On the day I met her for the first time, I heard her screams before I got to see her. She kept saying “Noooo! Noooo!” with a shrill voice that reverberated throughout the waiting area, just outside the clinic where I see pediatric neurosurgery patients on Saturdays.
Thirteen-year-old Eric Reyes only wanted to help his six-year-old neighbor cross the street. In an ironic turn of events, a tricycle hit Eric on his way back. The impact immediately rendered him unconscious. Bystanders took him to a local hospital where he partly awakened, vomiting relentlessly and moaning from severe headache. As suspected, on the cranial CT they found a rapidly enlarging blood clot occupying almost the entire left half of his brain.
Sixteen hours later, I received him in our emergency room. He was intubated and he would not open his eyes, no matter what stimulus I applied. He was Glasgow 5 with bilateral dilated pupils, both indicators of poor prognosis. In a desperate attempt at heroism, I operated on him to evacuate the massive acute subdural hematoma and relieve his brain of severe pressure. Two days after his surgery, he died just the same.
A few hours after her son, a nurse, died from cancer, Ofelia Reyes bled in her cerebellum. The stroke (“brain attack”) immediately put her in semicoma. There was just too much blood, too close to the part of her brain that controlled her breathing and heart rate. The devastating news of her son’s death almost led to her own, but I operated on her and saved her life.
She could not stop thanking me profusely.
“Dok, maraming maraming salamat po sa lahat ng tulong ninyo sa anak ko,” she said, one hand clutching both handkerchief and rosary, the other stroking her son’s forehead. I had just signed the necessary discharge orders and I approached my patient to remove the thin tube sticking out of the back of his head. The tube was inserted in the operating room to drain excessive cerebrospinal fluid. It would serve no purpose now.
I never liked going on duty on Sundays. Sundays are never quiet in the hospital. Somehow, people get into all sorts of trouble and find a convenient excuse to drag themselves to the hospital on a day that used to be dedicated to attending mass, rest, and mellow music on the radio.
“Good morning, Dok!” he would always say in the morning when we did our rounds. Despite being 18 years old, his voice was a high-pitched squeak of a boy reaching puberty — awkward, but always happy and thankful nevertheless. It was one of the effects of his brain tumor, in addition to his short stature and delayed maturation of physical appearance. Any stranger would incorrectly guess his age to be no more than 12 or 13.