At 1:30 a.m., a phone call from a sobbing father awakened me: “Ma’am, patay na si Alexis. Hindi ko po maintindihan kung bakit.”
Two-year-old Alexis was the fifth child of our family driver Felix.
Prior to that, he had called me, distraught about his daughter’s pneumonia diagnosis, just as her measles rash was fading. Her mother Liezl said her vaccinations were up-to-date. She had several checkups.
After bringing Alexis to a hospital in Kabihasnan, Parañaque, Felix and Liezl were advised to move her to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, which specializes in infectious diseases. They were warned not to bring her to any other hospital, as it could lead to her death.
Felix asked me if taking Alexis to Ospital ng Muntinlupa, which was closer, would do. I said it was his decision, but that it’s best to follow the doctor’s advice. I told him to take a cab, because commuting from Parañaque to Manila would take at least three hours.
Panic and desperation
Felix had spoken derisively about hospitals, because I suppose it was something he couldn’t understand. The Bicol native believed instead in the albularyo (faith healer). But panic and desperation most likely led to him to consider the hospital.
He later messaged me that they had gone to Ospital ng Maynila instead, upon the taxi driver’s suggestion.
Alexis was having trouble breathing. Felix said the doctor had to put many tubes all over her body and her breathing was being aided by a handheld pump.
We sent money to have a machine automate the process, since the hospital could request it only upon payment of the P3,600 fee. It was good for three days’ rent of the machine.
Feeling helpless seeing his daughter’s thin, frail body hooked up to a machine with tubes, Felix wept in resignation. I had to talk him into staying positive and strong for his family.
I explained, as best as I could, why the doctors had to do what they did. They told him she had a 50-50 chance of pulling through.
At 1:29 a.m., Alexis succumbed to her illness. I could still hear Felix wailing, long after he had ended the call.
I had difficulty going back to sleep. On the same day, my 4-year-old nephew was also suddenly confined in a hospital due to a complex febrile seizure.
That evening, his 1-year-old sister likewise had a febrile seizure. Both incidents were caused by a viral infection.
Coincidentally, all these happened on Feb. 11, World Day of the Sick, a Catholic feast day.
We all prayed for our sick children. But while my nephew and niece pulled through, Alexis was not as fortunate.
I broke the news to my 8-year-old son the following morning. He said, “I’m confused. Didn’t we send Kuya Felix money yesterday? Weren’t they able to get it? Didn’t we pray?” I assured my son that it was just probably Alexis’ time to go.
“But she’s just a baby,” he continued. “Others live till they’re… 80. Or 88. It’s too early for her. It can’t be her time. I thought God doesn’t want us to be sad. What happened?”
I answered along the lines of, “I don’t know… I don’t understand how God works either…”
Better medical care
I wish I had more upbeat lines, but I was still in a fog myself. Meanwhile, Felix had to deal with getting his daughter out of the morgue because her remains could stay there only for five hours.
He needed P2,500 for the morgue to release her body and P5,000 for a funeral parlor to set up the wake at the multipurpose hall near their place. It would cost more to send the remains to their province for a proper burial.
Alexis could have had better medical care and easier access to proper medication. Felix could’ve taken her to San Lazaro as doctors advised.
But maybe it was God’s way of alleviating their hardship. Yet it doesn’t take a deity to know the impossible task of raising a family of six on a driver’s salary.
There are theological, appropriately scholarly answers to these raw thoughts and questions, but it doesn’t matter anymore, because Alexis is gone. A way to cope is to make meaning of something so senseless.
I drop off my kids to school, referee their escalated squabbles, and prepare healthy meals (most of the time). I nag them about some forgotten chore, guide them through schoolwork and tuck them snugly in their beds (and keep leading them back to their room every time they sneak out for some excuse to stay up a bit longer).
The days can be repetitive and always exhausting, but I still get to do all these things.
The next time I feel like complaining about everything I have to do, that I still get to do, I will think of Alexis, and hug my children a bit longer, a bit tighter.
I will always be the last one to let go. —CONTRIBUTED