Alam mo ba nung pinanganak ka
tuwang-tuwa ang papa mo.
Naka-buo din sila ng lalaki.
(an uncle to me days before I left for Singapore)
They say that there are moments in time when our lives change profoundly. Moments we remember for a lifetime. For our family it happened on Feb 2, 2009
It was around 7am, my mother roused us from sleep.
“Gising, di ko kaya buhatin papa nyo”.
She’s calm yet you could tell that there’s an urgency in her voice. When we reached their room, I saw my father sprawled on the floor, a puddle of urine a few feet away from him.
“Pa, napano ka?”
No answer. Just a blink and a blank look but one would notice the tears streaming down his face.
My sister and I tried to carry him back to bed but he was way too heavy for us that we needed the help of my bro-in-law.
While I was on the phone with my cousin-doctor to let him know of my father’s condition I could hear my mom whispering to my sisters
“Na-stroke ata papa nyo”
In 1997, when I was in my 4th year in college, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Open surgery was the only option. I was with him when he processed his papers at the PNB bldg in Roxas Blvd. He was only 55 at the time and no plans of retiring yet. Bless the bank, it was agreed upon that they would shoulder all the expenses to be incurred during the hospitalization but my father had to waive the lump sum severance fee. It was good enough for us.
The surgery took place at St Lukes performed by Dr. Renato Sibayan (RIP). It was one of the longest days of our lives. The surgery lasted more than 12 hours, the tumor the size of an egg. It was successful. My father had a speedy recovery. Months later, he would join politics. He served 3 terms as a municipal councilor.
He was confined at the Iloilo Doctors. His MRI showed that there was a bleeding in his brain. Stroke nga. And so certain medications were prescribed by the neurologist.
The next day another cousin who is also a doctor explained to us that there’s a problem with regards the treatment. Apparently, the drug being administered to control the bleeding in his brain was affecting my father’s heart.
My father has a coronary heart disease. About 3 months before the stroke an Angioplasty was performed on him- a procedure in which some wire mesh tubes called the stents were inserted to keep the arteries open to improve blood flow. He’s taking Plavix to prevent blood clots. This antiplatelet drug that keeps the arteries from getting blocked does not help in the treatment of the bleeding in his brain.
To stop the bleeding, my father should stop taking plavix which can result in a heart attack. If he continues to take plavix, there’s the possibility that the bleeding will worsen and he might go comatose.
It’s a case of “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”
My mother told the neuro to do whatever she thinks is the better alternative.
That night I prayed really hard. As hard as I prayed in 1997. Maybe even harder. It was different this time. I prayed for a lot of things actually.
That my father gets better.
That if it is my father’s time to go, I prayed that it should be painless for him
That my mother will be strong enough.
That her depression wouldn’t visit her again because of this blow.
That we will be ready for this.
Finally, I also prayed for money.
We were never rich but we have always lived comfortably. What happened to my father drained us financially. Whatever’s left from the sale of a (parcel) of land in 2006 has already been used up. The insurance too has its limits.
On our 3rd day in the hospital we learned that my mother’s sister passed away. She too had a stroke, a fatal one. Again I prayed to make my mother stronger. It was a double whammy. I believe mama never had the chance to grieve for her sister’s passing.
I practically lived in the hospital for a month. How ironic since I consider it as one of the places I like least. Maybe it’s the smell. Maybe it’s the feeling of uncertainty that permeates the place.
My father was in the ICU for the first 2 weeks and I would sleep in one of the benches in a room shared with other “bantays” of other ICU patients. My sister works in a university nearby and she would sometimes stay with me. My mother slept in my cousin’s place. We needed her to have enough rest, we could not afford her getting sick too.
Having an ICU patient was not only hard and uncomfortable, it was also depressing. Sharing stories with other families, the prognosis of the patients, the dwindling finances, the death of this patient, the signing of the waiver of a wife to remove the respirator her husband etc etc.
My heart would practically slam on my chest every time I would hear “bantay ni _______” on the intercom. And then a sigh of relief as the nurse only needed a fresh supply of diapers or it was time to feed my father.
When he was stable enough, we transferred to a private room. Here, the nurses and the caregivers taught me how to change diapers, how to clean and wash him, how to change sheets.
My sister recently uploaded some pics of him on facebook and tagged me. It is heartbreaking and difficult to reconcile the man whom I looked up to as a kid; whom my sisters and I respect, love and sometimes feared when his temper acts up, to the man on the photograph. He, the head of the family, now relies on the people around him to be fed, dressed, bathed and cleaned.
Sometimes I wonder where does my father get his strength and will to live. He continues to fight. Papa is a survivor. If you’ve been following this blog then you’d know that he has been through a lot- a brain surgery, diabetes, tuberculosis, angioplasty, hypertension, cataract, (enlarged)prostate, cystic. He’s athletic in his prime. He played basketball. But then he’s a good cook too: food that can only be appreciated by a true-blooded carnivore- dinuguan (both pork and chicken), kare-kare, bulalo, crispy pata, liempo. Some uncles who are based abroad would always request for his bagoong na may gata every time they’re on vacation. In fact I got a bit of this skill from him. The night before the attack, I prepared our dinner: chopsuey and tinapa rolls. I wondered if it contributed to my father’s blood pressure shooting up. Because he ate loads of them that night .
In December 2008, a month after my father had the angioplasty, I left Dubai for good. Two months after that the stroke happened. My exit from Dubai was not graceful. Some would say it was a blessing in disguise since I became my father’s caregiver for 7 months. I sometimes think, maybe it’s karma.
Maybe I’ll blog about it in the future or maybe not
It’s been one year and 8 months since the stroke.
Today is my father’s 69th birthday.
This post is for him.
(and to my cousins, uncles, aunts and friends who have never ceased helping us)
Happy birthday Pops! Just hang in there.
Pacencia na Pa, mukhang di talaga kita mabibigyan ng apo.