The economic and emotional impacts of COVID-19 have disrupted our lives in extraordinary ways, leaving us to navigate a new norm with an uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring. In times like these, the simplest acts of kindness have given us hope and encouragement to keep doing the best we can.
Meet some of our personal COVID heroes: we hope their stories brighten your day as they have brightened ours.
Friends don’t let friends go without treatment
In India, Azees volunteered to drive 360 km to pick up his and three other patients’ lifesaving medication. Since many of our patients live in remote cities and villages far from medical centers and pharmacies, public transportation shutdowns have made it difficult for them to access their monthly supply of treatment.
One of the first things our team and partner physicians solved when nationwide shutdowns began is transferring paper prescriptions to digital e-prescriptions.
When Stuti arrived at the pharmacy an hour away from her home, she realized she didn’t have the right prescription papers. Luckily, a nearby bank kindly allowed her to use their printer and she was able to access her treatment on time.
When Stuti returned home, she shared instructions to fellow patients via WhatsApp which prescription papers to print so the same thing wouldn’t happen to them.
A lifesaving sacrifice
Samuel is a farmer, father of three, and CML patient who takes a 12-hour bus ride from his home in Luzon island to Manila every four months to see his physician. When nationwide community quarantine measures took place, Samuel’s physician asked the Philippines National Police to help deliver treatment to patients.
Like Samuel, Salonga is also a family man. He’s been traveling all over the country to deliver personal protective equipment to officers and frontline workers throughout COVID-19 closures. He says he longs to embrace his wife and children once it’s safe, and kindly shared a photo of him and his daughter with our team.
We look forward to the day Salonga and his family reunite!
Health care heroes
When the government issued strict national quarantined measures, physicians at the Philippines General Hospital (PGH) Adult Hematology ran full speed ahead prescribing treatment and some even personally delivering treatment to patients’ homes near Manila.
“We are sad that we can’t see our patients in the clinic like before and we have begun to feel helpless. Finding ways for the medicines to reach them helped them but also helped us!”
As for their patients, we asked them to share a photo with their treatment once it arrived at their homes. These are their happy faces.
In Lima, Peru, when the local hospital closed to cancer patients our partner Pharmaceutical Chemist Fernando Escalante quickly worked with our team to dispense three months of treatment to patients so they would have enough to last them through the shutdowns.
In already fragile health care systems, we are beyond impressed by our medical partners that continue to go above and beyond with their commitment to patients’ wellbeing.
A big heart making a big difference
“What can I do to help?” “Please let me know how I can help; I know there is so much disruption and I want to help”. COVID-19 heroes have come from all walks of life, in this case, it’s Geoff Cook, Global Head External and Patient Advocacy at Novartis Oncology.
When Geoff offered his unwavering help in March of this year, The Max Foundation team was trying to solve a multitude of COVID-related challenges affecting some of our patients. Some of the situations were so dire, we didn’t think there was anything Geoff or anyone else could do.
The pandemic struck fast around the globe and caught people by surprise. Borders closed, flights canceled, and people were stranded. In some cases, people living with cancer were stuck far from home and unable to reach their medication: a woman living with GIST in Nepal was stuck in California; two patients from India were stuck in Singapore and Amsterdam, and a British patient in Grenada.
We were also aware that a young patient from Cambodia, whose lifeline was an investigational drug she had been accessing through Singapore, was no longer able to travel for her next medical appointment. Our team had exhausted all possible solutions and nothing was working. After 14 years of surviving cancer, it seemed COVID-19 was going to defeat her—not because she contracted the virus—because she could no longer access her medication.
But Geoff was determined and he immediately mobilized others in Novartis, one by one providing individual solutions as needed. We received daily updates and great engagement from his colleagues, and with his support, a Novartis team even miraculously figured out a successful pathway for our young friend in Cambodia to access her lifesaving medication.
COVID heroes come from every walk of life. At this most challenging time in our world, it is up to each of us to show up. Geoff showed up and today our team and the many cancer patients he’s supported are happy to call him a COVID hero.
The sun will shine again
Even in the darkest of days, art and music can help us cope.
Tony Leo is a musician and CML patient who’s been on treatment for over a decade. You may remember his story as our inspiration for our 2017 Max Global Experience Climb Mount Kinabalu.
We were excited when Tony shared this cover of the song “The Sun Will Shine Again,” produced by Juwita Suwito in collaboration with many talented musicians across Malaysia, including Tony himself. The group dedicated this “singing telegram to all who are going through dark times.” Turn the volume up and enjoy this heartwarming collaboration!
In Malaysia, we asked children part of The Max Schooling Project to share drawings of their current experience. The Max Schooling Project is a joint initiative helping families through financial and non-financial assistance as incentives for parents to keep their children in school while one parent is undergoing cancer treatment.
Drawing by Siti, a 16-year-old part of The Max Schooling Project
Drawing by Tibadurghai, 17-year-old part of The Max Schooling Project
We hope these stories have brought a glimmer of hope and encouragement to your day. To learn how you can get involved in helping patients and the community through COVID-19, visit our donate page.