Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Papa's Heart

it's been 8 days since Papa checked in here at the Chinese General Hospital in Manila, and 7 days since i arrived here (he took the plane with our doctor sister-in-law, we took a ship).

he was originally scheduled to have his heart bypass operation last april 16, but he looked so weak and wan when he arrived that his doctors decided against it and ordered him for another angiogram instead on the 16th.

we spent the whole of the 17th waiting for his angiogram results. by evening, one of his four doctors came in to discuss it with us. we learned that although his heart is still medically viable for a heart bypass, there are just too many blockages in his veins and arteries (5 major ones counted, another 5 minor ones seen from the angiogram pictures...), coupled with his failing kidneys because of his diabetes, and vulnerable lungs because of his 40plus years of chain-smoking, to render a heart bypass quite a very risky procedure.

Papa and us were basically scared too, with the idea of opening his chest up and sawing through his rib cage to get to his heart, and opening one of his thighs to get the good blood vessels from there to graft into his weak heart blood vessels... so in a way, the news was a relief to us, even as it temporarily closed a door for him.

good thing there is an option, and it's an advanced kind of angioplasty, where the doctors just do a minor incision in his groin area, insert a catheter to balloon his blood vessels AND then insert a "stent" -- a springlike meshwire tube (his model involves an advanced version of having drugs released into his system to keep his vessels strong) -- to keep his blood vessels opened up for easier blood flow, "for life" (as the doctors said).

it's a more expensive option, though, at 125 thousand pesos per stent. multiplied by 4-5 stents for his major blockages, that would amount to half a million pesos, excluding his other hospital and doctors' bills.

it's another good thing that Papa prepared well for this rainy day. we used to think he was very miserly with us, providing us only with the basics, and training us to work for what we wanted, but his lifetime of thrift has at least released us, his family, from having to additionally worry about his medical expenses, as he's paying for it all, even including our plane and ship tickets and stay here in Manila. it's funny that Papa is the one who should be needing us, yet, up to now, he is still the one taking care of us in very basic ways. a living model of a self-made and self-reliant man, that's what Papa is.

anyway, we decided on the latest coronary stent implantation procedure. he had his first two stents implanted yesterday, april 19, with the next 2-3 stents on monday, april 25. his doctors advise against implanting everything at once, as they want to see how his body will take it. the doctor for his kidneys advised against two successive stents, too, one after another, because the dye used during the procedure might overload his kidneys. so after more discussion and further consultation for auspicious feng shui dates, april 25 was set.

before Papa's procedure early in the morning yesterday, i gathered the family together and asked for a small prayer for papa. we, who have never been public "prayors", especially with each other, now prayed from the heart, all focusing our thoughts and energies and love for Papa's safe and successful operation and recovery.

and you know what, our very specific prayer was answered. even the doctors were amazed at how easy it was for them to conduct the procedure, which was over in 45 minutes. Papa looked well and more upbeat, too. he even went off from his oxygen mask, for the first time in months. so everyone felt optimistic that the next operation would be as safe and successful.

*****

this time with Papa has been a blessing in disguise for me too.

it has afforded me time to be with him and to take care of him, and for him to get to know me all over again, as the adult woman i am now, who has her own mind and spirit and who knows her heart and speaks her truth.

among us three siblings, while growing up, i was the wallflower: mousy, quiet, seemingly passive and submissive, rarely speaking up-- even if just to make small talk and socialize among family and friends. although i was the eldest, my younger sister overpowered me with her arresting beauty and bubbly personality and my younger brother overpowered me with his commanding presence and loquaciousness.

but strangely, in this time of crisis for our family, my father and i are finding out my own strengths and special gifts.

although we are many here around him-- our childhood nanny who's also become Papa's nurse at home when he started getting sick, my cousin whom Papa sent to school and who eventually chose to live with our family even after he finished school, our aunt and Papa's only sister, his two girl children from his second wife, my younger sister, my younger brother and his doctor-wife, and i-- when night comes and everybody is tired and fully asleep, it has fallen upon me to wake up for Papa when he needs someone to take care of him in the middle of the night.

i'm the one who wakes up and takes care of Papa for his coughs and little pains and necessary bodily excretions-- because im the only light sleeper among all, and because i seem to have the requisite gentleness and calmness and good cheer and patience (so my years of solo parenting my very young kids, even during a lonely marriage, has trained me well!) to attend to a cranky old man and soothe him, in the unholiest of hours.

in these special dark hours, while attending to Papa's needs and humoring his complaints, we start talking-- or rather, he starts talking and i listen.

in these special dark hours, when everybody is asleep and one who is awake feels so alone, Papa starts telling me about his past, about his hurts and pains, and about his fears for the future... and i start telling him of mine (more of hopes and dreams, not too many fears now) too.

in these special dark hours, when one suddenly wakes up from nightmarish visions, i give Papa his little sips of water and i start massaging his swollen and aching legs and feet, until he relaxes and the swelling disappears and he falls asleep again. (he has grown to look forward to my foot massages he now can't fall asleep without them! : > )

in these special dark hours when it is just Papa and i, alone together against a sleeping world, i am finding my own worth as a daughter and as a person in his eyes, and i sense he is discovering in me the treasures of my quiet strength and inner serenity and calm optimism, which he has rarely noticed in the usually competitively boisterous business-centered day world we live and have mostly seen each other in.

in these special dark hours that Papa and i have been spending together, i am finding my way to Papa's heart at last.
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