Today, my youngest sister will graduate as valedictorian of her high school class. As she delivers her valedictory address on the podium, my engineer father and my homemaker mother will be listening from dedicated seats in the front row. Dapper in his polo and regal in her blouse handpicked just for the occasion, they will share the spotlight as my sister accepts her gold medal.
“Nakaka-disappoint nga Sir, eh. Kaka-declare pa lang na suspended ang klase bukas dahil sa ulan, tinatanong na agad ako kung puwede bang half day sila. Nung (medical) clerk ako, kahit gaano pa kataas ‘yung baha at kahit gaano kalakas ‘yung ulan, pumapasok kami.”
“You have to realize, not everybody sees the world the same way you do.”
It is hardest to talk to somebody mourning the sudden loss of a loved one. You are faced with questions that demand exact answers, but no explanation is ever enough, no course of action justified. Grief takes away all reason, leaving only an impenetrable wall of shock and anger. You are not even sure if it is appropriate to say sorry; you know that you did the best you could, and still failed.
Earlier today, as I was walking past the guard who checks employee IDs at the hospital entrance, my attention was called by a colon cancer patient whom I took I care of as a general surgery resident a couple of years back. “Doktor Baticulon!” he called out. I sat beside him and asked how he was. I was glad to find out his cancer has been in remission since his surgery and chemoradiation.
Sa lahat ng subject, Math talaga ang paborito ko. Kindergarten pa lang ako, alam ko na ‘yun. Dahil ‘yun sa Tatay kong engineer na nagtiyagang magturo sa akin kung paano mag-compute gamit ang mga daliri ko. Sa liwanag ng kanyang desk lamp at sa harap ng mga hinawing blueprint at triangle ruler, manghang-mangha ako noon na matuklasang 4 times 9 equals 36. Walang pinagkaiba sa isang batang nanonood ng magic.
Magbaon ng maraming Micropore tape. Pang-wound dressing. Pang-label. Panggawa ng collar at splint. Pang-secure ng IV line, foley catheter, at NGT. Pandikit ng natanggal na suwelas at napunit na pantalon kakalakad kung saan-saan. Matutuklasan mong guguho ang ospital kapag nagsara ang pabrika ng Micropore tape.
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.