Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Has any one out there ever tried to go to all 9 Misa de Gallo because people say your wish will be granted if you do? Now that I think about it, I'm not actually sure if I've tried going to all 9 and then making a wish. One of my friends once swore her wish really came true: she'd had a crush on this guy for the longest time, and not long after that Christmas season when she completed the 9 dawn masses, they got together. But, as if living proof of that warning to be careful what you wish for, the guy cheated on my friend and they had this really messy break-up. And they lived not so happily ever after.

I wonder what I would have wished for. I mean, in general, it's easy to rattle off the things you wish you'd have: a happy family, a fun & fulfilling job, enough money to live comfortably and someday go on a cruise to Antarctica, slimmer waists and leaner arms...the works. But if you had just one wish, and it had to be specific... like, not only wishing you'd find the man of your dreams in the next 24 hours, but wishing that it would be this particular guy... Would you dare?

I am reminded of a passage in The Magician's Nephew, the prequel to CS Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In this scene, Digory, the boy who becomes the Professor in the LWW, has just planted a tree that will protect Narnia from the evil witch.

"Son of Adam," said Aslan, "you have sown well. And you, Narnians, let it be your first care to guard this Tree, for it is your Shield. The Witch of whom I told you has fled far away into the North of the world; she will live on there, growing stronger in dark Magic. But while that Tree flourishes she will never come down into Narnia. She dare not come within a hundred miles of the Tree, for its smell, which is joy and life and health to you, is death and horror and despair to her."

Everyone was staring solemnly at the Tree when Aslan suddenly swung round his head (scattering golden gleams of light from his mane as he did so) and fixed his large eyes on the children. "What is it, children?" he said, for he caught them in the very act of whispering and nudging one another.

"Oh - Aslan, sir," said Digory, turning red, "I forgot to tell you. The Witch has already eaten one of those apples, one of the same kind that Tree grew from." He hadn't really said all he was thinking, but Polly at once said it for him (Digory was always much more afraid than she of looking a fool.)

"So we thought, Aslan," she said, "that there must be some mistake, and she can't really mind the smell of those apples."

"Why do you think that, Daughter of Eve?" asked the Lion.

"Well, she ate one."

"Child," he replied, "that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after."

"Oh I see," said Polly. "And I suppose because she took it in the wrong way it won't work for her. I mean it won't make her always young and all that?"

"Alas," said Aslan, shaking his head. "It will. Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart's desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it."

"I - I nearly ate one myself, Aslan," said Digory. "Would I -"

"You would, child," said Aslan. "For the fruit always works - it must work - but it does not work happily for any who pluck it at their own will. If any Narnian, unbidden, had stolen an apple and planted it here to protect Narnia, it would have protected Narnia. But it would have done so by making Narnia into another strong and cruel empire like Charn, not the kindly land I mean it to be. And the Witch tempted you to do another thing, my son, did she not?"

"Yes, Aslan. She wanted me to take an apple home to Mother."

"Understand, then, that it would have healed her; but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in that illness."

I guess I should, as early as now, offer this warning: I may be quoting a lot of CS Lewis in this blog. Not because I'm a Narnia fan, although I am. CS Lewis' writings appeal both to my mind and my heart because they have both the unbiased logic that appeals to the mind, as well as that innate truth that wakes the heart. Read his writings and you can see for yourself.

But anyway. I am reminded of that passage in Narnia because God could very well give us what we wish for. But would it really be what's best for us? My friend found out the hard way that, no, having our wishes granted does not necessarily guarantee happiness. So, to answer my own question, no, I don't think I would dare to make a specific wish. It may be just me being a scaredy cat, but I'd like to think it's just faith: I would rather say to the Lord, may Your will be done. And I hope that I'll learn to love Your will, and learn to say I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We went to the perya last night -- me, Ria, Tonet and Brian, Arlyn, Bianca, Jeanette, Jo Anne and Sherwin, and Ver. Ria and I headed straight for the Ferris wheel, but it wasn't what we expected, hehe! After we all sat down, the Ferris wheel made a couple of slow turns and stopped. I thought that was the end of the ride, but then I saw the operator tighten the bolts of each car as it reached the bottom. So we'd actually been going up and down those few turns with loose bolts?! The Wheel then made a few slow turns, a few relatively fast turns, then stopped again. By that time, we were practically begging to get out. Hehe, not exactly the most thrilling Ferris Wheel ride I'd been in, but we managed to enjoy the rest of the night. We went to the shooting booth and killed pigs and plastic action figures; we tossed P5 worth of 25-cent-coins before becoming bored; and Ver and Bianca faced off in Sa Puli, Sa Puti. When we got back to Abby, I surveyed my messy bed, by my secret contortionist skills somehow found a space to lie down in, and went into a GCS3 (a coma, for all you non-medical people out there) till 8am. I was "previous" after all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's a holiday here in Dumaguete: today, they celebrate their Charter Day and tomorrow the city fiesta. I'd planned to go home to Cebu for my weekend off, but I found the lure of food and Ferris wheels too irresistable. Gosh, how I miss the old fiestas in Talamban! We'd ride Ferris wheels and octopuses and caterpillars and horror trains, shoot little plastic toys and get sticky candies as prizes, and try our luck at Bingo and that game where you toss a 25-centavo coin at a yellow-and-black-checkered table and if it lands in a square without touching any lines you get prizes like plates and cans of beef loaf. Once my cousins and I won (you guessed it!) a can of Holiday beef loaf, and we ate it off the can with half a kaldero of bahaw. That was fun, something I know I'll be telling my kids about one day.

Yesterday we had a Code Blue at the Emergency Room: a security guard at the Silliman University campus was found unconscious in his booth and was rushed to the Medical Center. His pupils were already dilated when he arrived but we tried to resuscitate him anyway. Sherwin started doing cardiac massage and I started an IV line in his right hand. The others arrived soon after: Ver and Benjo and I took turns with Sherwin doing CPR, while Twinkle did the ambubagging. Arlyn was wearing a short dress and dared not pump; she stuck instead to suctioning. We tried our best, but our patient, like most others who get Code Blue-d, needed nothing short of a miracle. We learned later that he'd had a bad heart for some time, but he went on working, probably because he needed to, if his family were to eat and his kids were to get an education. It's a reality we have to contend with in the Philippines. When he flatlined in the ECG, we gave it up. As I removed the leads of the cardiac monitor from his body, his son arrived. He was probably in his late teens or early 20's, and I had to fight tears when I heard him whisper, "Pa... Pa..." as he stroked his father's arm. How do you say goodbye to someone who has, for all of your life, taken care of you and loved you and sacrificed himself for your well-being? I wondered what their last conversation had been, when he'd last told his father he loved him, when he'd last said thank you. And I wondered, as I've wondered many times lately, what if that had been my father or mother?

I've witnessed death all too often. I've watched those left behind crying hopelessly for all the things they'd said but wished they didn't, or things their heart knew to be true but never got to express. It's heart-wrenching to watch, but it will just kill me if I have to go through that myself...if someone I love dies, and I hadn't gotten to thank him or tell him I love him. And it's not just my family or my friends. Who knew if I'd passed by that security guard many times, and he'd had a bad heart or problems at home, and I hadn't deigned to smile or say hi because I was too busy wallowing in my own petty problems. Who knows if I could have made someone's last few minutes better just by smiling or saying good morning... The world, after all, is such a tangled web, such that we "canst not stir a flower without troubling of a star."

But I'm rambling. All I'm trying to say is, our lives aren't truly ours and can be taken away when we least expect it. When death separates us from the persons we love, our grief, though great, may perhaps be assuaged by the knowledge that we'd loved that person the best we could, that we'd made him or her happy while he or she was with us here on earth. And, yes, someday, we may all meet in heaven, where neither grief nor death could follow us no more. Till then, let's drown these, life's mortal enemies, with love.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I came to Dumaguete because the whole idea of living on my own appealed to my curiosity and smelled enticingly of adventure. I wanted to see if I could handle medical internship, stressful enough as it is, while having to cook my own food and do my own laundry and, in general, take care of myself. Okay, so someone does my laundry for P500 a month, and there's always a carenderia or a Jollibee (or, even more ubiquitous in Dumaguete, a Scooby's) around the corner when I don't have the time or energy to make myself a meal. But you know what I mean.

As I'm still here, I guess I could claim a small measure of success for my "adventure." I've broken down less than I thought I might, but I have nonetheless broken down, sometimes with the flimsiest of triggers. My last was when we had to resuscitate a patient at the ER, and I got off work almost 2 hours later than I should have, and thus got to spend 2 hours less with my parents, who were visiting me at that time. They were in Dumaguete for my birthday, but, my schedule being what it is, we'd spent more time apart than together. My tears spilled all the way to Abby Jacobs (my dorm) and I bawled like a baby in my room, only to realize with horror many moments later that my roommate Jouie was in the room and had silently witnessed all that melodrama.

I don't care, I thought. It wasn't worth it. All those high ideals about saving lives and helping others, and what do I get in return? I get to spend less than a tenth of the time I would have wanted to spend with my family and friends. I come home tireder than tired, and I spend my off-duty hours catching up on the paperwork that figures so prominently in hospital life but never seems to make it to a Grey's Anatomy script.

Why on earth would anyone in his or her right mind want to become a doctor? Most of us in the profession have asked ourselves that one time or another. For my part, I insist my reasons were noble. It was never about the money or the prestige. I DID want to help others. But noble intentions can't insulate you from the physical and emotional hurricane that is a medical intern's life. And there's no stress-free future to look forward to. As a resident, and more so later as a consultant, the responsibilities are bigger, the consequences of failure unspeakable. I would much rather be a singer (if I had the voice, which I don't) or a housewife. But people get sick and someone's got to take care of them when they do. And I made the choice a long time ago to answer that call.

So I break down, from time to time. I fall, dust my weary ass, and plod on. I paste a grin on my face, even when I don't completely feel like it, because there's so much to smile about. I have a family who loves me even at my most unlovable, friends I can share a good laugh and a fine cup of coffee with, and a boyfriend who makes me happy and keeps his cool when I fall asleep in the middle of a long-distance conversation.

The whole point of an adventure is to test your limits, and then come home.