Hypoparathyroidism hype: stem cell vs. prison cell

“Truth and lies are the same. They’re icing on the cake. What’s important is the cake.” – former Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales

Mike Arroyo went to Germany for a heart check-up. He returned with news of a cure for his ailing wife. “I talked to a doctor specializing in stem-cell research,” he said.

Mike’s wife, Gloria, had undergone three surgeries for a problem involving her upper spine. The first operation was to correct a problem she had with her neck, the next two were corrective surgeries for problems that the first surgery caused.

The stem-cell treatment mentioned by Mike Arroyo is not for the titanium screws inserted in Gloria’s upper spine. Stem cells don’t work on titanium. The stem cells are for Gloria’s malfunctioning parathyroid glands.

Parathyroid glands are four pea-sized glands located next to the thyroid gland. They secrete the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the levels of calcium in the blood. In hypoparathyroidism the glands do not secrete enough PTH. This causes lower than normal levels of calcium in the blood. (Source: Methodist Healthcare.)

Hypoparathyroidism is the reason Gloria’s recovery from surgery is unusually slow. That’s according to her mouthpiece, Raul Lambino. However, Lambino is not a doctor. He is a lawyer. His only brush with medical practice was when he attempted to perform surgery on the Constitution using a dull scalpel called People’s Initiative for Charter Change.

The exact cause of hypoparathyroidism is unknown. It can be inherited, associated with other medical disorders, or may result from neck surgery. It affects males and females in equal numbers. It is seen more often in children under 16 and in adults over 40. (Source: Hypoparathyroidism Association)

Lambino also claimed that Gloria urgently needs “the intervention of medical specialists and unfortunately we don’t have one in the country.” Again, that’s a lawyer, not a doctor, talking.

There is no known cure for hypoparathyroidism. The standard treatment available is oral calcium and vitamin D. However, maintaining normal serum calcium levels can be a therapeutic challenge. (Source: American Society for Bone and Mineral Research). Because of that, some hypoparathyroidism patients are resorting to stem-cell therapy as a substitute treatment.

Be that as it may, George Daley, the director of stem cell transplantation at Children’s Hospital Boston, told a reporter writing about stem-cell treatment that “the only proven form of cell therapy is bone marrow transplant for leukemia patients.”

“Virtually everything else is highly experimental,” he said. “On one hand there are charlatans selling snake oil. At the other end of the spectrum are physicians who may be well-intentioned, but they’re misinformed if they’re giving patients stem cells before they’ve been proven to work.”

Nevertheless, stem-cell therapy is not voodoo medicine. It’s just that it will take a little more time to mature.

At this early stage, research and clinical trials are already producing startling results. The latest news headlines indicate that stem cells might cure even Gloria’s legal problems.

Gloria’s other mouthpiece, Elena Bautista-Horn, said, “We have doctors’ clearance to travel.”

What does that mean?

It means Gloria is strong enough to stand the rigors and stresses of traveling to five countries across three continents for medical consultations. It does not mean Gloria’s doctors strongly recommended that she seek stem-cell treatment abroad. Nor does it mean that they suggested she will die if she does not get the treatment abroad. Hypoparathyroidism is a horrible disease but it is not fatal.

Gloria’s liberty is in jeopardy, not her life. The hype and hoopla about hypoparathyroidism and stem cells are meant to keep her out of jail. Stem cell versus prison cell.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • GabbyD

    The key problem is the interpretation of exceptional reason. the law is no help, and the doj has 100% of the power. 

    if all locally available modes of treatment have been exhausted, isnt this “exceptional”? 

    de lima, in an interview in abs, is plainly worried about her coming back. i’m shocked that international law doesnt have a remedy here, other than extradition treaties. what a simple thing, but its so hard.

    “Section 7. Allow Departure Order (ADO). – Any person subject of HDO/WLO issued pursuant to this Circular who intends, for some exceptional reasons, to leave the country may, upon application under oath with the Secretary of Justice, be issued an ADO.The ADO may be issued upon submission of the following requirements:
    a. Affidavit stating clearly the purpose, inclusive period of the intended travel, and containing an undertaking to immediately report to the DOJ upon return; andb. Authority to travel or travel clearance from the court or appropriate government office where the case upon which the issued HDO/WLO was based is pending, or from the investigating prosecutor in charge of the subject case”

    • Manuelbuencamino

      “what a simple thing, but its so hard.”
      It’s only difficult for those who still give GMA the benefit of the doubt. The whole strategy of GMA begins with evading arraignment. If she evades it then a trial cannot proceed. If she’s arraigned first and she goes abroad after then the trial can go on with or without her because by escaping she has waived her right to face her accusers.

      • Anonymous

        Who needs GuLO around during the arraignment. “Face-the-accusers” seems of little relevance because GuMacArroyo is already ruled guilty by Malacanang.  So a few Pampanguenos (by their vote) and a few members of Congress may kinda believe that GuMacArroyo is A-okay,  but this is now above them isn’t it?

        • You’ve been so used to the old system, UP n, you think it is still the same PGMA administration. Wake up, man, this is not GMA’s government anymore. 

          Everything’s changed. This is a new and different administration. Except for the Supreme Court, we can expect that all other courts of the land will have to adapt to the changes. 

          The Filipino people is now awake and watching.

          • Anonymous

            The Filipino people… now awake… watching…. cheering  — YeYYYY!!!!

          • UP n, either the Filipino people cheers for the past government and for GMA, or the Filipino people cheers for this new government of Noynoy Aquino. Which Filipino people are you?

            Now, let’s cite some samples of people: Edcel Lagman, Raul Lambino, and a certain girl with a Horn are cheering for GMA; and then Lacierda, Ochoa, and a girl with a Valte are cheering for Noynoy. With that kind of groupings, we can now make a choice as to whom we want to be identified with, ‘di ba?

            Either you want to be identified with a Horn, or you want to be with a Valte, :((. If you can get my drift.

          • Anonymous

            I sense that there are a few Pinoys in Pinas who cheer but cheer lackadaisically for this PresiNoynoy.   It is like they feel a benumbing weariness when they notice the BFF’s and KKK’s that are there, and they notice the  PPP’s not yet there.

            So—   Cheers!!!  Yee-YYYY!  PresiNoynoy asks for more sis-buhhhm-baaHHH cheers to energize him to keep showing up at Malacanang and tackle governance.

          • UP n, save your cheering for your idol, ;). She needs it very badly. 

            President Aquino has enough cheerers already and don’t need anything from the bad guys like Lambino, Lagman, and much less from the lady with the Horn, :), hehehehe.

        • Anonymous

          When does de Lima return from Cambodia?

          Is deLima’s presence needed for when Malakanyang “makes sampa in the courts”  the charges against guMacArroyo?  Clock’s ticking — boy, it will be quite something else when PresiNoynoy delivers on his promise — “GuMacArroyo in Jail by December 2011.”

          —————-
          Minor (very minor note) :  USA chiding PresiNoynoy to also deliver on his promise to put action to solve extra-judicial killing cases.  Lacierda says that he will talk to deLima about this.

  • This GMA travel abroad for medical treatment could be a nightmare for Sec. de Lima. Let’s remember that she’s suspected to be a GMA mole in the Aquino administration, called a “Trojan Horse” even by some. The Aquino government is quite canny in letting  de Lima be the one to decide on whether GMA can go abroad or not. It is the ultimate test to see de Lima’s true color. 

    If de Lima lets her go, two things will happen both of which will not be in her favor. One, it will bolster the suspicion she’s a “Trojan Horse; two, her political ambition to run for senator will be greatly jeopardized.

    The only ‘win’ decision for her is not to allow GMA to go abroad for treatment. With that, my sympathy lies with GMA.

    De Lima’s only hope is for Health Secretary Ona to declare that GMA really needs the cell treatment abroad. But even that is not much consolation to the precarious predicament de Lima is in.

  • Anonymous

    I still think that even as deLima enjoys the spotlight of people asking her about GMA travelling,  that deLima will grant travel.   Two reasons — first is that deLima/Malakanyang has no legal basis to keep GMA in town. 

    Second is that it benefits Malakanyang if, once she gets to Madrid or Lisbon, GuLorya does a Panfilo and “disappears”.   Then Panfilo Lacson and others can say “… see!!! see!!!  Hiding means guilt!!!!  Who needs court proceedings??? To run away from the courts is to admit guilt!!!”

  • J_ag

    I think the problem with GMA is she is looking for ratification abroad. The present government has made her the main issue for their being voted into office. No doubt she and her guys have played fast and loose with the rules and she showered her group with so much to insure their loyalty while in office.

    The extent which is now being revealed is truly at the scale or more than Marcos. However as then with the Marcos family her generosity to many who still are in the different parts of the State and the fact that the new boys in town also will have access to the kind of power that she wielded will make it extremely difficult to put her in jail. 

    PNoy cannot do it on his own unfortunately. I doubt if he has the people around him to help him. The State cannot defend itself when the resources of the private interests can overwhelm the resources the State has at its disposal. The worst off course is the justice system. Here the State is most vulnerable.  Go to any big law firm and they will tell you how to beat the system even at the level of the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court. 

  • GabbyD

    whats your point here mb?

    ” It does not mean Gloria’s doctors strongly recommended that she seek stem-cell treatment abroad. Nor does it mean that they suggested she will die if she does not get the treatment abroad. Hypoparathyroidism is a horrible disease but it is not fatal.”

    didnt they say she ought to? so if she doesnt die, does that mean she cant go and get treatment? why does it have to be fatal?

    • Manuelbuencamino

      “whats your point here mb?”

      Here’s the point Gabby: Gloria’s liberty is in jeopardy, not her life. The hype and hoopla about hypoparathyroidism and stem cells are meant to keep her out of jail. Stem cell versus prison cell.

      • GabbyD

        yeah, i get that, but i guess i dont understand why “fatal” is the critical condition. 

        if she has an illness that is treatable here, she would (and did!) get treatment.

        if she has an illness that is NOT treatable here, why can’t she go and get treatment? 

        unless you believe she wont come back? 

        • Manuelbuencamino

          “if she has an illness that is NOT treatable here, why can’t she go and get treatment?”  
           The fact is : There is no known cure for hypoparathyroidism. The standard treatment available is oral calcium and vitamin D. 
          Now let me turn your question around. Should Andal Ampatuan Sr be allowed to go abroad to seek stem-cell therapy for his heart ailment?
          “unless you believe she won’t come back?”

          That’s the wrong question. The correct question is: why should she be treated differently from any other person under investigation for non-bailable offenses?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            sorry there should be a “number 2” before “”unless you believe she won’t come back?”

          • GabbyD

             ampatuan sr is further along the judicial process right? 

            look,  from what i can gather, as long as its “early” enough, the accused is free to seek treatment. i think the gma case in still in d preliminary investigation stage…

            in ampatuan jr’s case, its further along, and he is in custody/jail. 

            further, if there is a stem cell treatment that can work for gma, why not? 

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Ok, Gabby, Then what is your basis for allowing Gloria to seek treatment abroad for an incurable disease?

          • GabbyD

            if the treatment can work, why not be allowed to pursue it? 

            is there a law that says you can’t? (i dont think so). 

            the justice sec can temporarily prevent a departure, but i’m not clear what the criteria are. is the criterion “fatal illness”? whats the logic for that? 

            if the criteria is — exhaust all local remedies; THAT is reasonable.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            The criteria should be “prove you really have to go abroad for treatment.” To want treatment abroad is not the same as needing treatment abroad.

            What is the logic behind fatal? Preventing one from availing of a cure against fatal illness would be tantamount to a death penalty. However, even if there is a cure abroad one still has to prove that the cure cannot be brought here. For ex. Mike Arroyo’s heart operation was very dangerous, only 30% survival rate and local doctors do not practice that form of surgery as often as in other countries. So Mike Arroyo imported a doctor to operate on him.

            ‘if the treatment can work, why not be allowed to pursue it?” Because she is under investigation for non-bailable offenses. “is there a law that says you can’t? (i dont think so). ” Yes there is. It is DOJ Memorandum Circular No. 41. 

          • Anonymous

            I agree with ManuB.  former Presi-GuLO should prove to President Noynoy ( and/or 3 among Lacierda, deLima, Ochoa and Valte)  that her medical condition is such as she claims it is.

            Except….  then but this raises ManuB’s other point —  that lawyers and spokespersons and columnists and  blogger kibitzers are zilch-qualified to make utterances about medical conditions.   

            This raises the possibility that PresiNoynoy assigns Bise-Binay to do a solomonic decision on the matter,

          • Anonymous

            I agree with ManuB.  former Presi-GuLO should prove to President Noynoy ( and/or 3 among Lacierda, deLima, Ochoa and Valte)  that her medical condition is such as she claims it is.

            Except….  then but this raises ManuB’s other point —  that lawyers and spokespersons and columnists and  blogger kibitzers are zilch-qualified to make utterances about medical conditions.   

            This raises the possibility that PresiNoynoy assigns Bise-Binay to do a solomonic decision on the matter,

          • GabbyD

            i think i figured it out. the difference is that free movement within the country is OK, because there is the fact that phil laws govern the country anywhere within it.

            outside the country, phil laws are no longer operative. so there are stricter rules about it. the rules however are kinda unclear, and entirely under the justice sec’s discretion (which is a problem):

            Section 7. Allow Departure Order (ADO). – Any person subject of HDO/WLO issued pursuant to this Circular who intends, for some exceptional reasons, to leave the country may, upon application under oath with the Secretary of Justice, be issued an ADO.The ADO may be issued upon submission of the following requirements:a. Affidavit stating clearly the purpose, inclusive period of the intended travel, and containing an undertaking to immediately report to the DOJ upon return; andb. Authority to travel or travel clearance from the court or appropriate government office where the case upon which the issued HDO/WLO was based is pending, or from the investigating prosecutor in charge of the subject case.Note that “exceptional” is not defined. 

          • GabbyD

            thanks for the name of the memo circular. very helpful and useful

          • Manuelbuencamino

            you’re welcome gabby