Monday, October 26, 2009

This is Just Right for Halloween

The splint/cast was finally taken off today, thank the Lord God. Although not before I had my hand x-rayed to see whether it has healed properly, and seeing a damn right humongous metal plate and three screws living inside my hand made me want to curl up and suck my thumb again. But we have to move on with our lives despite these awful things that happened, so I took the x-ray plates to my doctor and demanded he take off my cast.

At first he wanted to schedule an operating room so he could take out the pin but at the word "operating room" I told him to just stop right there. The last memory I had of the operating room included someone stabbing me in the neck with a giant needle so they could numb my right arm, and it's not something I would recommend to experience if you're just bored with nothing to do. A few tears helped my case, and he agreed he could take it out in his office.

I just want to say at this point that I absolutely love my doctor, he's like the lolo I never had (opening a can of worms here). He's funny and has a lot of stories to tell, distracting me from the pain he's about to inflict on me. He's very straightforward and sometimes encourages my whiny, self-pitying mood whenever he's examining my thumb. He used to be chairman of the Orthopedic department at the Philippine General Hospital, and he still teaches at the UP College of Medicine.

When he was about to operate on me, he and the anesthesiologist (also a funny lolo) tag-teamed me with funny jokes while I was lying down on the cold steel table. I was shivering out of fear and my teeth was chattering, which is a normal reaction when people are about to use sharp things on you. They sedated me, which calmed me a bit, but not enough. By the time I heard them say "scalpel" I told them I changed my mind and I have to pee.

I thought they were going to allow me to stand up and walk out of that sterile room, but no, they brought me a bedpan. I know, so wrong. They also gave me more of that sedating drug. By that time I know the anesthesiologist was beginning to agree with me when I begged him to just knock me out. Several times during the procedure I wailed that I can feel them slicing my hand, or why are they using me as a table for their drills and stuff (seriously, they place it on top of me), or are they done because I'm bored. I also asked for an iPod in the middle of it all, but they said it wasn't allowed. Boo.

After the operation, they wheeled me to the recovery room, and I don't know the protocol for these rooms, but surely people who require recovery also requires silence? The nurses stationed here have no respect for people who just want to rest after being poked and drilled and stitched up. They were shouting at one another, or at least talking in mega-decibels. I was still heavily sedated and trying to sleep but can't, then I couldn't help it anymore. I called one of the nurses and asked her in a very slurry voice why is everybody shouting. She didn't reply, but she at least shut up.

Oh by the way, this is at the Manila Doctors Hospital. Loud as they are, they're still waaaay better than that sorry excuse for a hospital called Chinese General. That's where I was brought right after the accident, when I was a bleeding mess. Thanks for cleaning me up, Chinese Gen. But I still have a few bones (pun intended) to pick with you.

First, I was conscious and alert so there was no reason not to ask me about my medical history. You remembered to ask me how I will pay but not my blood type, allergies, or if I was pregnant. Not that I am, but isn't that standard operating procedure? You gave me shots without informing me what those shots are for, until I asked.

Second, your emergency doctors' professional judgment astounds me. I looked like a Saw movie survivor that night, my face bearing most of the bruises and wounds, not to mention my broken thumb, stitched head and numerous aches all over, yet all you can give me is Ponstan 500mg. Mefenamic fucking acid. Every 6 hours. Are you. FREAKING. KIDDING ME. Whereas when I transferred to Manila Doctors they gave me intravenous painkillers every 6 hours. Did I not look like I was in enough pain that night?

Speaking of my thumb, when you x-rayed it and interpreted it, you told me all I need is a cast. But you didn't have any ortho doctors available, but there will be one two days later. My hand was swelling like a balloon already at that time. And by the way, if I hadn't insisted that the x-ray guys do my hand it wouldn't be discovered that it was broken. Again, when I transferred to Manila Doctors, it was discovered that I fractured my thumb in FIVE places. Five. A cast won't do the job.

Fourth, you gave me the clearance that I can go home. We couldn't believe it. I was in terrible pain, I had a broken thumb, and my nose was still bleeding but you said I can go home. But not without the checklist you gave my sister, that list that said if I experience any one of them I should hurry my ass back to the ER. When my sister said that I might not be stable enough, you said "eh di dahan dahan lang po." Should I vomit blood on your shoes now, before you could take me seriously?

Fifth, gross unprofessionalism. My sister went to ask where's the resident doctor, and you blatantly tell her "Tulog po." And making no move to call her, or let her know a patient needs her. I'm sorry, did we disturb your slumber that night? Some of the other doctors wore slippers inside the ER too. Slippers. Like it was their living room. And it seemed all they do is laugh and joke around loudly. Sure it's not a criminal offense. But I still remember that guy you sent home because he was "OK", then 15 minutes later they return and the guy was dead.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Day I Met a Drunk Driver

For the past three weeks, I have been going on my everyday life with only one hand – or to be technical about it, 9 fingers. My right thumb and part of my arm and hand is still in a splint, and therefore I cannot get it wet. The trait of having opposable thumbs that separates humans from other mammals is taken away from me, albeit only temporarily.

It takes an hour for me to bathe properly and another 30 minutes to dress myself. Meals are an absolute effort as I can only eat with one hand, and complicated food is out of the question. While dining out the other night, a friend peeled a shrimp for me and cut it to pieces. I wanted to cry at the table.

One Saturday night after a violin lesson I was walking to where the cabs were. I was at the sidewalk of a one-way street, when suddenly all I can see was the ground spinning so fast my brain hardly had time to register that I was rolling on the asphalt, only stopping when my head hit the bumper of a parked jeepney.

I sat up immediately, disoriented while I looked for my things. People on the street went to me, with everyone talking all at once how some speeding and swerving car hit me. I checked myself and found that I was bleeding – on my head, face, and nose. Then an old man came up to me. “Are you the one who hit me?” I asked him point blank, still in disbelief that I was almost roadkill. “Yes”, he said feebly. “Are you drunk?” “Slightly.” He reeked of alcohol.

The next few minutes where I was taken to the emergency room where they dressed my wounds, gave me shots, and x-rayed me were all a blur. I remember calling my family and friends who lived nearby, because fortunately I was conscious and alert enough to keep my things with me. I was lucky I didn’t have a concussion.

But “lucky” is relative. I had to suffer insane pain due to the wounds on my face, like if someone would press a hot iron on your cheeks. White hot, searing, and throbbing pain. Yes, it was that bad. I also had stitches on my head, and countless bruises and lacerations on my body. One giant bruise on my hip had all the colors of the rainbows at one point. I looked like a horror movie. Most of all, my thumb is fractured; and the surgeon had to put screws, a metal plate, and a pin inside my hand so I can regain normal function of my thumb.

While confined at the hospital, I can only drink through a straw because I couldn’t chew my food properly. My mother had to bathe me, her grown child, because I couldn’t do it on my own. I had to sign my name on documents with a thumbprint of my left hand, because I’m right-handed and it was just my misfortune for my dominant hand to be injured.

But the biggest hurdle for me is trying not to panic when I see open roads with motorists. I’m afraid to walk on the streets, even more to cross them. I don’t trust stoplights anymore, and I can’t be alone on a street. Physical and psychological damages I would never have were it not for someone who had too much to drink and still decided to drive home.

Alcohol is a depressant, that’s why people often drink to “relax”. The “relaxing” effect we perceive is actually a decrease in sensation. Vision, hearing and other senses are affected too, together with muscle coordination. That’s why when people are drunk they slur and stumble. Now put a complicated machinery (such as a car) in the hands of someone not in total control of their abilities, and someone is bound to get hurt.

In their 2009 publication Global Status Report on Road Safety, the World Health Organization reports that in 2006, 51% of Metro Manila’s total fatalities caused by road traffic are pedestrians. The law on drink driving is also vague, as there is no set limit for blood alcohol content for offending drivers. Although there is a seatbelt law, only half of the drivers do remember to put theirs on. These data are only derived from reported cases.

It is also predicted that by 2020, road traffic injuries would be the third leading cause of deaths worldwide. But it doesn’t have to come to that, because the factors leading to road accidents are actually preventable. The first one is driving under the influence of alcohol, followed by seatbelt use, and road and vehicle design.

Thankfully, I am alive and will be fine. I will have a four-inch scar on my hand to remind me forever (and my family and friends) never to drink and drive. But others are not so fortunate, too many lives have ended all too soon in the hands of drivers who drank too much and sped the way home.

Meanwhile, I have to learn to trust the universe again, a universe where I can cross the road safely without fearing for my life.

The 911

- Try not to panic. Your full attention is required.
- Always bring an ID with you wherever you go, preferably with a contact number of a family or friend that can be reached if something bad happens.
- Arrange for an emergency contact person, and let them know they are yours before putting their name in that identification.
- In addition to the ID, keep a summary of your medical history in your wallet that contains basic facts such as your blood type, allergies to food and medicine if any, and any other relevant information you might think is important, such as current medications you’re taking or recent operations. The contact number of the family doctor might also be helpful.
- Never let cellphones run out of charge and/or credits. It might save your life.
- Two words: speed dial. In case of an emergency, you won’t have to find their names in the phonebook, wasting precious seconds.
- Always let someone know where you’re going. This way if you don’t come back, they will know where to start looking.
- There is a saying, “Trust God but lock your car.” Be responsible, alert and conscious while on the road. You can’t be sure about the others but at least do your part.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

September - 499, Me - 0

September is finally over, but not without it whooping me in the ass while delivering a mean karate chop to my jugular vein. Before that I got bitch slapped and was called mean names.

First, it was friends getting sick.
Then, I had to go to some funerals.
Then I thought I was going to die.
Some projects haven't paid me yet.
I was getting broke.
Then, some drunk driver hit me and they had to put a metal plate in my hand so I can still function. I'll tell you all about that later because it's not as important as the next one, which brings us to...
ONDOY happened.

It began as a very rainy Friday night, the same day I got discharged from the hospital. Everyone thought it was just progressing to a very rainy Saturday, which was good because people love to sleep late on weekends. I woke up at 1:30pm to a very dark and ominous sky, like the heavens have opened and I had to quickly find a partner so I can be allowed in the ark.

Which wasn't so far out.

When we tuned in to the news channel all I kept seeing was flood waters all around Manila, and in Facebook a lot of people were trapped inside their homes, flooded in. It got worse as night fell -- some friends and relatives are in their rooftops, with no food and drink. Electricity was cut off, and monitoring situations was the priority as cellphones ran out of charges, the network was clogged, and all you can do was wait by the phone in case it rings.

Sunday was horrible, although the rains stopped the death count was just beginning. Videos upon videos of the floods were shown, how people lost their homes and loved ones, horror stories of how they went without food and water for almost 24 hours with little children and elderly included. It was heartbreaking.

If there is a silver lining to all of this, it's how the country rose as one to help those who needed it. Relief operations were started immediately, and people came in droves to donate relief goods and volunteer their help. There were a lot of relief centers that it was hard keeping up with where to go and what to do. College kids came out to volunteer, instead of sleeping at home because there are no classes.

It's a very fine moment for the country, but not for its government.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council was late and short. The president came out only to look irritable as if her sleep was bothered. The presidential son and congressman was caught buying liquor as Katipunan was being flooded. A presidentiable gave out relief goods, but with his name on every packaged meal. Fuckers all around. Why can't they be the ones flooded inside their mansions, to drown in their own irrelevancy? They are of absolutely no use.

The private sectors were more effective in mobilizing the aid, compared to the NDCC people who held a meeting three days after they were needed. And then, as if everything is not enough, you read somewhere that the P800-million emergency fund was all spent. On what? The president's travels. She's small, but she's deadly. I wonder if she can still taste the P1 million dinner they had, while watching how the people cram in double capacity in the public schools, with no beddings, no food, no drink, and no home to go to.

There's no doubt over that lavafront property in hell with her name on it.