Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Year 2017: The Most Trying Year of My Life

Last February 2017, I subscribed with Hostgator as I got some guts and commitment to write and write about my travels.  I pledged to write an article a month with my pending past travels.

However, a month after, my mother has to undergo thyroidectomy operations.  She was able to recover and a week after her operations, I went to Busan for a week of solitary trip.  A sort of healing and recovery for me as I juggled both the demands at work (year-end close and a post process and system migration are too much to handle that I had my hair cut short) and attending to my mother's medical needs.

Thankfully, she was doing well weeks after but has to go through follow-up of tests and check-ups.  I then moved to a new company, a multinational company.  As I am new to the company, I seldom went home to the province to see my mother and only seen her in August 2017.  I saw how her physical appearance has been changing and how weakly she is getting.  But I tried to ignore as I do not want to face the fact that my mother is no longer the strong woman I know physically after her thyroidectomy operation.

Then, I got a call in September 24, 2017 while I was at work.  She told me she got herself admitted at the hospital in the province as she's terribly feeling weak and the stomach pain are getting worse.  I cannot file on leave yet but told her I' m coming home on the 29th of September.  From work, I went straight to the airport and took the first morning flight from Manila to Bacolod.  From Bacolod airport, I went straight to the Riverside Medical Centre where my mother was admitted.

She looked fine but her skin more yellowish.  I tried to overcome the sleepiness from having no sleep from work but had to take a nap.  Late in the afternoon, her doctor called me to talk about her medical condition.

"Your mother may succumb to coma as the toxins from liver inflamation and other complications from her kidney and gall bladder are already spreading.  There's no other option but a liver transplant".  I cannot decipher what the doctor is saying.  "Are you all working in Manila"?, she asked.  I said, "Yes, all of us. My father and my siblings.  She's living here in Bacolod with my sister in law and a helper.". "I'd rather you take her to the hospital in Manila so whatever might happen to her, you are all there".  The doctor further told me.  I still cannot take in all what she said.  What I was trying to think is to find a solution.  At work, whenever my subordinate raised an escalation of an issue, while having a discussion, I would already think the ways to resolve.

"Where can we get the liver transplant?", I further asked.  She said, "It will take a while to find a donor and my mother's case is very urgent. AND, it is too costly".  I was thinking, I don't mind, we will find a way.  But my mother as I later found out was already aware of her condition.  The doctor told her about everything.  She told me it was too costly, we cannot afford it. And I answered back, let's got o Manila where the hospital has more other facilities that can sustain you while we are looking for the donor.

September 30, 2017, we took the commercial flight to Manila from Bacolod and transferred my mother to St Lukes Medical Center in Quezon City.  She looked good. She walked though supported with wheelchair.  My father fetched us at the airport.

She was admitted the same day and all other tests were done to her.  All medical specialists surrounded her - from fellows for internal medicine, kidney specialist, heart surgeon, among others whose specialization I can no longer remember.  Everyday I took note of her food and liquid intake, including her urine and stool.  But her conditions are not getting better.  Whatever medications for her kidney will elevate the condition of her liver - and the other way around.  As she's urinating too little, her stomach is getting bigger and she looked uncomfortable but did not show anything to me.  I asked her if there's anything painful, it just that she felt bloated.  I juggled work at the hospital while attending her.

Then, the doctor advised for gradual dialysis - it was gradual to manage her other complications which medical terms I can no longer remember.  I asked my father to come back from her project assignment in Masbate to be with us during the first dialysis.  I can sense something but ignored everything.  I ignored the possibility that anything worst could happen to my mother.

October 5, 2017, she was scheduled for the "gradual dialysis" and was transferred around 7:00PM.  It was a five-hour ordeal of checking her from time to time as the dialysis was on-going.  I prayed the Holy Rosary with her and has to go out of the dialysis room from time to time.  At around 1AM of October 6, 2017, the dialysis was completed and she was sleeping.  Her blood pressure has gotten low but I could not sense any criticality yet.  She was transferred back to her room. 

I asked my father to give her medication scheduled at 4AM as I tried to take a quick nap but couldn't do so.   The assigned nurses kept coming back and forth checking her blood pressure as its getting lower and lower.  At around 4AM, there were rush and urgency in their action and I had to get-up.  They asked me to wake her up in our dialect and she's not answering anymore.  Her blood pressure is dropping.  She would open her eyes as I called her name but closed again.  More fellows came in to check asking me any observations during the dialysis.  If I can only shout at them if they can check from the dialysis center what are those numbers in the machines could tell them.  It was in that moment that only if I can understand medical terms and processes, I could have helped.  I should have taken medicine and not accountancy.

It was the most hectic and long two hours to experience when they decided to put a tube to my mother's mouth (again, I cannot remember the medical terms) so she can breathe. I signed the waiver. It was too painful to see that the head nurse asked me to step out of the room but I did not want to.  My father was already outside of the room.  I told the head nurse I can take it but he told me I could get traumatized.  My father guided me to outside of the room.  More machines were deployed to the room - xray, etc.  I heard my mother groaned in pain as the tube was inserted to her mouth.  I could not face my own pain but to look after my father.  I kept a conversation as casual as possible what the doctors were doing to my mother. 

After reviving my mother during that 30-minutes of hurdle, it was too painful to see (and remember) how she looked.  Tubes on her mouth, blood spurted on her dress and mouth. She's in too much pain and discomfort.  She kept on lifting her hand to pull out the tube and the nurses were stopping her.  I came closer to her and whispered that it would help her breathe so please bear a little as it was too much of discomfort for her.  She listened and rested.

Then, the doctor advised that she needed to be transferred to ICU where further dialysis has to be done and she needed close monitoring.  The ICU fellow told us pointblank. My mother has 24 hours to survive.  As her blood pressure kept on dropping, they had to manage the dialysis to its minimum.  Again, a medication to one of her medical condition is detrimental to the other.

My father was in shock, in tears.  I was holding my tears.  I need to understand and need to prepare.  I called my brother in Mindoro and sister in Malaysia to come home.  My brother traveled right away and we told him to show some courage so my mother would fight hard to survive.  My sister hesitated to come home and asked us to tell our mother she won't come home but she has to live.

We spent most of our time at the chapel - my father crying hard, praying to God to allow my mother to live - at most to spend Christmas with us.  I was also praying to extend her life and let us spend Christmas with her.  I cannot even pray the Holy Rosary while waiting.  I was restless for a call from ICU anytime.  I went back and forth in ICU checking on her blood pressure and all the numbers running in the machines.  There were too many hanging from the stand connected to the tubes.  More stocks of different liquids on the floor.  The ICU fellow was kind enough to explain but also honest that it was not getting better.  It was too painful to see my mother's condition - she was in too much pain that I already think of letting her go. Every time we talked to her, she would nod.  I whispered to her that my sister is coming over so please hang for her life more.   Everytime we told her about it, her blood pressure would improve.  But she still looked in too much pain that I cannot bear to see anymore.  I kept on having a strong front and looked calm when talking to the ICU nurses to understand her condition. But in layman terms, I did understand. She was not getting better.

Then, I called my sister to book the earliest flight as it seemed my mother was only waiting for her.  She was at her most painful state.  And I could not forget her last hours. It is still painful to remember.

Our relatives and friends gathered at the hospital and stayed with us overnight.  October 7, 2017, at around 2AM, I checked on my mother's and it seemed her BP is getting better.  That was my own interpretation.  At 4AM, I told my relatives and friends to go home and to go back by 10AM when they can visit my mother at ICU.  At around 5AM, I planned to went up at ICU but received a call from the nurses instead.  They asked us to come up immediately.  The three of us (my father and my brother) went up immediately and witnessed how the doctors tried to revive my mother.  On the 7th attempt (if I can remember it correctly), they were explaining that it would be the final dose and if they would proceed.  My father answered to proceed.  But still no response from my mother's.

It was painful how her chest were pumped up and down.  I could not imagine the pain of her chest getting pressed harder.  But the life line was already flat. No response.

The doctor asked us if we can stop.  I asked my father if we can stop.  We have to let go of my mother. And that was the most painful decision that we have to take.  I was asked to sign a waiver.  And the most difficult and painful signature to write.

October 7, 2017, at around 7AM, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, my mother was succumbed to liver inflamation and multiple organs failure.  She looked too pitiful that I regret to have that tube inserted to her mouth.  I regret giving into the doctor's advise for dialysis.  I regret that she has to go through all those painful medical procedures if only at the end, she was not able to survive.  I regret all the waivers that I signed. If I am a doctor, would I able to treat her? The way I did well in my profession as an accountant right now.  If I am a doctor, would it make a difference (would I able to lessen the pain?). Would I resort to some medical procedures to lessen the pain?  If I was a doctor, did I just have her died at home instead but at most painless and natural way?  There were too many regrets. Should I demand an explanation from the doctors? Their recommendations did not work- did they just do the trial and error?  Can they explained clearly to me- the way I can explain the numbers in the financial statements?  How could I asked them in a way they can explain to me in terms that I can understand? They were using a lot of acronyms, longer terminologies that I thought I was stupid not to understand.  There were too many regrets.

Days after her death were spent on errands. All the necessary papers and finances to settle, including a promise to pay and collateral - from the released of her remains from the hospital to the funeral house.  The documents for her transit from Manila to Bacolod - the arrangement at the cemetery, funeral house in the province, contacting the relatives, arranging for the masses, etc.  As I spent the days arranging everything, I did not cry the hardest.  I hold all those emotions as I need to stand strong for my father and siblings - even up to the funeral. 

It was too hard that I wanted to understand why I couldn't cry.  Why can't I cry.  And I still felt, my mother was just around us.  It was until the 39th day from her death when I learned that she would be gone forever on the 40th and that I would not feel her anymore.

The reality finally sinked in.  I was in the parking lot getting off work and I cried so hard for an hour. Then, I continued driving along C5 dangerously with the 10-wheeler trucks while crying so hard at past 2 am in the morning.  I thought of swerving the wheel and just bumped and switched between these 10-wheeler trucks to I could be with my mother wherever she is but something whispered not to do it.  It was so hard that I cannot focus on work.  I have to look after my father and ignored what I was going through.

Fourteen days more, it would be six months since her death but felt like forever. The life clock is much slower, days passed by just living without any expectation at all.  I don't have the appetite to eat and did not meet a lot of friends during Christmas holidays.   It was the hardest to survive. The loneliest holidays ever.

As I tried to live each day, feel the loneliness from the loss of my mother, and just go through each day with nothing to expect.  I do not have plans for the future anymore.  I just live each day whatever life has to offer but also sorry that I can no longer give my best at work.  I cannot pull any motivation from within and I am still struggling until now.

I cannot attend regular Sunday mass.  If I attend, I would stay outside as my heart is only filled of loneliness and could not help but cry when I sing the Lord's Prayer.  Deep in my heart, I am also sorry to God that I could not attend the mass with joyful heart.  I do not blame God for what happened.  Instead, I would like to understand the same pain He gone through at the cross.  But I am also praying for the grace to sustain and healing.

But I am also trying for self-healing - reading books about grief, looking for helpful messages from the internet.  I cannot open up but thankfully I met friends who lost a parent just few years back and shared what they experienced. And what I am going through right now are just part of the process of healing.  On March 11, 2018, just a week before my birthday, I went to attend a private retreat at Carmelites Missionary.  It was helpful to get rid all of the regrets and continue praying for our healing. 

And I pray that amidst the loneliness, I would like to think that my mother is in a much better place where there's no pain. But I pray that she would continue to guide us as we live each day trying to face life's difficulties and loneliness until we meet again.

And now I'm starting to write.

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