Fundraising drive for rare medical condition

Eight-year-old Hazel Hakalits has made headlines both locally and internationally as her parents and family push to raise funds for her treatment overseas, for a rare medical condition which cannot be treated in PNG.

But what started as a single family’s efforts to generate funds for Hazel is now turning into a much bigger agenda, for the whole country.

And so far the support has been overwhelming.

Upon meeting Hazel for the first time, it is hard to miss her infectious smile and bubbly personality that can instantly light up a dull room.  

But behind this cheerful and beaming eight-year-old from a mixed parentage of Bougainville, Western and Gulf Province, is a rare medical condition, called Aplastic Anaemia, threatening her young life.

Unfortunately, treatment for this rare condition is only available overseas.

Hazel was diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia in December 2018 after undergoing biopsy tests six months prior at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

Needing a blood transfusion every week to manage her condition, Hazel urgently needs a bone marrow transplant, which would cost approximately K200,000.

“The last time she was in hospital she was there for two straight months, until we got the proper diagnosis. 

“The doctors have sent her away to be at home (and) every week she goes for a review,” said her father, Lester.

The effort has been phenomenal, with family, friends and unknown individuals, supporting fundraising events or depositing money into the fundraising account.

Hazel’s story also touched Papua New Guineans living in Canada who organised a ‘Polar Dip’ fundraiser, which caught the attention of local media.

Recently, the SP PNG Hunters also jumped on the bandwagon with a signed jersey to support the cause.

“From all these smaller fundraisings all the funds will go towards hosting a bigger event, and hopefully for that bigger corporate dinner we will be able to reach the target of K200,000,” said Lester.

Whilst Hazel’s immediate treatment is the family’s priority, they later on intend to set up a Foundation which will look at putting together a Bone Marrow Transplant Centre in PNG.

“It’s not only because we are experiencing this with Hazel, but looking at it, there will be a lot more children affected by it (aplastic anaemia) or maybe adults,” Lester said.

The family still has a long way to go, and are appealing for support in cash or kind as they continue the medical fundraising drive.

Cedric Patjole