A Letter Too Late

Late last year, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her spokesperson were talking about her rare disease and why she needed to be allowed to leave the country.

A report from the newspaper (plus website) I work for:

Arroyo’s spokesperson, Elena Bautista-Horn, clarified though that this condition is not a “new discovered illness” as Deputy Minority Leader Danilo Suarez earlier said.

“It’s not really new. That was already said before in a medical bulletin. It’s a rare hypoparathyroid disease,” she said in a text message, adding there are no doctors in the country who can treat such condition.

“It’s already been discussed in previous bulletins. It’s not new but rare,” she said.

Doctors at the St. Luke’s earlier said that hypoparathyroidism aggravated the former President’s condition after her second operation. Arroyo underwent her first cervical spine surgery last July 29, followed by two more surgeries in August.

Horn said Arroyo is scheduled for a check-up next week at St. Luke’s. Doctors will then issue a medical bulletin to address speculations on the former President’s condition.

On a hunch, and basically to make my boss think I was not just dicking around online (I probably was doing just that), I sent e-mails to the endocrinologists’ associations in the countries Arroyo was asking to be allowed to visit:  Germany, Singapore, Spain, and Italy.

I wanted to know whether hypoparathyroidism posed a major health risk, what the standard treatment for the condition was, and whether there were any new, experimental treatments (stem cell therapy, say)that have gone beyond clinical testing.

I didn’t get any response, and I suppose, never really expected to get one. In any case, the government denied her request to travel, the Supreme Court issued an injunction on the watch-list order against her, and then she was arrested for electoral sabotage. With that story idea overtaken by events, I didn’t think about it until this month, when someone actually replied.

Here is that reply, for future reference and so my boss (now no longer my boss) will know I was not just dicking around online:

Dear Mr. de Santos,

I am the secretary for EMSS (Endocrinology and Metabolic Society of Singapore) and just saw your letter.

I am sorry for the late reply. I will give you my personal opinion.

Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition and usually is due to iatrogenic causes* such as surgery or radiation to the neck. There also is an autoimmune form of the disease.

The low calcium levels in these patients is a potential health risk. Patients typically are given a potent form of vitamin D, calcitriol and calcium supplements. We do not replace the missing parathyroid hormone.

I am not aware of any stem cell treatment for this condition.

Paul M. Yen, M.D.

Paul M. Yen, M.D. | Associate Professor | Laboratory of Hormonal Regulation | Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Program| Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School | 8 College Road, Level 8, Singapore 169857 | Email:xxxx| Tel: (65) xxxxx Fax: (65) xxxx Web: http://www.duke-nus.edu.sg

*A complication in a medical procedure


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