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Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF): Athena Faith Monsanto Story

written by dad Marlou Monsanto

published on May 11, 2024




In the early hours of September 15, 2020, our precious baby girl came into the world. We christened her Athena Faith Monsanto, aspiring for her to embody the wisdom of the goddess Athena and to embrace unwavering faith in God throughout her life.



Initially, our little Athena seemed healthy, but when she was three months old, we noticed her struggling to breathe one night. We hurried to the nearby Mactan hospital around 9:00 PM for a medical check-up. The doctor suggested she might have been overfed, noting an unusual sound in her heart, which could have been related to the overfeeding. Relieved by the doctor's assessment, we left. However, the next day, we received the results of Athena's newborn screening, revealing she had G6PD. The doctor advised us to be cautious about Athena's diet. Seeking guidance, we consulted a pediatrician, who provided us with a list of allowed and restricted foods for Athena. When we mentioned the incident to our pediatrician, the doctor examined Athena and promptly diagnosed her with a heart problem. The news devastated us; my wife and I nearly fainted, tears streaming down our faces as we made our way home. The following day, we sought further evaluation at another hospital in the city, where a 2D echo confirmed Athena's diagnosis: Tetralogy of Fallot, a complex congenital heart disease involving four distinct heart defects.



It was incredibly challenging in the beginning, leading to countless sleepless nights as we watched our daughter sleep, unaware of the seriousness of her illness. We often found ourselves questioning why this was happening to us at such an early stage in our lives, feeling overwhelmed with the weight of it all. I vividly remember moments in various places where people would comment on our daughter's skin color, and some even shared stories of relatives with similar conditions who had passed away. It was an emotionally trying time for us as parents. Gradually, though, we began to accept our fate and place our trust entirely in God.



At three months old, Athena began her regular check-ups with our pedia cardiologist at a well-known private hospital in Cebu City. It took us three years of consistent appointments to prepare her for surgery. Last September 2023, following her third birthday, we visited for a check-up, where our pedia cardiologist informed us that Athena's 2D echo results hadn't shown improvement and that she required two open-heart surgeries: first, the BTS Shunt as a temporary measure, followed by Total Correction after a year. As concerned parents, we sought a second opinion to mitigate risks. In October, we visited the Philippine Heart Center, underwent comprehensive laboratory tests, and consulted with two different pediatric cardiologists. Thankfully, both specialists concurred that Athena was ready for Total Correction and required only one open-heart surgery, a testament to God's mercy.



The doctors at PHC informed us that we needed to prepare 586k for our daughter's open-heart surgery. To our surprise, we also learned that an additional 100k was required for dental correction as a prerequisite before the total correction procedure. In total, we needed 686k at that time. Another option presented to us was to apply for PhilHealth Z-Benefits to reduce the cost. Under this scheme, we would only be responsible for paying the Doctors' Professional Fee, while PhilHealth would cover all hospital bills. In November 2023, I applied for PhilHealth Z-Benefits and patiently waited six weeks for approval.


While awaiting PhilHealth approval, I exerted every effort to raise the funds needed for the dental correction and total correction procedures. With guidance from fellow parents who have kids with CHD, I learned to seek assistance through guarantee letters (GLs) from various offices. At night, I dedicated hours until midnight, sending emails to senators and congressmen. Despite feeling disheartened when a week passed without any response, I realized I had to persevere and stay strong for my family. I explored other avenues for fundraising, such as selling t-shirts and organizing zumba events for a cause. With the unwavering support of my family, relatives, and friends, we managed to gather the necessary funds for the dental correction. The outpouring of support was overwhelming and heartwarming, affirming that God had surrounded me with caring individuals since childhood to help me through this difficult time.

 As December approached, we completed the dental correction. Around the same time, we received an email from Gift of Life CEO, Sir Rob, informing us that they would cover 200k through Gift of Life Fundings and Rotary Club of Cebu. With the assistance of Maam Diana, founder of Let It Echo, all transactions proceeded smoothly. Shortly after, we received a text from the PhilHealth office, confirming the approval of our application, and our surgery was scheduled for February 09, 2024. It was a testament to God's unwavering provision; Indeed, He never fails to provide when we ask. Everything unfolded according to His plan.


On January 26, 2024, we journeyed to Manila to ensure our daughter's isolation from any potential illnesses before her surgery. By February 7, 2024, she was admitted to the hospital. It was a night filled with tight hugs, the uncertainty weighing heavily on our hearts. Yet, we entrusted everything to God and the capable hands of the doctors who would perform the operation.

The surgery commenced on February 09, 2024, at 7:30 am, and it lasted until 2:00 PM as the medical team meticulously completed all the necessary procedures. Despite facing challenges in the aftermath of the surgery, our daughter exhibited remarkable strength and resilience, triumphing over each obstacle she encountered.




Before embarking on our journey to Manila, we sought spiritual solace and divine intervention from various sacred sites. We visited Mama Mary at Simala, Snr Sto Niño, Mahal sa Birhen sa Regla in Lapu-Lapu, Snr San Vicente Ferrer in Bogo, and the Replica de Capelinha in San Remegio. Additionally, we had a heartfelt prayer session with parish priest Father Jojo at Babag Church.

Upon arriving in Manila, we continued our pilgrimage of faith, seeking blessings and strength for the upcoming surgery. We visited the Nazareno Church in Quiapo and Mama Mary at Baclaran Church, pouring out our hearts in prayer.

Throughout the surgery and recovery period, we found solace and hope in daily visits to Padre Pio Church, fervently praying for Athena's fast healing and recovery. Day by day, Athena showed remarkable progress until we received the joyful news that she was cleared to return home to Cebu.

Our unwavering faith served as a beacon of light, dispelling our fears and guiding us to make the right decision to proceed with the surgery. It was our leap of faith that ultimately led to our daughter's healing and recovery.



Athena Faith now stands stronger than ever before, embodying the essence of her name.

As "Athena," the Goddess of Wisdom, she will navigate life's journey with a heart filled with joy and determination, attaining success in all her endeavors through her wisdom and discernment.

With "Faith" as her guiding light, she will walk through life with unwavering trust in God, forever grateful for His blessings and grace, knowing that faith will carry her through every challenge and triumph.

Mathew 7:7 - “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you".  

Special Thanks to all the Sponsors:

Families , Relatives & Friends

Gift of Life International c/o Sir Rob

Rotary Club of Cebu

Let it Echo Maam c/o Diana

Heart Warriors Philippines Coordinators and Members

Senator Bong Go

Senator Imee Marcos

Sen Allan Villanueva

Senator Pia Cayetano

Senator Francis Tolentino

Congressman Duke Frasco

Congressman Cindy Chan

Congressman Bonifacio Bosita

Ako BICOL Party List

PTV Malasakit @ Work


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