Josephine Shoo arrived in Korea in March 2014 to visit friends, but after a medical checkup, she received a shocking diagnosis: stage III follicular lymphoma.
Left with a bill of over $40,000 and no Korean health insurance, the Shoos and their friends are reaching out to the public for donations to help cover the hospital expenses.
Shoo runs an NGO called New Life Foundation with her husband Glorious Shoo and is the president of another nonprofit called Uzima Africa in her native Tanzania.
She had previously visited doctors in her home country with complaints of chronic pain. However, she was unable to get a proper diagnosis and decided to get a checkup while in Korea.
“Because of the lack of equipment, it is hard to treat anything over there if it’s complicated,” Glorious said.
While the Shoos have social security benefits in Tanzania, the lack of adequate health care facilities has forced her to remain in Korea for the duration of her follow-up treatment, which may last until March 2015.
Shoo will be receiving six courses of R-CVP immunochemotherapy at Inha University Hospital, where she is currently being treated by Dr. Kim Chul-soo, a professor at the hospital’s medical school. She also is set to undergo a bone marrow transplant, a procedure Kim says is costly but has proven effective in other patients.
|Josephine Shoo and her husband Glorious Shoo pose at Inha University Hospital, Incheon. (Glorious Shoo)|
“The cost of a bone marrow transplant varies … by country, ranging from $40,000 to $50,000 at Inha University Hospital in Korea to nearly $1 million at many prestigious institutions in the U.S.,” Kim said, adding that Inha offered the cheapest rate in Korea.
Kim said that recently the number of foreigners visiting the hospital for cancer treatment has increased.
“Among (those who have come to Korea for treatment), three foreign patients underwent a successful bone marrow transplant at Inha University Hospital,” Kim added.
Kim informed Josephine this month that tests could not detect any cancer cells and that the disease appeared to be in complete remission, but this diagnosis does not mean that the body is devoid of any cancer cells or that the disease will not return.
Considering her improved condition and the efficacy of bone marrow transplants at Inha, the prognosis looks promising, Kim said.
However, after dedicating many years and much energy to running an NGO, the couple has little savings.
“Our first thought was that there was nothing we could do because personally we did not have that much (money),” Glorious Shoo said. “So finally, we decided to ask for help and we had lots of people encouraging us to (go ahead with the treatment).”
Among those who have contributed to the couple’s medical fundraising efforts is Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who wrote in a letter to the Shoos that he was touched by Josephine’s story and her work in Tanzania, calling her an “inspiration and a living testimony of selfless love and dedication.”
“It was so, so great,” Glorious said, describing the moment when Ambassador Hojin Chang delivered the letter and donation from the prime minister.
The couple’s New Life Foundation helps orphans, impoverished children and teen mothers in Tanzania gain adequate care and access to education and employment.
“There are lots of people praying that Josephine will be back and will be able to help more children and women,” Glorious said.
“And we really thank God because it has been a great blessing to see the generous people in Korea and the Korean prime minister come in to offer help.”
Donations for Josephine can be made on her Go Fund Me page. For information on other ways to contribute, contact her husband Glorious via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dina Perez, Intern reporter