It’s difficult to imagine a more heartrending situation for a parent than to see your child suffering from a life-threatening condition and being unable to do anything to help them because of your limited economic resources. A father in Indonesia says it was that situation that drove him to offer up one of his kidneys for sale to strangers in order to pay for his son to get treatment for a tumor in his brain.
Photos of the father wearing a sign saying “Kidney for sale. I am selling my kidney for the treatment of my child’s brain tumor” while standing at the entrance to Tanjung Balai Karimun port in Riau, went viral recently.
News outlets investigating the story soon identified the man as 59-year-old Eli Kristanto, a security guard whose 23-year-old son, Elandra Wiguna, is suffering from a brain tumor.
In an interview with Kompas, Eli said that he had done everything he could for his son but so far there had been no improvement in his condition. He said he had already endured many financial difficulties related to Elandra’s treatment so he decided to sell one of his kidneys to continue to be able to cover the medical expenses and get his son the best treatment possible.
Indonesia does have a national healthcare program (BPJS), which Eli said covered some of the costs of Elandra’s treatment, but, because of its limitations, it could not cover all of the necessary treatments for his son. He said the regional government of Karimun had also given him some assistance, but it was still not enough to cover all of the medical costs.
“So I took the initiative to cover the medical expenses by selling my kidney. The only thing on my mind is that my son recovers, so he can reach his future just like other children his age,” Eli said yesterday as quoted by Kompas.
He said the reason he wore the sign at the port was that he was desperate and didn’t know where else he could go to find potential buyers for his kidney. He at least knew that many people went through the port each day.
After Eli’s story started to go viral, various government agencies came forward and it was revealed that Elandra had previously received treatment at the Muhammad Sani Regional General Hospital (RSUD) but was sent home on June 23. According to the director of the hospital, it was not because Elandra’s medical fees had not been paid but because he had to be transferred to a hospital in Batam for further treatment, which would require a new application to BPJS.
But after the story went viral, the Karimun Health Agency quickly moved Elandra back into Muhammad Sani Hospital where he was operated on yesterday by a team of neurosurgeons after doctors decided they could carry out the operation there after all.
Although reports are vague as to the details of the operation and its success, the hospital says Elandra is still in the critical recovery stage but his condition is stable.
The hospital’s director, Zulhadi, said his office would not charge for Elandra’s treatment, saying that the regional government, through the health agency, helps to fully cover the costs of treatment for financially disadvantaged patients.
Zulhadi said they would help Elandra’s family apply for a Certificate of Need (SKTM) so that all his medical fees could be covered. He said that the SKTM had been needed to cover the costs of Elandra’s previously recommended transfer to Batam, and he had been sent home from the hospital on June 23 to wait for its clearance.
So while Elandra’s fate is still uncertain, Eli was able to get his son the treatment he needed more quickly by offering up his kidney, even though he ended up not needing to sell it. Which is a good thing, because selling human organs is a crime in Indonesia.
Despite it being illegal, this is not the first time an Indonesian father has offered to sell one of their kidneys to help their children, or even the first time one has worn a sign in public saying they would do so — prior cases involve fathers who also wanted to pay for their children’s medical care as well as a father who wanted the money to pay for his child’s education.