Someone is Praying

I was pulling out of our driveway last weekend and I had this certain feeling of heaviness in my heart. I was going to work and would be in the hospital, mainly manning the ICU, for 36 long hours straight.

First of all, it was the weekend before Christmas, so I was a little sad that I would miss out on many happenings. My kids were supposed to play music in the church’s Christmas program. But more so, I had this feeling of dread to whatever challenges I would face. The ICU is crazily busy this time of year, you know. What kind of chaos was waiting for me, God only knows.

Of course that dreadful feeling I had was nothing compared to some other people leaving for work. Like the OFW or overseas workers who are leaving their home and family for a year or longer to go to a foreign country. They would be fighting extreme loniness and homesickness. Though I had a taste of that feeling when I left my home in the Philippines more than two decades ago with an unforseen future at that time.

For some, it is even worse. I would not even try to imagine the feelings of soldiers leaving their home to be deployed somewhere in the world where there is war and unrest, and their return is not guaranteed at all. Talk about feeling of dread and angst, that definitely is.

Anyway, as I drove away from our home, the first song that played on my radio (my car radio is sync on my phone’s playlist) was “Someone is Praying for You.” All of a sudden I felt some kind of reassurance, and the foreboding feeling I had melted away.

The chorus of that song goes like this:

Someone is praying for you, someone is praying for you.
So when it seems you’re all alone, and your heart will break in two.
Remember someone is praying for you.

Do you have someone praying for you?

Maybe you owe someone money, and they are praying that you remember to pay your debt. Or maybe you have offended someone and they are praying that you choke on your food so you would think of them. But I am not talking of those kind of people wishing for you.

What I mean are people who really care for your well-being and have you in their thoughts and prayers no matter what.

I know most parents, if not all, especially mothers, are always praying for the good of their children. It does not matter how old you are or how far you wandered away from home, your parents are still praying for you.

My parents are both gone now. My father died 3 decades ago and my mother died 4 years ago. Yet, I know that there is still someone praying for me all the time.

It is a comforting feeling that someone always have me on their mind. Whether I am home or not at home. Whether I am strolling in a park or walking through the forest of difficulties. Whether I am sure of my path or I can barely find my way.

And that someone has also been by my side for the past 24 years. Happy Anniversary my dear, and thank you for walking this life with me.

(*photo taken last year)

Love, Joy and What?

Peace is elusive. And when the bond keeping the “peace” is weak, this is what happens:

I’m glad the real peace we can have in our hearts is secured more than just by adhesive tape. It is from the Saviour in whom we commerate this season.

Merry Christmas everyone!

(*photo taken one night when we arrived home and our “PEACE” had fallen)

Pasko, Paksiw, Pakso

Parang mga bata, sabik na sabik kaming sumapit ang Pasko sa taong ito. Kulang na lang ay hilahin namin ang mga araw para maging Pasko na. Hindi dahil sa mahaba ang listahan namin para kay Santa Claus. Nanabik lang kami dahil magiging iba ang pagdaraos namin nito.

Binalak namin kasi na mag-Pasko sa isang lugar na hindi pa namin nararating. Matagal-tagal din naming inasam-asam na mabisita ang lungsod na iyon. Maraming oras din ang aming ginugol sa pagsasaliksik, pagpaplano at paghahanda sa aming gagawing paglalakbay. At maraming pawis at ipon ang ipinuhunan sa biyaheng ito.

Pero alam n’yo ba na mas maraming pawis at mas malaking ipon ang kailangan kung kami ay magbabalik bayan, lalo na kung sa panahon ng Pasko?

Aming pinapanaginipan na sa umaga ng Pasko, kami ay mag-aalmusal ng kakaibang tinapay, at hihigop ng mainit na tsokolate, habang nakatanaw sa mataas na toreng bakal na napapalamutian ng mga ilaw.

Sabi nila maganda raw ang Pasko sa lugar na iyon. Sabi nila wala raw kahalintulad ang Pasko sa siyudad na iyon. Kung ang Pasko ay kung saan ang boong paligid ay ginagayakan ng mga kumukurap-kurap at makukulay na ilaw, hindi ba magandang magdiwang ng Pasko sa Lungsod ng mga Ilaw?

Ngunit sa hindi inaasahang mga pangyayari, sumabog ang kaguluhan sa lugar na iyon. Kumalat ang mga demonstrasyon. Naglipana ang mga nagproprotesta na nakasuot ng dilaw. Akala ko sa bansang tinubuan ko lamang ang mga “dilaw.” Naging marahas at madugo pa ang mga naging salpukan ng mga demonstrador at mga pulis. Sa tutuusin, kung ating babalik-aralin ang kasaysayan ng mundo, sila ang nagpatanyag sa salitang “rebolusyon.”

Kaya hindi man namin gusto, ay wala kaming magawa kung hindi mapilitang kanselahin sa huling minuto ang aming paglalakabay. Ayaw naman naming malagay sa binggit ng alanganin, o maipit sa mga nagbabanggaang pwersa.

Oo nga’t may mga nabayaran na kaming hindi na namin mabawing buo. Mayroong halaga rin ang nawala na parang bula. Sisingilin na lang namin ito sa karanasan at aral ng buhay. Nakakapanghinayang din ang mga oras at pagod na ginugol namin sa paghahanda sa biyaheng ito. Hindi maiiwasan na kami ay makaramadam ng kalungkutan dahil napurnada ang aming pangarap. Mga ilang buwan ding kaming naghintay at nasabik, mauuwi lang pala sa wala. Ang aming Pasko, naging Pakso!

Pero matapos kaming mahimasmasan sa aming kabiguan, ay natanggap din naman namin ang naging kapalaran. Hindi kami galit sa mga tao sa lugar na iyon. Kung sa amin ay maliit na pagkabigo ang hindi matuloy ang aming pangarap na bakasyon, para sa kanila, ang kanilang kabuhayan at karapatang mabuhay ang ipinagtatanggol nila. Amin silang sinusuportan sa kanilang laban.

Kaya amin nalang ipagdiriwang ang Pasko dito sa Iowa. Magiging maliit na pagdiriwang na lamang ito. Mag-papaksiw na lang siguro kami sa Pasko.

Ngunit wala kaming dahilan para magmukmok at magreklamo. Dahil sa buong mundo ngayon, saan ka man dumako, sa kabila ng mga kasiyahan at selebrasyon ng panahong ito, ay mayroong mga tao at kanilang pamilya na marahil hindi nakakaramdam ng Pasko. Marahil sila ay dumaranas ng kahirapan ng buhay. Marahil sila ay naghihikahos. O kaya nama’y sila ay nakaratay sa banig ng karamdaman. Marahil sila ay nangungulila. O kaya’y nasakuna ng digmaan. Ano kaya ang Pasko para sa kanila?

Pero alam naman nating lahat na ang Pasko ay hindi tungkol sa pagliliwaliw, o paglilibang, o handaan, at inuman. Ito ay tungkol sa pagdating ng ating Tagapagligtas. At ito ay sapat na upang tayo’y magpasalamat.

Noong panahon ni Hesukristo, matagal na hinihintay ang ipinangakong Manunubos. Ang lahat ay nasasabik sa pagdating ng Mesiyas na sa kanila’y magpapalaya’t magliligtas. Ngunit nang dumating ang takdang panahon, walang man lang maglaan ng silid para sa Kanya. Hanggang sa sabsaban na lang ang naging lugar Niya. Dahil iba rin ang kanilang ekspektasyon at pakahulugan sa darating na Tagapagligtas, marami sa kanila ang nabigo. 

Kung sa panahon natin kaya Siya dumating, ilan kaya sa atin ang handang sumalubong?

Sa Paskong ito, ano mang ang ating pagkakaabalahan, sana ay may lugar sa ating puso ang ating Manunubos.

At kung ano man ang ating hinihintay sa Pasko – bonus, regalo galing sa  Ninong at Ninang, o nawawalang sinta (Pasko na sinta ko hanap hanap kita……), o kahit pahinga lang mula sa kapaguran sa trabaho – sana ay hindi tayo mabigo. 

Pero kung ang hinihintay natin ay kaligtasan at tunay na kasiyahan galing kay Hesukristo, sigurado akong hindi tayo mabibigo. Walang gulo o kahit pa giyera ang kayang humadlang nito.

Maligayang Pasko po sa inyong lahat.

Ice Run

It’s been two months since I ran the half-marathon for this year. But I am proud to say that I have not yet relented on my running for this season. Emphasis on the “yet.” Maybe I just want to stay trim for Christmas. Maybe I want to look good on my vacation photos. Whatever the reason is, I am still running even if it’s already winter here in our part of the world.

But hopping on a treadmill and running for a mile or two in place is really boring. Even running inside an indoor track in our local Y can be dull and uninspiring. So when I saw that the temperature outside this morning was 30º F instead of our usual single digits or teens, I cannot resist to run outside. Besides, there was no snow on the ground and more importantly, no ice. I can run on snow, but not ice (see older post).

When I got out in our front yard, I saw ice! But it was just in our bird bath, which was frozen solid (photo above). The sun was shining though, so it’s a wonderful day to be outside.

As I approached the pond in our housing community, I again noticed that the water was frozen. 

Should I try running on ice? Or perhaps put on a pair of ice skates and glide my way through?

Then I heard some honking. When I looked up I saw a flock of geese. 

They seems to be egging me on – “Run on ice! Run on ice!”

The temperature however was not in the deep freeze. I am not that foolish yet. Again, emphasis on the yet. So no running on thin ice!

As I kept on trucking, I was looking for my deer friends, but they were nowhere to be found. Have they gone some place warmer?

Instead I saw some polar creatures. A penguin and a polar bear! You don’t believe me?

Here they are:

The pengunin and the polar bear seems to be lost in place without the snow. Perhaps like my son they were praying for snow. Lots and lots of it. But for me, I’ll enjoy this relatively warm day without the snow and ice.

Overall, it was a decent day for a morning run. 

After about an hour outside, I came back in and warm myself with the leftover arroz caldo my wife cooked yesterday.

Again, I have my app to document my “cool running.”

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Batingaw

O aming minamahal na mga batingaw,

Pinagtanggol ang kalayaan kaya’t umalingawngaw,

Subalit pinilit supilin, kayo’y sa ami’y inagaw,

Sinakal at ginapos para hindi na makasigaw.

                 

Ngunit mga kampana ba’y mapapatahimik,

Alab ng puso ng isang bayan, ito ba’y mapipiit,

Kahit impit na ang mga tinig ito pa ri’y maririnig,

Patuloy na lalaban kahit buhay man ang kapalit.


O Inang Bayan, tayo’y kumanta’t sumayaw,

Kinalagan nang muli ang ating mga batingaw,

Kanilang mga boses muling hihiyaw,

Para sa kalayaan muling aalingawngaw.

(*A tribute to Balangiga bells. Above photo though is not of Balangiga bells, this was taken at Bantay tower in Vigan.)

Cold and Dead

Part of the duty of a medical resident in a teaching hospital is to formally pronounce a patient dead. When a patient dies, the nurse would call the resident-on-call to assess and examine the patient and confirm that he or she is indeed dead. Normally this is done in a timely fashion, within several minutes after the patient breathes his/her last breath, and the resident would chart the time the patient was pronounced dead. This would be the official time of death.

I understand that in a non-teaching hospital the attending doctor would be the one to call. If the doctor is not available, a nursing supervisor or a charge nurse can declare the patient dead. 

You may argue that it does not really take a lot of training to determine if a person is dead. Any reasonable person can discern this. Though there are some people you probably know who look like dead, but I’m not talking about that. So why do we need a doctor or an experienced nurse to pronounce a person dead? I think it is more for a medico-legal purpose.

Of course sometimes your judgement that a person is dead can be challenged  by somebody. The following is an actual exchange of questions and answers as recorded in a court documents:

A lawyer was cross-examining a witness, who was a pathologist.

Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?

A: No.

Q: Did you check for blood pressure?

A: No.

Q: Did you check for breathing?

A: No.

Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?

A: No.

Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?

A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

Q: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive, practicing law somewhere.

Several nights ago, we had a very busy night in the ICU. I believe we had 7 admissions to the ICU in a short span of time. This is in addition to the 20 or more critically-ill patients that we already had in our unit. So “busy” may even be an understatement.

One patient that we had that night had been in the hospital for almost 2 months and had been in and out of the ICU a few times. This time around the family had decided that they would transition to comfort cares and the patient would be taken off life support. So death was imminent and expected.

For some reason, whether the medical resident was not called, or he was so busy at that time, or he was called but forgot to do it promptly, but the patient who was taken off life support was not officially pronounced dead right away. Of course everybody knew that the patient expired – the ICU nurses knew, the family members who were gathered in the room knew, and even the morgue and funeral personnel knew.

Perhaps it was assumed the he was already pronounced dead, so the body was taken down to the morgue within an hour or so after the patient died.

It was not after a few hours later that our medical resident learned that the body of our deceased patient was taken to the morgue without him officially examining the patient and pronouncing him dead.

So what would a diligent medical resident do? 

Our conscientious resident went down to the morgue in the wee hours of the morning to search for the body. He pulled out the body from the freezer. He opened the body bag. He identified the deceased patient. Then he examined the body and pronounced it dead. I know, it sounds like a plot of a horror movie. At least he had an interesting story to tell his co-residents the next morning.

A couple of days ago, I received a notice from a funeral parlor to complete and sign a death certificate. Part of the certificate is to write down the official cause of death. Since I had 3 death certificates to complete that day I checked each of the patient’s hospital electronic medical record to be accurate on what I would write. That was when I read our resident’s note on the chart and I could not help but smile: 

Patient examined in morgue. On exam patient did not respond to verbal or physical stimuli. No heart or lung sounds were heard and patient has no response to painful stimuli. Pupils were fixed and dilated. Patient pronounced dead at 0336.

Since the patient was only officially pronounced dead after a few hours in the morgue’s freezer, should I write “froze to death” as the cause of death?

Of course I did not.

photo taken with an iPhone

(I meant no disrespect to the dead, nor do I make fun of a rather serious situation. I am just relating a light moment in the otherwise morbid world of ICU I lived in.)

Math, We Have A Problem

Love it or hate it, you cannot live without math. It is not only the accountants and the mathematicians that live by it. If you go to the market, you apply math. If you’re a bus conductor or a jeepney driver, you really should know your math. Even if you’re an ordinary salaried employee, you need to know math. Or maybe that’s the reason your salary runs out before the days of the months do, is that you don’t know your math. We simply cannot disregard math.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours shared a math problem in a group chat. This posed a challenge to us, as we all believe that we are math whizzes. Maybe it was more than math prowess that was required, but also some analytical ability and a sprinkle of common sense.

Here is the problem she posted:

What is your answer?

A. 30

B. 20

C. 15

D. 43

E. None of the above, this is a trick question.

F. I don’t know and I don’t care, I hate math.

Looking at the problem and applying the math rules that I remember in solving equations, I easily arrived at an answer. Me and my wife have the same answer,  making us confident that we solved it right.

When we show the math problem to our son, he looked at it intently and said that our answer was wrong. We checked our solution again, and we were positive we were right.

My son told us his answer that I thought was definitely wrong, but he was certain of his answer. He just smiled with a knowing grin, like a cat who swallowed a canary, but he would not divulge to us on how he arrived at his “ridiculous” answer. 

When our friend who posted the math problem gave out the solution, it turned out that our son’s answer was right. We failed math!

How could it be? We were the ones who taught this boy math (we homeschooled our children), and yet the student turned out to be better than the teachers.

Well, it just prove that we are not math geniuses that we believe we are and we are no Einstein.

Hint: It needs good eyesight too to solve this problem. And me and my wife were not wearing our glasses when we try to solve this problem. At least that was our excuse, and we’re sticking to it.

(*For the solution and answer please see the comment section. The image is not mine and I apologize to the owner if there’s a copyright infringement.)


Black Friday

Thanksgiving week is the busiest time for travel in the United States. Students who are in distant colleges and universities, family members who have moved away from their parents, and most people who have wandered far, all journeyed back to the place they call home to be with their family.

For a day the family gathered around the table with a spread of bountiful food and gave thanks. For a day the family was one again. Unless you have no family, or you don’t like your family, or you hate food, it is hard not to like this holiday.

Of course for some people this time is for vacation and some time off work. For some it is about parties. For some it is about parades. For some it is all about watching football. And yet for some they make this holiday time all about shopping – the Black Friday event. But primarily, this time is for families and about giving thanks.

I am in charge of the hospital’s ICU this week. I know there’s no good time to be sick and be admitted in the ICU, but being sick during the holidays is terrible. It is particularly difficult for the families involved.

We have one patient who was admitted in our ICU about 10 days ago. He is in his mid 50’s and he got really ill. He has multi-organ failure. Despite all the efforts, he did not get better. He is on mechanical ventilator, on continuous dialysis, and on several medications to keep his heart pumping and blood pressure up, yet he is sliding away. More concerning still is that he is not waking up.

His family would like us to continue our intensive management until many of his family, especially his children, who are in other states could come and see him and then they would say their goodbyes. For one more Thanksgiving, they gathered, though not in front of a bountiful dinner table, but in an ICU room, as one family again. Then today, Black Friday, they decided to transition to full comfort cares and let their father passed on after a final farewell. It’s kind of hard to give thanks in such circumstances.

Sadly to say, that story is not unique to that family.

In another ICU room, a mother who is only 40 years old, has metastatic breast cancer to the brain. She failed all surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and is now having frequent seizures. Family would like to keep her in the hospital until Thanksgiving day. Last night they took her home with Hospice to die.

In yet another ICU room, a man who is in his 70’s suffered a large intracranial hemorrhage a week ago. Even after surgery to the brain to evacuate the blood, the patient remains comatose and is in continued vegetative state. The family also would like to have family members from far away places to come on Thanksgiving to see him. Today, they took him off life support.

The saddest of all is in another ICU room. The patient is in his 60’s who had cardiac arrest and prolonged CPR four days ago. We cooled his body down (hypothermia protocol) to try to preserve any brain function. However after we rewarmed his body temperature and discontinue all sedation, he’s not waking up. There is no family members around and we cannot find any one except for a friend that said they don’t know any family of his, and perhaps he is estranged from his family. Both the cardiologist and I felt that continuing life support is medically futile given his significant anoxic brain injury. We let him passed on peacefully, with nobody around him except our ICU staff.

To many, today, Black Friday means bargain sales and wild shopping spree. But in this frantic place, inside these ICU walls, it has a different meaning. It is the solemn color of mourning.

For those of you celebrating this holiday time, may you cherish each moment you have with your family, and commemorate this season in it’s true essence.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Tag, You’re It

With fresh snow on the ground and with temperature of 14º F (-10º C) that we trekked down to the nearby tree farm. It’s that time of year again to choose a Christmas tree.

From our previous experiences, it usually takes us several minutes (though it feel like hours) to go up and down the line after line of trees, before we could pick the “perfect” tree.

Not this time.

On the first line of trees that we approached, we already made our choice. We did it in less than a minute! It is a record!

Here’s a close up photo of our Christmas tree with my wife tagging it with our name.

We’ll be coming back in two weeks to have this tree cut and bundled and for us to bring it home.

Since we did it so quickly, there was plenty of time for me to eat popcorn and sip hot chocolate inside the tree farm’s store. 

Actually I was looking for Santa, who usually is sitting inside this store, to give him my Christmas list. But he was not there. Perhaps he’s still busy preparing the turkey for the Thanksgiving.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)