Search This Blog

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sumaa ka’t, Ina?

“Ay sumaa ka’t, ina?” (So, you’re going home, mother?) gently asked Pablo Afidchao – Amboy, to us his cousins – more as a declaration than an inquiry as he placed his right palm over the forehead of his now unresponsive mother. She just had a fatal cardiac arrest despite the valiant efforts of the nurses and doctors to keep her alive.

“Wen, sumaa tako’t,” (Yes, we’re going home) he muttered as he glanced at the monitor overhead that, just moments ago, blinked two red question marks and a flat line.

Earlier, he had glumly told the medical personnel scrambling to revive her to stop squeezing the ambo bag and the CPR. He knew there was nothing more to be done but to let go. The moment her mother’s veins collapsed about an hour back and the doctor and the nurses found it hard to insert the needles into her veins, he knew it was a lost battle. He should know – Dr. Pablo Magkachi Afidchao should know.

At that moment, as I looked at him watch the nurses take out the ET tube and the IV needles from the lifeless form on that white hospital bed , I wondered what went on in the good doctor’s mind as he suddenly found himself helpless while the dreaded Hooded One whisked aunt Chuma’s breath away.

Somehow, I felt that Amboy also knew that this was coming when aunt Chuma, after four days of unconsciousness, surprisingly opened her eyes and gave him a blank stare for more than 10 minutes. She had seemed to want to say something through her ET tube.

I was ecstatic then, thinking that it was a sign of recovery. Little did I know that it was a gesture of farewell…

We followed the cadaver to the inner room of the morgue at the basement of the new five-story Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC). Aunt Chuma’s body was already wrapped in a thick blanket and laid on a steel washing tray. There was another corpse on the other tray, the soles of its hard, yellowing feet eerily facing me.

I stepped into the outer room where stood two new, stainless steel refrigeration cabinets, each with two empty chambers on top of each other. As I looked at the four empty cadaver trays, I wondered how many dead bodies have been placed into them.

Other questions soon peppered my consciousness: How does it feel to be inside one of these chambers? Why are most of us so afraid of death? Is there a ghost standing right beside me? Why do morgues have to be painted or tiled white? Why not pink or light blue? What really happens to a soul at death? Does it tarry on this earthly plane for an hour?3 days? 40 days? 1 year? Why is it a big deal for many people whether their dead are laid in a wooden chest or a steel casket? Whether a wake lasts for a day or a week? Why do the living have to build mansions for the dead while a large part of humanity lives in makeshift hovels? Why do we often reserve our finest words for a person only when he or she is already laid in a casket or slid in a tomb? Why do we reserve the best flowers for graves that know only the smell of their own stench?

The questions went on and on until I suddenly realized that I was alone in the morgue. I quickly went out, to shake the chill away.

Besides, I remembered that I must be preparing for my family’s trip tomorrow. Tonight they will be transporting the cadaver to Bontoc. I and my wife and my kids will follow the next day. It will be another reunion aunt Chuma wished for a few months ago -- but without her laughter.


dr pablo magkachi afidchao said...

Insan Scott,
I appreciate so much the way you painted in words your keen observations on the last moments of ina Chuma.When I muttered in agonizing tears the statement "sumaa kat ina" it was a declaration of farewell to a dear mother. Realizing that her earthly sojourn is over as her last breath faded off even as it was taken over by a ventilator,she finally gave way.Ina Chuma, a great mother to me, left so suddenly in spite of my best efforts and to my medical colleagues at BGHMC who did everything they can for my mother's sake I owe them a million thanks especially the neurologist Dr. Hiyadan whom I was not able to contact to express my gratitude.

Scott, you've written a lot in your blogsite.I shall keep visiting it to contact you.I congratulate you Insan I only came to know of this through the text I received last night.I will be leaving for Manila tonight for a convention in Davao I just dropped by school to look at your blogsite and to my surprise you've already written a lot. Congratulations Insan!

Jackie Calsiman said...

Dear Pablo,
I am sorry to hear of your loss. Karen texted me about it but we have lost communication over the years and I had no way to contact you to express my deepest sympathy. Just this week my professor in college emailed me that she met you in a CSU conference. I googled you and found this blog. I hope this message reaches you. I have been going home to the Philippines at least once a year since I moved to America, I lost both of my parents too, and that is also one of the reasons I have been going home. I hope you and your family are well.

dr pablo magkachi afidchao said...

To Jackie my fren ,
How are you now? Yes I recently met with Dr. Lorelei Mendoza Of UPCB. She was invited to share her expertise on social research and she was a brilliant lecturer.She told me you frequently exchange emails. Kumusta ka jan fren? I'm told you are married and are taking up Nursing there.Do you have kids?As for me I chose to remain simply as a barrio doctor in west Amulung, thanks to the Asian Health Outreach Foundation.I remain a fulltime professor here at Cagayan State University College of Medicine receiving what little government gives just like the majority of Filipinos do. Share ka naman grasya mo jan fren.:> Please spearhead a reunion for our batch!

scott saboy said...

To our other readers, I am sharing the above correspondence to inform the world about one of the talented doctors in the Philippines who has chosen to remain in the country to serve his people notwithstanding the lure of a better life (as a caregiver/hospital worker) abroad. Without condemning doctors who have decided to become nurses to qualify them for better-paying jobs in a Western country (see my article, "PTs, Pittance, Pity"), I join the rest of the country in extolling the remaining doctors who have been devoting their hard-earned expertise to the countryside. May your tribe increase Dr. Afidchao! :> Pablo's email address is (posted with permission). Know more about the "Doktor Ko Program":Asian Health Outreach Foundation.

jackie said...

Thanks for the info. I appreciate it so much. Good job on your blogsite, very informative.

luzHK said...

hallow, pangyao, found this one....sorry really,kilala ko name Doc but not the face....anyway I'll try to communicate with him, at least you wrote the e-mail..thanks...

scott saboy said...

wen, waday pay lang xa ed CSU. naikamang ed Isabela. :)