WHEN a loved one falls gravely ill, it’s but natural for anyone to express utmost concern. But when it happens to elderly parents, their children, I now understand, are deep down more afraid for themselves than they are for their ailing parents.
Having lived full lives, elderly people have little room for regrets and bigger space for acceptance. Like my 83-year-old father, not a few tend to view life in more practical and finite terms.
“If there’s a beginning, there’s an end,” I heard him say recently.
In contrast, young people tend to believe at certain points in their lives that they would live virtually forever. Not only do they consider death as remote, they view it as something that could happen not to them, but to someone else. I used to think like that, too.
Monday in Baclaran
Not my Dad, who has made peace with his God, and probably had an inkling of what awaited him in the New Year. Dec 29 was a Monday, but for some strange reason he asked me to drive him to Baclaran Church.
Normally, I would have protested since we just heard Sunday Mass in Alabang the day before. Surprisingly, I gave in to his request without the slightest objection.
Once there, he tried hearing confession, but the lines leading to several confessionals were long. I guess Catholic churches the world over are busy hearing confessions in late December, as the faithful aim to start fresh in the New Year.
Since there was no Mass that afternoon, we were out of Baclaran Church in less than 30 minutes. The only highlight of our long drive was a selfie we took beside Pope Francis’ standee.
(My Dad got his wish to hear confession and receive extreme unction two weeks later from our parish priest.)
It was the calm before the storm. Two days later, my Dad was already suffering from severe stomach pain barely hours before the world would say goodbye to 2014.
By the afternoon of January 1st, we found ourselves in the emergency room of the hospital. He needed to be operated on ASAP!
In a previous blog post, I wrote that my Dad was released from the hospital on January 9 after an emergency operation involving his intestines and appendix.
We had to rush him to the ER eight days later (January 17) after the maid and I noticed that he was having difficulty walking. His left arm also appeared more limp than his right.
It took us awhile to make the connection because we attributed his issues with movement, which became more apparent a few days after his first release, to the wound from his operation.
But after being told by his surgeon during a follow-up check-up that he could now resume normal activities except lifting heavy objects, we started to have our doubts. How come he seemed weaker and unable to even stand up and walk on his own without holding on to something?
With the family doctor’s go signal, the maid and I decided to take him to the hospital. Sixteen days after his New Year’s date with the knife or eight days after being sent home, my Dad was back in the ER.
After results of a CT scan came in, our worst fears were confirmed. My Dad has had a stroke that hit his cerebellum, the area in the brain responsible for balance and coordination.
“The results of the CT scan says it was chronic stroke,” said his diabetologist. “But I think it was more of a one-time event.”
The cerebellum, he added, is one of the first parts of the brain to be affected, albeit temporarily, by too much alcohol intake. This partly explains why drunkards walk the way they do—umeekis at pasuray-suray.
In a way, my Dad is lucky. The stroke could have left him totally paralyzed and unable to speak. Except for his inability to stand up and walk, his memory and manner of speech have remained intact. Unlike most stroke patients, his face also doesn’t look lopsided.
And despite the frustration that comes with his inability to do routine tasks, he appears surprisingly upbeat and positive. As far as I know, he doesn’t wallow in self-pity.
Tess, our hardworking and faithful maid, now has a companion to help her with round-the-clock chores. She and Annabelle now work in 12-hour shifts to attend to my Dad and do housework on the side.
Apart from the dozen or so anti-stroke medications he has to take (Citicoline, Clonigen, Rosuvastatin, etc.), my Dad has to be driven to the rehab clinic thrice a week for therapy.
After just two sessions he seemed to be making good progress, said the physical therapist. Through a series of exercises, one of the PT’s primary objectives is to remind my Dad’s brain that he still has two feet and a left arm he could utilize.
Back on his feet
He can now sit upright and lie down without any assistance. He still needs to be wheeled to the CR to answer nature’s call. But in due time, we hope to see him back on his feet and walking short distances.
And where did I get the strength and the wherewithal to deal with all this? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. Modesty aside, I ended up surprising even myself at my ability to rise to the occasion. Everything that happened to me during the past month was so unprecedented.
I must admit that there were times when I thought of throwing in the towel. But who am I fooling? Would I be able to live with myself for the rest of my life if I abandon my mission?
The moral and financial support from my siblings and their families abroad certainly helped, but major tasks and decisions on the ground were mine alone to make.
I’d like to thank friends near and far, real and virtual, related or not for their prayers and words of encouragement. A few even extended financial assistance through pay-when-able loans.
S, a Facebook friend who was my classmate back in college, even sent money to my Dad. The strange thing was S and I were never even close in school, and only had the chance to reconnect fairly recently through social media.
He now works as a doctor somewhere in the world (yes, I’m in the wrong profession). I said yes for two reasons: my Dad could use the money, and since S doesn’t work here or is in need of my help to boost his career, I believe that there are no strings attached to his offer.
For his part, he told me “his heart bleeds for the sick and the elderly. Give your Dad a hug and a kiss for me. I hope he gets well soon.” I will.
What was it that a former tax collector-turned-writer named Matthew once wrote: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God bless you, S. God bless us all!