Tag Archives: death

I remember

[I had a conversation recently from an acquaintance who was non show biz (read: non-medical) and he commented that I have it so easy being a doctor and all. I would have rebuked him, but left him to his misconception of who I am and how I got here. The following are compiled blog posts from my now archived and semi-retired personal blog which I’d like to share in the hope of shedding some light in the life that I have now]


February 22, 2007  –    The Aftermath

“Sometimes you just have to forget the rules,

follow your heart and see where it takes you…

Never apologize for saying what you feel

because that’s like saying sorry for being real…

Never regret anything you said or did because at some point,

it was what you wanted…

True strength is being able to hold it all together

when everyone else is expecting you to fall apart…”

I received this message vis SMS as I was getting ready to go to Manila.

I received two messages just as I was boarding the bus, but the clincher was this one from jimbo summarized in ten characters:

“bok, ok k lng?”

When it rains, it pours. For unknown reasons (or have the mighty gods once again conspired against me?) as my laptop computer just went dead. Had this happened on any other day, I would probably have gone berserk, but now because of the news about the board exam results, it pales in comparison (now that’s relativity for you).

My plan to teach biochemistry at school is now momentarily put on hold.

And so has everything else for that matter.


April 3, 2007 –    Strike Out

“Say not in grief ‘He is no more’ but live in thankfulness that he was” — Hebrew Proverb

Now the story can be told. It’s been two years since my sister died and about a month since my father passed away.

Strike one was when I flunked the medical board exams on the first take. It was the 22nd of February. That one I’ve recovered quite easily from. Having blocked everything else, the hardest thing was actually letting my parents know that I failed. It took me some time as I was waiting for the right moment I kept telling myself. Unfortunately, time would be the one thing that I was to be short of. Finally I was ready I said to myself, it was the morning of March 2nd, I was even happy that someone sent me a text message that morning.

“People don’t always get what they deserve in this world” – Lemony Snicket

Good morning! Have a great day ahead 😉

Little did I know that it was to be an ominous sign. I dropped by a friend’s place and he even teased my why I was in such a hurry, “Nami-miss na ako ng tatay ko” (My father misses me already) I told him. “Paano mo naman alam?” (How would you know?) he teased back. “Kasi pinasabi niya sa nanay ko” (He told my mom so) On my way home I received a phone call informing me that he was on the hospital. I rushed back to find him in the emergency room. “Masakit” (It hurts) was all he said when I asked how he was feeling. But despite of all the pain that he was in he was still anxious to tell me that he heard the results of board exams already came out. I told him we’ll talk about it later when he gets better. “mawala ya ing sakit, muli ta na” (as soon as the pain goes away, lets go home) he insisted. I’ve seen a countless number of cases similar to what my father had, but nothing in my four years of med school would prepare me for what was to follow. My mother came in just as they where taking him to the ICU, I whispered into his ear that my mother was here and he opened his eyes to look at her. It was to be for the last time. An hour after he was brought into the ICU, he was proclaimed dead. My tears have been falling long before they told me. I had to be strong. I was still hurting, I have let the tears fall, its time for healing.

That was strike two.

Barely three weeks later, my mother got sick. She was hospitalized for a week and by the time we got out she was half a finger short of her former self. The only consolation was that it could have been her arm, worse still, it could have been her life. Even though some of doctors who were my consultants back in senior internship waived their professional fees or substantially reduced it, still the hospitalization entailed a lot of money, money that we didn’t have. At one point I just wanted to break down and cry. After the hospitalization she still needed antibiotic treatment for two weeks in the very least. Each vial of the medicine costs about P800 each and I needed two vials to be given four times daily. I don’t know how we survived that crisis, but apparently we did. Thank God.

That was strike three.

How am I holding on? I don’t know. I’m supposed to be studying again for the upcoming physician Licensure Exam in August, but I’m also taking care of a ton of paper works for my father’s death benefits. I’ve seen a lot of red tape in the government before, and I’m seeing it all over again.

So perhaps I do have a reason to be unhappy. But then you realize that this isn’t the end for me just yet. Hindi lang ikaw ang may problema sa mundo (you’re not the only one with problems in the world) someone reminded me. It’s difficult I must admit. With my father gone I am now the one expected to make the right decision for us. They may not always be the most popular one as I am beginning to learn, but I do try to do what is right.

In time, this too shall come to pass.


August 16,2007 –    Vindication

I woke up the usual time. I had a restful sleep the night before but I just had the urge to open my fone. A flurry of messages came in. The first message I read was from lizzie. Then from jojo. My heart must have skipped several beats. I told my mother that I was going out for a while. I immediately bought the day’s newspaper. No news about the exam until I realized that I had the wrong newspaper so I bought another one. Then there it was, my name under the list of new physicians. Then I searched for their names, no it can’t be possible, but it was. Their names were not on the list.

I then proceeded to go to church to offer a prayer of thanks for myself and another one for those who didn’t quite make it.

I felt like a call center agent, answering one call after another. Among the many calls I got that day went “Dapat masaya ka” (You should be happy) the voice on the other end of the line told me. “Oo naman” I told the voice on the other end of the line, but deep inside I felt that the battle was only half won.

I wondered to myself why people are so quick to congratulate those who passed and yet it so conveniently forget there are still those who did not make, and they are it that need our support even more.

“Sometimes we lose but we are not losers. At times we fail but that does not make us failures”

How can one bask in glory all by his lonesome? One can argue that this is because it’s a personal win.

“Kakuswelo nang tatang mo nung mabie ya mu” (your father would have been proud of you if he were still alive) was the generic greeting of most of my relatives and neighbors who heard.

Looking back, I think I was more relieved when I passed biostatistics exam that I almost flunked back in college than passing the medical board exam.

It was always a matter of when I pass the exam, not if.

And now the next chapter in my life begins.

* * * Epilogue * * *

I came home just in time for lunch but I was still to tell her about the news. So as my mom and I were watching TV when I told her about the results of the board exams. The following is a record of what happened when I told her I passed the exams:

Me: Ma, linwal ne in resulta ning board exams (Ma, the results of the board exams already came out)

Mom: O nanu, ikwa me? (So, did you make it?)

Me: Wa. (Yup.)

Mom: (continues watching TV without batting an eyelash)



After a rather long day with one particularly difficult case, I remember this status update from a fellow doctor on her Facebook timeline:

The worst part of my job: Having to break bad news to a patient. How do I tell a jolly, friendly patient that his life is about to change and cancer is about to turn his world upside down? How do you objectively, professionally explain findings in an honest way without being brutal, when the truth, in itself, is brutal? How can you not break someone’s heart when his body is breaking him from the inside out? Worst part of the job…

to which the following reply was offered:

Our doctor said: your mother has glioblastoma multiforme. Then she explained the diagnosis in very simple terms. The best part of the talk was this: We will MANAGE this the way we manage regular diseases like diabetes. The word MANAGE and the use of WE meant the world for a family whose life changed in a second.She had to give us a timeline but her words were careful. She DID not say how much time my mom had. She just said that her best case lived for a certain number of years.

True, as doctors we may not always have the answers, and even if we do, the dilemma is in how do we go about it. And this is where the art of medicine comes into play, something that I hope to develop more as I realize that sometimes all that is left of a person is hope, and we as doctors, and more so as fellow human beings at that, should understand this fundamental matter.

Happy Death

UntitledThis post was originally posted in my other blog. I don’t believe that the world will end tomorrow, but what if it did? Maybe it’s because life and death are intricately woven in my chosen profession that every once in a while it is but proper that I reflect upon it. I hope you like what you find in here, unedited as it was written about four years ago..

inkblots & blood clots

During my last tour of duty at the hospital, we received two patients at the Emergency Room, both with critical thermal burns secondary to massive electrical shock. One would need immediate surgery for his wounds, but he will live to tell his tale. Unfortunately for his companion, he was not as fortunate. In his demise, he leaves behind a very young son, his wife and their unborn child. He was called to work on the day that he was supposed to be off duty and was just called to fix a broken connection. He died in the line of duty.

I have been witness to so many deaths in the ER that sometimes I feel that my conscience is numb. But every time I talk to their loved ones left behind I am reminded that they are not just another body headed for the morgue as each death has a…

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