Girl, 7, offers to save sister, 12, from cancer


Kianna Cabralis snuggles up to her big sister Kelsey at their home in Tunapuna on Saturday.

WE have heard about sibling rivalry, but this is a compelling story about sibling love. For the love of her sister, Kelsey Cabralis, a cancer patient, seven-year-old Kianna Cabralis is making the ultimate sacrifice to save her life.

Kelsey, 12, desperately needs a bone marrow transplant. Kianna has turned out to be the perfect match.

Their mother, Candice Moraldo, told Sunday Newsday on Friday there was no need to persuade Kiana to be Kelsey’s guardian angel, once the procedure was explained to her.

“She told me, ‘If I can save my sister’s life, I will do it.’” Moraldo and her daughters, who live in Tunapuna, spoke in a phone interview.

In spite of her own discomfort, anxiety and pain, Kianna was on board with all the probing and tests to give Kelsey a new lease on life.

“I love my sister. I want her to live. I want her to get better so we can play together. She is my best friend,” Kianna said.

“I want to save my sister. We have fun when we play, but she is too sick to play with me now. I want her to get better. I want to save her life.”

Eternally grateful for the sacrifice her younger sister is willing to make, Kelsey said she too wants nothing more than to live so she can fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor.

“I want to get better. I want to be a doctor, to help children, especially children like me, who are suffering from cancer,” Kelsey said.

She said her sickness has motivated her to want to be a doctor. Her mother said that may take some time, as her illness has kept her out of school for lengthy periods.

Her education is now on hold as she is unable to attend physical or online classes. The pending surgery would mean another six months for recovery.

Both girls are students of Tunapuna Girls’ RC Primary School.

Moraldo said Kelsey was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was just two years old.

She went into remission several times, but relapsed at age six which kept her in the hospital for several months and out of school for almost two years.

Three weeks ago, Kelsey, a standard four student, suffered a third relapse.

“Since November last year, she had been complaining about headaches and was vomiting a lot. We went to the emergency department, but three times they told me it was migraine, period symptoms and, on one occasion they even took a pregnancy test,” said Moraldo.

“Three weeks ago, a Monday, my mom took her back to the hospital. The Sunday before she told me, ‘Mummy like I am going blind. I cannot see.’ She was weak, vomiting like crazy. She was losing weight drastically, getting so thin all her collar bones were showing.”

She said that Monday, when Kelsey’s grandmother took her to the Just Because Foundation (JBF) clinic at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex Mt Hope, she demanded to see a consultant.

“My mom said she did not want to see any house officer because something was wrong with Kelsey which needed specialist attention.

“They (JBF staff) ended up calling Dr Kevon Dindial who ordered a CT scan and warded her immediately.

Kianna Cabralis gives her big sister Kelsey a kiss at their home in Tunapuna on Saturday.

“He said the scan showed a mass behind her head and that the brain was swelling. They immediately started her on steroids because the swelling was so bad, it was affecting her eyes.

“She was given morphine for the pain and a MRI was done which showed that there was no mass, but the image showed the actual swelling of the brain.”

She said a lumbar puncture, which is recommended in a case like this, was not possible because the swelling of the brain could exert so much pressure to cause her to go into distress.

Another MRI was done and revealed a decrease in the brain swelling, but on Wednesday, the spinal cord came back positive for leukaemia cells.

Moraldo was then told a bone marrow transplant was critical.

“On the last two occasions she went into remission quickly and the transplant was not recommended. The doctor said they were taking no chances because this was her third relapse. The only problem is that this surgery is not available locally.

“The doctor has sent Kelsey’s file to hospitals around the world to see who would take her case. He is also making recommendations to the Children’s Life Fund to assist.

“I have not been given a cost, but one parent whose child did the bone marrow transplant said it cost her TT$3 million.”

She said at the moment no account has been established because she has not yet been accepted at any medical institution and no cost has been determined. As a merchandiser, and her husband Kevon Cabralis, an employee of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, Moraldo said the family doesn’t have millions to fund the surgery.

She said she is hoping to get a response soon, as time is running out for her daughter.

Kelsey Cabralis is the second child Newsday has reported on who seeks urgent care for cancer recently. Triston Ramlochan, 13, is warded at the paediatric hospital waiting funding for stem-cell transplant abroad. He too is assisted by the JBF and his family, which set up a bank account and GoFundMe TnT page, is awaiting a decision from the Children’s Life Fund. .

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