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We experienced one of the strongest typhoons yesterday.  Heavy rains coupled with howling winds drove us out of the house at around 11 am.  The rains started the night before and did not stop at all.  I was getting worried when I saw that the water almost reached our gate and the fish pond fronting the house was nearly overflowing.  When I found out that high tide would be at 12 noon, I made the decision to bring Nanay and the kids to my tito’s house, which is in the upper part of Bacolod. 

Maybe I was a bit paranoid, but I could still clearly see in my mind the flood waters which came into our living room last December 2006.  My first thought was of Nanay.  If the waters came into the house and we had to evacuate, how would we move her?  So then I decided that I’d rather be safe than sorry.  We spent the day at my tito’s house and although the waters did not go into the house, I still think it was a right decision because I was able to relax, knowing that Nanay and the kids were safe.

I’m sure everyone has a story to tell about dealing with people from government offices.  I just came from SSS to process my mom’s disability benefits.  What I hate about doing business with these people is that they can’t seem to make up their minds about what they really want from us.  This is actually the fourth time I’ve been to SSS to process Nay’s disability benefits.  The first time I was only given forms to fill up.  When I had submitted those forms, they told me I needed to secure a medical certificate from Nanay’s doctor.  Upon submitting those forms, they asked me again to get a neurologic evaluation – from my mom’s neuro, which I did.  And now that I submitted the evaluation, they tell me I need to submit a letter, requesting for a home visit by the SSS doctor to check-up my mom.  The alternative to this would be to bring my mom to SSS, which we don’t want to do because it would be too much of a hassle for her and us.

They could have told me at the very beginning what they really needed from us, instead of giving me their requirements one at a time.  But, I don’t want to rant and rave about this because I know I can’t get around their system.  Eventually, I still have to follow how things are being done – or else we won’t get any benefits.  I just hope it (the benefits, I mean) will all be worth the hassle I’m going through right now. 

Last Friday Nanay went to see her neurologist for the first time since she left the hospital in October 2005.  Her doctor was really surprised to see her up and about.  She thought all along that Nanay was bed-ridden and she declared it a miracle that in less than a year she is able to get up from her bed, sit on a wheelchair, and take a few steps with a walker.  According to her, the kind of brain injury that Nanay sustained due to her two strokes (only two weeks apart) usually took a long time to heal.  In fact, some patients never recover and remain bed-ridden.  Because of the improvement my mom has shown, the doctor decided to reduce her medicines (thank God, because the cost is killing us!).

Indeed God is a God who heals. I know that our prayers have been heard and that He is continually healing Nanay.  As I look back on the past 10 months and reflect on the daunting trials we went through, I am amazed at how much God loves us.  Despite our trials, our family has remained strong mainly because of our faith and because of the prayers of relatives and friends.  And yes, from time to time, we do worry about where we would find the money to pay for Nay’s therapy or to buy her medicines, but still we are able to smile and laugh and thank God for the little miracles that happen to us each day. 

I’m asking everyone who is reading this right now, please say a prayer for healing for my mom. Pray especially that she regains her speech soon.  You will be greatly blessed!

I am not a patient person.  I easily lose my temper and when I do, it's not a pretty sight.  I'm not proud that I am like this and I would really want to change and be more patient.  Yesterday, though, I had a really bad experience, something I want to forget but can't help remembering.

I've been meaning to let go of one of my mom's attendants for financial reasons.  I've also heard from the maids that she has been complaining about a lot of things at home and has bossed them around.  On account of her, several of our helpers have left because tinatarayan niya.  At first, I didn't mind these because I know that being in a household with different personalities can be very explosive.  Someone is bound to say bad things about another.  My mistake was I didn't investigate it immediately because I didn't want them to confront each other and fight about it.

Last weekend, though, something happened which was the last straw for me.  My dad told me that 3 capsules of Somazine (my mom's most expensive medicine for the brain) got lost.  My dad suspected one of the attendants because a few months back she sold us 3 capsules of the same medicine, presumably from a neighbor whose husband had stroke and died.  When we asked her about it, she was quite evasive.  Although we never really confirmed that it was she who got the medicines, I felt I I couldn't trust her anymore, and I couldn't let her go on taking care of Nanay without that trust.  If she did get the medicines, I really doubt if she would confess to it.

There were also other things that happened which made me want to let her go.  I found out from one of the helpers that there was one time before that she forced my mom to walk and my mom nearly fell.  I don't even want to think about what could have happened if she fell on her head. 

We talked yesterday morning and earlier I prayed for the strength to say what I had to say.  I should have prayed for self-control.  I just totally lost it.  I know I said awful things to her but I was just so angry. Anyway, I don't regret letting her go because I couldn't trust her anymore.  What I regret the most is that I allowed myself to lose control.  I know I could have talked to her in a nice way, but I was just so angry that I forgot all about saving whatever relationship we had. 

I'm not proud of what I did, but I feel like telling people about it.  I don't know… maybe this is some sort of confession.  I just hope that I can somehow make amends (maybe not to her but to other people) for the wrong that I did. 

My mother has survived two strokes which happened only two weeks apart.  When she had her first stroke in September last year, I couldn’t believe it was happening to us.  Funny how you always think that the worst things could happen only to other people and not to your own family.  After a week in the hospital, she was sent home.  The stroke left her language-impaired.  She couldn’t write and speak well.  She had difficulty naming ordinary objects like the TV, telephone, books, etc.  We were told that she had aphasia.  Immediately upon her release from the hospital, she underwent therapy – physical, occupational and speech.  We were really hopeful that she was going to recover because her motor skills were not affected.  She could walk and move about, although the right side of her body was weaker than the left. 

However, our relief at seeing her okay was short-lived.  A week after she was released from the hospital, she had another stroke.  We were even more unprepared for the second one.  It was a stroke that not even the doctors could explain why it happened after only so short a time.  Most restrokes occur a year or so after the first one.  She had not even recovered from the first one and there was another attack. 

I was 8 months pregnant at that time and the only one among three siblings left in Bacolod. I had to take care of Nanay and at the same time worry about Tatay, my two-year old son, and my delicate condition.  It was one of the toughest times I ever had in my three decades of existence.  I don’t know how I was able to get through that, but I really surprised myself.  I always thought of myself as a strong person, but I never really measured how strong I was until that time.

Nanay’s second stroke was deadlier.  This time she had to be placed in the ICU.  The stroke occured in the cerebellum, that part of the brain which controls most of our bodily functions including breathing, blood pressure, and temperature.  A respirator was prepared just in case she needed it, although it was never used.  My siblings came home from Manila and we took turns watching over her.  I wanted to sleep in the hospital, but I couldn’t because of my condition and because I had another child waiting for me at home.  I felt so torn between my obligations as a daughter and my responsibilities towards my son and my unborn daughter.  My husband and I had a lot of fights about that because he felt I was pushing myself too hard and he wanted me to rest. 

After 17 days in the hospital (4 in the ICU), the doctors finally sent Nanay home.  They said they had done everything for her and the only thing she needed now was nursing care.  At first, we were apprehensive about bringing Nanay home.  Of course, there was always that fear that we might not be able to take good care of her in the confines of our home.  But then we knew that we could not sustain her stay in the hospital anymore so we brought her home.   

At first it wasn’t easy seeing my once active and very dynamic Nanay lying in bed the whole day.  But soon enough, I got used to it.  I got used to hearing her cry in the middle of the night.  One of the things that her doctors told us to expect was depression.  Nanay couldn’t walk and talk.  For someone who never stays home, it was a big blow to her.  I could only imagine how she felt.  We had to give her pills for depression just so she could sleep straight at night.

There were also a lot of adjustments we had to make at home.  It was to be expected that Nanay’s condition would wreak havoc on our finances.  During the first months, we managed to get by with a lot of help from our relatives and friends.  Recently, though, the burden of finding enough money to support her has fallen on our shoulders.  While my dad can still earn, I had to push him to go out and look for contracts (he’s an engineer) because sometimes he would just sit beside Nanay the whole day.  It’s a good thing that my mom’s yougest sister continues to send us money every month.  My siblings have helped, too.  And I am just thankful that my husband is so generous, that he doesn’t count how much we have spent for Nanay.  He knows that I had to dip into our joint account to pay for the attendants and buy her medicines.

We had to hire people to take care of Nanay, something which I know she hated at first.  Eventually, though, she has accepted them and knows that we need them.  I am also grateful that these people have come to love my kids and they pitch in to help whenever my yaya has to go home. 

Another thing we had to compromise was a clean home.  My mom is the neatest person I know and while I take after her in a lot of ways, I am not a neat freak.  I know that when Nanay goes around the house, she is itching to clean it up.  I try my best to clean up from time to time but I can’t get the house clean the way Nanay did before. 

Nanay has undergone physical therapy since she left the hospital and I can see that this has been very helpful.  From just lying in bed the whole day, Nanay can now walk with a walker.  Last night, my husband told me that he saw Nanay practice walking without a walker yesterday during her PT session.  This morning, she walked to the dining table and had breakfast there. 

I know that she is recovering well.  In fact, some friends who visited her right in the hospital and then visited again lately are amazed at her recovery.  I’m just happy that Nanay has improved, kahit papano.  One day at a time, she is getting better, and that is something I’m grateful for.

I saw Nanay take a few steps today using her walker. It was slow going, but she was able to walk from the bathroom to her bed. After seeing her in bed for so long, it feels great to see her walk, albeit slowly and with the aid of a walker. I know she is truly on the road to recovery. These past five months have taken a toll on our family – physically, emotionally, and financially. I still cannot see God’s purpose in all these. I try to be as strong as I can, but sometimes I break down, too. Although I never show my weakness in front of Nanay. Whenever I talk to her, I always keep a happy and strong face. I feel I just have to be strong for her because nobody else will. Tatay also turns to me for strength. This is probably why I feel so burdened lately.

Anyway, I am just glad to see Nanay walking again. She has started to regain her strength, slowly but surely. I know she will recover, maybe in a year’s time. We just have to be patient and keep on supporting her and praying for her. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot these past five months. I have to take on additional responsibilities ever since Nanay got sick. Aside from being a wife and mom, I have to be a “parent” to my parents. It’s difficult and there are times when I really want to step away from everything and just go somewhere where I can be alone and not worry about anyone but myself. But I guess this is the path the Lord wants me to take. It’s not easy. I constantly complain to Him about this. But it looks like He wants me here for now. Maybe He is trying to teach me humility and patience, which I don’t really have. He’s teaching me how to be more forgiving and to practice self-control. He wants me to be more generous with my blessings. I guess it’s not just Nanay that the Lord is healing. He’s healing all of us in family, too…slowly, but surely.

Like most mornings, when I woke up today Nanay was already up.  She had taken a bath and was seated in her wheelchair, ready to go out.  I was carrying Evie and my pretty baby never fails to bring a smile to her face.  She patted the throw pillow on her lap, a gesture which meant that she wanted me to let Evie sit on it.  I did that and told her that she must be itching to carry Evie.  Oops! I said the wrong thing because Nanay started crying. So sorry!

But even if she still cries a lot – she cried last night also because my sister sent her a touching text message – I am still thankful that Nanay is alive and that she is reacting to the things around her.  Obviously, her mind has not been damaged by the stroke because she can still understand the text messages we read to her.  She even cried with Roger Federer when he cried after he won the Australian Open!  After seeing her just sleeping and not reacting to anything while in the hospital, it is certainly a relief to hear her cry.

The other day she was standing and taking a few steps, with Tatay helping her.  Her physical therapist is also asking me to look for a walker for her.  I’ve been asking friends from BLD to help me find a walker I could borrow for Nanay.  Her PT saidwe don’t really need to buy one because she might not use it for long.  I hope she can really walk soon.  I know it will really mean a great deal to her, to be able to walk unaided, especially since Nanay was always up and about before her stroke.  I know we have to take things one at a time.  Healing takes time and a lot of patience, something I don’t have in me! And I’m so like my mom, so she’s not exactly an epitome of patience herself.

I’ve been helping her with her speech therapy.  Because there is only one speech therapist in Bacolod  and she has a lot of clients, she gave a home program for Nanay.  I feel guilty that I haven’t been helping her as often as I should.  One evening I was helping her read some words aloud, which I wrote on pieces of cardboard.  But that was the night I just got back from Iloilo and Enzo was all over me.  He kept on pulling the cards from my hand and he wanted me to play with him.  Eventually, Nanay started yawning and was already getting drowsy and I had to stop.  I couldn’t concentrate anyway, because I had to stop every now and then to pick up the cards which Enzo kept on throwing.  He was already seated on Nanay’s bed and being very kulit!  My sister asked me today if Nanay has been practicing her speech and I felt guilty all over again.

Okay, resolution for the day, I will spend some time every night, helping Nanay regain her speech.  It’s just so difficult sometimes because I’m trying to teach Nanay how to say very simple words like “say, ” “pay,” “day,” and I can’t help but think that my mom was an English teacher and when I would pronounce some words incorrectly, she would always correct me.  She had the perfect diction.  A lot of emotions go through me as I help Nanay read aloud.  But mostly, I feel sad that Nanay cannot even say her own name.  If it’s difficult for me, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for her.

Oooh… this is turning out to be a sad post. I don’t want to be sad. Have to think of happy thoughts now.  Think Enzo and his crazy antics.  Think Evie and her cute smile.  There, I’m not so sad anymore. 🙂