’s life.

Charmaine’s chance at survival will be improved to 50/50 with a treatment only available in a US hospital. However the treatment for this rare cancer will cost over $US300,000. That’s Half a Million Singaporean dollars.

I rang the National University Hospital in Singapore personally on Friday, to check out this story, and it is all true. The hospital administrative staff confirmed all of these details.

This is a crushing weight for Charmaine’s family. Her mother Cynthia is a single parent, with two young children, and who has already given up work to care for Charmaine. There is no medical insurance to cover this.

But Charmaine has a huge advantage. She has a family who just won’t give up on her. They have asked friends to help, who asked other friends. All kinds of people are now giving their time, and making direct donations, to help raise the money to give Charmaine a fighting chance. And I am now one of them.

What Charmaine’s family is doing is natural, right and proper. They are not begging for money. They are fighting for their child’s very life.  Lots of people have already given of their time and money, which is their expression of love and hope. But there is still some way to go to raise all of this Half a Million dollars.

Helping Charmaine is so very important because it proves that we believe every child’s life is precious. Win or lose, her situation shows us about the power of love, and of community. It will be tragic if Charmaine dies, but it will be much, much more tragic if she dies without having had this 50/50 chance.

So I urge you to please help, especially if you are Singaporean. Because if you are Singaporean, Charmaine is your child too. And if you have some way of communicating to others, then spread the word.

You can read all about Charmaine’s fight here.