Survivors | Inquirer Opinion
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Survivors

/ 05:20 AM April 13, 2018

Lucille Viktoria was born three months premature. She weighed barely three pounds—a preterm baby.

I was outside the hospital’s delivery room when the pediatrician, a small bundle in his arms, rushed out and ran down the stairway leading to the nursery. The baby had to be in the incubator within seconds!

I caught a glimpse of my first grandchild. I was teary-eyed and happy that my eldest daughter, Loi, had a normal delivery. But I was also sad as I was not certain of her baby’s survival.

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I chased after the pediatrician. I wanted to know the survival rate of preterm
babies. He frankly answered: 50-50!

Loi and I had earlier agreed that her baby would be named Lucille, after our common obstetrician.

Lucille had to stay in the incubator for three months to complete her term. She underwent as many as 16 blood transfusions and endured painful medical procedures. But she was not alone in her struggle. I saw how her young mother, then 23, put up a tough stance for her sake.

Only in their first year of marriage, my daughter and her husband were not yet financially ready to fully settle Lucille’s 3-month hospital bill. Neither was I financially capable of helping. My three other daughters were all in college. But I was determined to help.

I sought out a townmate who worked at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. I asked an office colleague for a referral to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Through legwork, I secured two checks that helped partially settle Lucille’s huge hospital bill.

Lucille was often rushed to hospital due to apnea, a temporary cessation of respiration common to preterm babies. During one confinement, I witnessed her turn black and blue.

Loi is a voracious reader. She did research on unusual observations on her baby. She was a career woman with a high-paying job in a Japanese firm when she and her husband were thrust into an unforeseen responsibility. Her boss saw her potentials and dissuaded her from her plan to quit her job. She didn’t want her baby to grow up seeing only the babysitter. She went ahead and filed her resignation.

Lucille was diagnosed with cerebral palsy—a special child with special needs. She is pretty, her mom’s look-alike. Her giggles belie what she has gone through. She understands everything around her and has clearly manifested her favorites—foods, music, TV shows, actors. Her parents take her to Starbucks every Sunday. The mere sight of the coffee shop and her cheesecake make her scream with delight.

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Lucille can’t talk clearly. She’s wheelchair-bound, and dependent on her mom for hygiene. Joan, her nanny of 12 years, feeds her except when she’s on her days off. She giggles at her dad’s funny stories. She is delighted whenever she hears oldies music. She cried buckets when her younger cousin, Zia, left for Finland. But she’s a happy child.

When Lucille was 8, her resourceful mom wrote ABS-CBN to request that child actor Makisig visit his fan. Wish granted! Makisig visited Lucille, with TV camera and crew; the home visit was aired on “TV Patrol.” Lucille was also invited to Makisig’s program, “Little Big Superstar,” cohosted by then budding singer Sarah Geronimo.

Lucille’s parents brought her to a mall when they learned that Dominic, her current crush, was there. Surprisingly, she showed no unusual reaction when she saw Dominic up close. But like an avid fan, she kept screaming to her heart’s content when they had returned home.

When Loi asked her what she wanted for her debut, Lucille grinned. She got a clan party!

Lucille deserves her second name, Viktoria. She’s a victor! She and her parents have colorfully survived tough times.

Kat Viacrucis, 66, is “easily the gutsiest of a brood of 10 children,” according to her brother, Dante Viacrucis, a Supreme Court awardee for judicial excellence.

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TAGS: hospital bill, Lucille Viktoria, premature
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