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Young Blood

Widow at 29

“Daddy, please.” Between my tears and heavy breathing that was all I could mutter. It was actually more of a plea than a request. And some 10 minutes later, I was standing alone inside the emergency room, frantically telling the doctor: “I have a 38-year-old male who had loss of consciousness, currently GCS 3, hypertensive and diabetic, chronic smoker and heavy alcoholic beverage drinker. He’s my husband.”

The rest of my hospital memories were a blur of crying spells, talking to whoever came by to visit, walking in and out of the intensive care unit, silently praying, then crying again. After only nine hours, 10 or more doses of epinephrine and too many resuscitative efforts, my husband was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. He suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. It was his birthday.

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The bad thing about death is that it leaves you empty-handed, it drains you of what is good, it numbs you, and it ultimately breaks you. When I married Iamie five years ago, he was fully committed to becoming a family man: He put us first above anything and anyone else.

My husband always pulled me back up on my feet so that I could walk toward the right direction. He made sure I was able to follow my dreams. So when I entered residency as an internist, I knew I was secured. During my interview I was asked: “What if you will be assigned to the Visayas or Mindanao for a medical mission? Would you be able to go?” And I was very quick and witty in my answer: “Yes, sir. My husband knows the nature of my job and he has always been there as a father and mother to our kids.” And he was. He truly was.

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We were together for 13 years, eight of which were spent as boyfriend-girlfriend and five as husband-wife. Having been together for that long, we always had a special routine or a specific combo that made us the perfect tandem although he was a photographer and I was a doctor. He was a people person, a happy-go-lucky, live-for-the-moment kind of guy. Everything he was I wasn’t, and yet we were so good together. I would like to believe that the law of opposites governed us: We were living examples that opposites do attract.

To this day the pain is unbearable. The pain is truthfully unimaginable. I think that the pain comes from my very own regret—that I could have spent more time with him, that I could have been more of the wife and mom he wanted me to be, that maybe I could have done something to prevent his death and prolong his life.

His death had hit me the hardest and at my weakest. My eldest child would wonder why Daddy was always sleeping, and my youngest would just smile when asked about him. It was heartbreaking to realize how much we have outlived him—no more birthdays, graduations, anniversaries or Christmases with him. But he will stay as part of our past.

In the midst of this tragedy, I find comfort in knowing that my husband did a great deal of good things. People I know and don’t know were visitors at his wake. He was an instant hit at Facebook. Each and every person that I talked to had a good story to share about him. This was his legacy. This was how he will always be remembered—a great friend, a brother to most of them.

At this writing, six days after his death, I’m still searching for him in our house, calling his name out loud, hitting myself so that maybe I can wake up from this very, very bad dream. For a while, I felt really lost; I was empty and alone. But my husband had made sure that I would be taken care of. As I engaged in daily conversations with people to whom we were very close, I began to realize that he would always love me, that in one way or another he would continue to be there for me and our kids, and that even death would not break what we have.

At the end of the day, my plea is still the same: “Daddy, please. Help me endure the pain, help me believe that there is something better. And that the best, even without you, can still happen.”

Vina Florentina P. Palmero, MD, 29, is the widow of Priam Anthony Palmero and has two children. She is a second-year resident in training of the Department of Internal Medicine at Batangas Medical Center.

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