The game of fate

“Published” on November 16, 2010 on

Most, if not all things, happen for a reason

I drill this into my head everyday. I don’t mourn over wrong decisions. I don’t regret not choosing the other path. Why? Because I know, and I have faith, that the holy-powers-that-be-from-above have already laid this out for me. You hear people all the time saying, “You can CHANGE your destiny!” and all that sassy talk. Well, yes, that COULD be possible. But then again, the Lord will also know where your decision is going to lead to. So why bother, right? Just do what you do, be yourself. My grandfather told me one time, “I’ve given up trying to understand God. No matter how much we pray for something, if it’s not in His plans, it’s not going to happen. All we can do is obey.” Made sense.

Sometimes, He would make weird twists in your life and let you comprehend the means and the ends of the whole thing. Some people break down because of what transpires in their life, but I elect to keep my head leveled. Keep calm, let the flow of life go about its course. Let life be life, as they say. Call a spade a spade.

– As most of you know, my grandmother was confined in the Philippine Heart Center along East Avenue. At first, around early September, her children (my aunt and uncles) and her husband (my grandfather) voted to have her abnormally expanding abdomen checked by a doctor. Being that Daddy was a war veteran and a Green Card Holder, Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center was the best choice, financially speaking. And since we weren’t by any means rich in terms of hard cash, we had her confined there. They had her undergo ultrasound and some x-ray tests. The tests revealed a mass in her uterus. In addition, there was some sort of fluid in there, which was causing the enlarging of Mommy’s tummy. If I didn’t know better or wasn’t her grandson, I’d assume she was pregnant because of her stomach.

The doctors recommended that the fluid in her uterus be drained. They did that, and everything looked like it was going to be fine…

1. October 13, 2010 – According to eyewitness reports (Ate Beth, Daddy and anybody else who was there), around 4 PM in the afternoon, Mommy was sending someone away. With conviction. She was seeing something…or someone else in her room aside from Ate Beth. Some tall guy clad in black. She was sending this someone away with real, unadulterated, boiling rage. But what’s puzzling about it was that the only ones in the room at the time were herself & Ate Beth. Who was this man? Unfortunately, this emotional outburst set the tone for a heart attack. She began to have cold sweats, she complained of exhaustion and her heart rate raised to critical levels.

**According to my grandfather, this man in a black suit that appeared to Mommy was none other than the Angel of Death. He has seen it before, and they will strike fear into you. And they’re ugly. Reeeeeally ugly. My grandfather’s pretty resourceful with words, but these beings were in a word: Ugly. Maybe if you saw one of them you would come up to them and say, “Heeeey, you’re the guy Duane was talking about! He gave a really good description of you, I can’t be wrong. It’s you!”

– Obviously, this wasn’t good. I arrived at around 7 PM to catch them just about to reel Mommy out of her room and into the X-Ray department, then straight to the Intensive Care Unit. After a cardiologist by the name of Jesus Jorge (who would happen to have consultation hours in the Philippine Heart Center) attended to Mommy, he advised us to allow them to transfer Mommy via ambulance to the Heart Center. The facilities in VMMC were…inadequate, to say the least, and if we wanted to save her life, we would have to follow medical advise and have her transferred to a medical institute more suited to confronting this kind of problem.

– Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to save their mother’s life, right? So we stepped on the gas and had her transferred. In the PHC’s Emergency Room, doctors attended to her. Mommy’s critical heart condition needed a more in-depth check, so the doctors recommended an angiogram procedure. Don’t know how that works, but it’s supposed to pinpoint where the problem exactly is in the heart. At first, they were even saying angioplasty might be needed (Angioplasty costs half a million pesos, if you didn’t know by now), if the angiogram results turn out to inevitably lead to us having to pay a fortune. The siblings decided to have the angiogram done FIRST, then decide what to do from thereon.

– By the grace of God, the angiogram revealed…well, I forgot. But angioplasty wasn’t required, and that’s all we needed to know. Still, Mommy needed to be confined in the Heart Center because the next thing to do was to use medications to negate the effect of one of Mommy’s clotted coronary arteries (am I saying this right?), which rendered half of her heart very weak. These medications were going to “melt” the blood clot in one of Mommy’s major coronary arteries. So starting on October 13, Mommy’s tenure with the PHC began.

2. Reminiscent – Now I have to be honest. Ever since my own mother passed away, I have held a grudge against most nurses, especially those in the Kidney Institute. I couldn’t help it. The medical personnel there, not just the nurses, were careless, inconsiderate, insensitive and didn’t look like they valued their patients’ lives. They just went about doing what was necessary to earn money. Well, that’s what it seemed like. I share the same view with my Tita Evelyn.

– Mommy stayed in the ICU for 8 days or so. During this time, an invasive type of ventilator (one which would have a tube that went straight into the respiratory tract to help her breathe) had to be put on her; there was something in her lungs. Those kinds of ventilators go through one’s mouth. Now Mommy is one of those hardcore prayer warriors. Her faith is so strong to the point of utter refusal of medical intervention. So if you’re thinking she would be, if not refusing, removing the ventilator tube or the Nasal Gestation Tube (NGT), then your thinking is correct. She is THAT faithful…or stubborn…faith is in the eye of the beholder, whatever. Back in the ICU, when she was still under the ventilator, doctors had no real choice but to tie her hands down. Again, not a pretty sight. She couldn’t even scratch her nose.

– Once her condition improved and she no longer needed a ventilator, Mommy was transferred to the PHC’s Adult Pay Ward, where she would spend majority of her time in the hospital. Her condition there was up-and-down, rocky, zigzag or what have you. 2 nights into her stay in the Pay Ward, she would see another one of those black-suited men, shortening her breath again; a ventilator had to be put on her, this time the non-invasive type. It’s no fun having a ventilator mask put on you, even if it IS non-invasive. I don’t even think they named those contraptions correctly. The NIV, or Non-Invasive Ventilator, isn’t non-invasive at all. It should be named the LIV, or the Less Invasive Ventilator. How about the DNVYTBSSIV, or the Does-Not-Violate-Your-Throat-But-Still-Somewhat-Invasive Ventilator? That’d call for a really long piece of label paper. Then there was blood in her urine, but that didn’t last long. Then the side effects of one of the blood thinning drugs (Clexane) being administered to her took effect and caused her gastrointestinal tract to bleed.

– What caught my attention was the need for suctioning. Mommy’s lung condition (there was fluid in her lungs) was being treated, and it would have been successful. It was, partly, but the phlegm was stuck in her throat and she was too weak to expectorate it. So we would hear her breathing and talking as if she was drowning…in her own phlegm. The sound of the bubbling phlegm when she would talk, or even just breathe, was unbearable. It’d make you conscious about your own throat even if there isn’t any phlegm in it. So there we go, suctioning…

– Reminiscent. This is where that word comes in. You see, Mama (my mother), after being brutalized by NKTI via tracheostomy (did I spell that right?), would go on to undergo more agony. The wound in her throat and neck remained open, and blood was dripping to it, so that blood had to be suctioned every now and then. It’s a very weakening, heartbreaking sight to even imagine, so stay on the story, don’t visualize this. Mommy’s case didn’t call for tracheostomy, but the suctioning reminded me strongly of the events that transpired in the National Kidney & Transplant Institute. Ironically, the Philippine Heart Center isn’t far from the previously mentioned torture chamber.

– I remembered just how much I have grown to despise nurses and doctors in the past months. It came back to me. For a while I lived in the past, filled with vengeance, with hatred for those who put my mother into such stress. Such suffering. Then when the trance was over, I looked at Mommy being suctioned…a different view. How? Because of one, solitary reason: these nurses had a heart. These nurses, these doctors, CARED for their patients. The Credit and Collection people might not (who am I kidding? If they weren’t cold, ruthless and greedy, then the hospital wouldn’t be able to collect their patients’ bills), but the ones handling the patients firsthand seemed to do so. They weren’t reckless. Yes, they had to do their job despite having to inevitably cause quite some distress upon their patients, but they did so with careful precision. They actually made a lot of effort to minimize having to hurt their patients. Less pain is better than a lot of it, right? And they were focused on what they were doing. I guess the Heart in PHC really does live up to its namesake.

– Over time, as a watcher over Mommy, I realized just how wrong I was in the past months. I trudged the months of March to the middle of October thinking, “These medical people don’t care about their patients, they’re just in it for the money because they know they’re in demand!” How wrong was I? It shames me just to think about it. Now I know why (among the many reasons that he may have, we never know) God put us in this situation. I don’t know how it applies to everybody else like my uncles, my cousins and especially my grandfather, or what God has in store for them, but I learned something out of all this, as if God was sending me a message himself. “Son, vengeance is nearly synonymous with Wrath. And I know you know that Wrath is labeled as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Do not wrongly generalize all who practice the medical field as inconsiderate hogs just because a select few did their job very poorly. Sure, some of them are such, but a reason exists as to why their job is to save lives; because the first of their kind really hoped for such a dream. It’s a safer assumption to trust these people with a life, because this is what they have studied and worked for.”

– Or something like that. For me, I took it as his way of telling me to change my thinking. And it did. The nurses that took care of Mommy were outstanding. A huge thanks to all of you. I’d name all of you one by one, but I might forget somebody.

Anyway, Mommy has been transferred back to Veterans today at 4PM. She is in a better condition now, and is even able to sit up with a bit of help. A big part of her recovery, I owe it to the nurses. How ironic that I used to blame nurses. God bless you all!

And for all aspiring nurses, please do your job with a bit of your heart :)


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