I had just finished my breakfast of milk when I heard someone knocking on the door of my hospital room. I motioned my son, Junior, to open the door. A man in a white robe came in, accompanied by two young nurses.
“Good morning. Kumusta na po kayo?” he said, greeting me with a smile.
“Okay lang po,” I said, my voice almost inaudible as my throat hurt every time I tried to speak or even swallow my saliva because of the plastic tube that was inserted through my nose up to my stomach. I had been fed milk through that tube since I was confined in that room three days ago.
The man in a white robe, who I presumed to be a doctor, went over my medical records, wrote another prescription on his pad and handed it to my son with some instructions.
My son inquired about my prospects.
“Your father has a very good chance of recovery, but he has to undergo physical and occupational therapy,” the man said.
Before he left, he instructed the nurses to remove the tube in my nose. It was a great relief to be rid of the contraption. My son then went out to buy the newly prescribed medicines.
Alone on my bed, I tried to figure out what had caused my stroke. Was it fatigue? Stress? Lack of sleep? I tried to recall the immediate past events.
It was in the first week of August 2009, the week after the preliminary examinations, that I had the stroke—the sixth, according to my neurologist. (The first five were so mild that I hardly noticed them.) I was on my second night of overtime work, trying to beat the deadline for the submission of our students’ grades. An hour ago, I consumed the second bottle of energy drink to keep me awake, and my eyes felt a little tired. The wall clock indicated 30 minutes past midnight. I decided to go to bed, mindful of the fact that I had to be awake at about 5 a.m. to be able to get to school a few minutes before the start of my 7 o’clock class.
I went to the toilet a few meters from my working table to relieve myself. When I was about to go out, I felt as if my left knee had snapped. Had I not held on to the towel bar, I would have fallen to the floor. I managed to sit on the toilet bowl cover and called out to my wife, who was sleeping in our room almost opposite my working table. What emerged from my mouth were moans, but enough to wake her up. Soon she was giving orders to our children.
One of our sons ran to get our van from the rented parking lot about 50 meters away from our house. My wife and another son propped me up and led me to the living room. There, our only daughter changed my clothes and wiped my face and arms with a wet towel because I was vomiting by then. The left portion of my body felt numb. I was carried to the van. The traffic was very light, and I was in the nearest hospital in a few minutes.
At the emergency room, hospital personnel became busy working on me. Blood samples, body temperature, blood pressure and an electrocardiograph were taken. After that, an NGT (whatever that means) was attached to my private parts as I was not to have toilet privileges without my doctor’s permission. After the preliminary tests in the emergency room, I was taken to the second floor of the hospital for additional laboratory exams. There, I was administered a CT scan, X-ray examination and ultrasound of the carotid.
In the morning, I instructed my youngest son through a note to inform our school dean about what had happened. At about 6 p.m., five of my coworkers in our department, including our dean, came to visit. They assured me that all my classes were being handled by competent substitute professors. They cheered me up with jokes and encouraged me to get well so that I could return to work at once.
After five days of hospital confinement, I was discharged and wheeled to the rehabilitation department for my schedule of physical and occupational therapies. I could not walk and talk coherently.
A young man named Jervee and a young woman named Janelle, who were having their practicum in physical therapy and occupational therapy, respectively, along with a supervisor, were assigned to me. I had therapy three times a week. After about seven weeks, my walking and talking were back to normal. These practicing students did such an amazing job on me that I was able to recover about 95 percent of my body functions. I was released from rehab with instructions to continue doing the recommended exercises at home.
I reported to my neurologist with the evaluation of the head of the rehab department. After a routine physical checkup and a short interview, I was issued a “fit to return to work” certification. But since it was already almost the final period of the semester, I decided to extend my sick leave up to the end of the first semester. Shortly before the start of the second semester, I reported to my school’s human resources department to inform the supervisor that I was ready to return to work. Without many questions, I was told to report on the first day of classes.
I am very grateful that our school lives the principles under its motto “Propter Humanitatem,” or service to humanity. The humane treatment I was accorded by the school is a testament to this. I am still with this school doing what I love to do best—teaching.
Romeo F. Las Piñas, 71, was a master teacher in the Division of City Schools of Manila and concurrent head of the social sciences and physical education departments of AMA University in Quezon City. He is now a professor in the School of Arts, Sciences and Education of Saint Jude College of Manila.
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