Jun 14

The Cost of a Life

I propped myself against her husband’s empty hospital bed as Ofelia Reyes remained seated on the plastic monobloc chair next to it, both hands kneading self-pity and frustration on her lap — repeatedly, pointlessly, helplessly — as she narrated the events that left her shaken, robbed of what little money and hope their family had had left. Her husband’s operation went well, I had just told her, but even with eyes averted, she could not keep herself from crying as we spoke. Continue reading →

Nov 13

Morning Rituals

Every morning I would see Eric combing Ofelia’s hair with utmost diligence and meticulousness, it would put to shame shampoo commercial models who comb their tresses on national TV. His palms were coarse and the fingers stubby–toughened by years of manual labor in an automobile repair shop and occasional side jobs in construction projects here and there–but the hands moved deftly through the hair strands that reached his wife’s shoulder blades, one would think that the hands were made solely for this daily ritual. Continue reading →

Sep 13

Lost and Found

Teenager Ofelia Reyes was born with a protuberant, midline fleshy mass at the junction of her lower back and buttocks. When her parents sought consult in PGH during Ofelia’s first month of life, the mass was assessed to be a myelomeningocele.

In this condition, part of the spinal cord and some its nerves, which provide sensation to and move the lower limbs, are exposed on the skin surface because of failure of the bony spine to develop completely. The parents were advised surgery to prevent the mass from rupturing and causing recurrent meningitis, but because of financial constraints, the patient was—as government physicians are wont to write in patient charts—lost to follow up. Continue reading →

Jul 13

Reversing Repercussions

“Inubos na namin lahat ng naipon namin para makalabas ka nang maaga. Sana, magbago ka na,” she said.

I was doing rounds in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU or recovery room) when I overheard these words — a compelling request that was deliberately calm, in a tone with no vestige of anger, almost bordering on affectionate. I momentarily stopped writing doctor’s orders and looked up to see who was talking to my patient. Continue reading →

May 13

Incomprehensible Losses

“Sir, regarding patient Ofelia Reyes, inform ko lang po kayo na nag-mortality na. Mother was firm with her DNR status.” I was sleeping on the couch in the Neurosurgery office when my message alert tone woke me up. It was 1:42 in the morning. Our resident mosquitoes were feasting on my ankles, where I had forgotten to put my insect repellent lotion out of stupidity and exhaustion. Though the news was not unexpected, it took a full minute to register in my head: my patient had just died. Continue reading →

Feb 13

Lost Saturdays

“Inday, kakalbuhin ka muna ha?” Eric Reyes said to her 13-year-old daughter Ofelia as she lay restless on the operating table. I sat at the head end of the table, scissors in one hand while the other adjusted and focused the light on her shoulder-length black hair. Her hair was dry and full of tangles. Grit and oil clung to my fingertips as I parted and divided her hair into locks, making the strands more manageable to trim. But it was full and thick nonetheless. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Forgiveness and Redemption

As if the anguish of having been raped by a drunkard were not enough emotional trauma, Ofelia Reyes found out–two months after the atrocity–that she was pregnant. Continue reading →

Aug 12

It Takes Just One Person

At one point, I gave up on Eric Reyes. The 30-year-old was abandoned in the ward by family and friends. He had no wife or children. He was left to care for himself, which he could not do because of the severe head injury he sustained when he fell six feet, during an attempt to urinate on a cliff-side wall while he was inebriated. In the operating room, I had to remove blood clots and damaged brain from both left and right sides, else he would end up dead or debilitated from severe brain swelling. Continue reading →