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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 27 February 2021

Family with Dh100,000 debt hope for miracle to get back on their feet

The Sales family borrowed heavily to pay for treatment for their disabled daughter, who died in 2018

Anthony and Azalia Sales with their daughter, Samirah Allegra, who died age three years-old. Courtesy: Anthony Sales 
Anthony and Azalia Sales with their daughter, Samirah Allegra, who died age three years-old. Courtesy: Anthony Sales 

A family in Dubai is struggling to pay off a Dh100,000 debt after they had a daughter with a genetic syndrome that required constant care until her death.

Anthony Sales, 43, and his wife Analiza, 45, from the Philippines, each lost their jobs four years ago after being unable to pay back loans taken out to pay hospital bills for their daughter, Samirah Allegra.

She was born in Ajman in 2014 with trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 18.

Prenatal scans did not detect any abnormalities and the family expected a healthy baby.

I don’t want anything big. I want a chance to get us back on our feet again, a normal life

Anthony Sales

"After the delivery, then they saw something was wrong. She wasn’t breathing properly," said Mr Sales.

"We were surprised... when they told us she only had a few days to live."

Samirah lived to almost see her fourth birthday, spending almost all of her life in hospital in Dubai until her death in June 2018.

The cost of the care fell entirely to the family, as Mr Sales had no health insurance at the time of her birth, having only just started a new job.

When they struggled to pay back loans taken to pay for it, a court action was taken out by one of the four banks they owe money. And because they no longer had their passports, due to court action, they could not renew their visas and lost their jobs, ending any chance they had of settling their debts.

They have lived in the UAE for eight years with their eldest child Raoul, 14. They have spent the past four years without visas and health insurance, struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Sales managed to get some work in an early childhood education centre in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, but lost his job in March and has not worked since.

“Before at least we were managing those bank loans and hospital loans,” said Mr Sales.

Anthony, Analiza and their son Raoul Sales . The couple had their second child here, who was born with a major congenital disorder and died in 2018 aged almost four years. They built up huge debts to the hospital keeping her alive. Reem Mohammed/The National
Anthony plays the keyboard for wife Analiza and son Raoul. Reem Mohammed / The National

“Now we can’t even go to the hospital if we are sick. We don’t have insurance, we don’t have visas.

“It’s very tiring. Every day I think about this. I don’t want anything big. I just want our lives back.”

They are currently getting by with help from friends.

Mr Sales estimates he currently owes around Dh100,000 to banks, not including the family’s significant overstay fines.

The family recently received help from the community after answering a social media post that was offering a free bed.

Since then, they have received a bed, bedding, vouchers for food shopping and even the opportunity to study for Raoul, who has not been able to attend school due to the family’s situation.

The help was arranged by Em Ray, who also has a child with a rare genetic condition. Her son, Sam, 5, has Angelman syndrome, which primarily affects the nervous system. She was giving away a bed after people had offered her help to redecorate her home safely for Sam, who likes to climb but has no concept of danger.

She posted online offering items of furniture she no longer needed as a result, including a loft bed from her daughter’s room, and was flooded by responses. Mr Sales was among those who got in touch.

“Then we just got chatting a little bit more. That’s when we discovered we were both parents of a child with a rare genetic condition,” she said.

Ms Ray posted on Mr Sales’ behalf, which led to a flood of offers to help him.

“As a result of that post, we have enrolled him into a full scholarship into an online academy in the US. It’s the first time they have offered a scholarship to anybody. And they have also offered the hardware to be able to do that course,” said Ms Ray.

“We then also had some people donating bedding, duvets, pillow cases and so on.”

Mr Sales said he was touched to receive the support, which meant a lot, particularly to his son.

“When she was still alive we overlooked him because we were so busy with our daughter, and now, after my daughter was gone we realised we had to make it up to our son,” he said.

He is hoping his run of good luck continues and someone offers him a job and a chance to work again.

The recent visa amnesties were not available to them due to the unpaid loans and court action.

However, even if they were offered the chance to leave and return to the Philippines, Mr Sales said they would not take it.

“I consider Dubai our home," he said.

“I want to stay as there is nothing for us in the Philippines. For sure I have more opportunities here.

“I want a chance to get us back on our feet again, a normal life.”

Updated: January 10, 2021 05:51 PM

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