Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Beauty From Pain

When I was eight, my uncle, who used to be very close to me, died. As part of the family ritual, all of us went to the province for the wake. Since I was still a grade school student then, we just stayed for the measly weekend before we decided to go home. It was my first time to look at a loved one over the coffin then. And as frightened and anxious as I was, it felt really nothing, it’s as if I just looked at my uncle, only he was dead.

As we were headed home, I could still recall seeing myself in a trancelike state almost all throughout the entire trip --- between the state of wakefulness and slumber. It’s as if I was dreaming, only I was partly awake. And in my dreamlike state I saw my dead uncle talking and interacting with me as if he was still alive.

My mom said I was crying that entire time. I fell acutely ill for almost a week and I wasn’t able to go to school. I’m having this vague feeling as to whether I’m having hallucinations or I’m just dreaming. Because all those times, I was seeing, talking, and living with my dead uncle’s spirit.

When I told my mom what was happening, she dismissed the idea and thought that I was just seeing things, as me and my uncle used to be really close when he was still alive. However, when I fell seriously ill then—I was having chills, unexplained fever, night terrors, and crying spells—those incidences prompt my mom to consult my pediatrician.

My doctor said that everything is normal.
No pathology could be determined, nor any organic abnormality be established. Since I still feel worse at that time, we finally consulted a child psychologist.

It was post-traumatic stress disorder, told my psychologist. I wasn’t aware of that term back then, nor I’m not really sure if that was my exact diagnosis really, but I recall that what was happening is due to a traumatic event my emotions/psyche could not handle. I was given a short-course therapy of defusion and some psychological exams to ascertain my wellness.

It was a really short therapy session. I was well by the time I finished 1 month therapy. I resumed my studies, and thankfully finished on the top of my third grade class.

Months passed and the same visions ensue. This time I did not tell my parents of what was happening. It is in this time that I discovered my special gift. Just like in the movie.

I see dead people.

And I think this is one thing I just have to live with. Not only for this Halloween, but for the rest of my life.

Images from flickr.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Pardon the tasteless title of this entry as I could not find a song name to match the article’s content. Without further ado, here’s my early Halloween treat for all of you.

The Child

Granddad AB had been complaining that someone (or something) is pulling his legs and his linen every night when he was still confined in a specialty coronary unit. He is hearing voices of children, seeing young children playing with the controls of his bed, and is said to be choking him every midnight.


ICU Psychosis, defined as a temporary state of confusion among confined patients due to prolonged isolation, usually leading to complaints of imaginary hallucinations and delusions.


The attending physician decided to transfer him to another room. Right at the hallway, he exclaimed that a child was on top of him, another one was pulling on his legs, and the other one was choking him. He went into a heart attack to which the cause could not be attributed to any reason, but he was revived after.

The Head

The Left Wing Elevator was initially reserved to service cadaver gurneys and to deliver dead patients to the morgue. However, it had been under renovation for quite some time now, and the only elevator servicing the Charity Division was located at the Right Wing.


It was said that the elevator malfunctions because of mechanical glitches. It was renovated twice during the past 5 years, and had been operational occasionally (one month tops). The author was able to ride it once, despite the multitude of grim stories that was said to cloud that elevator.


It was said that the past elevator lady who used to service that elevator got trapped at the basement where the hospital morgue is located. The keys malfunctioned. She supposedly saw dead patients in shrouds walking towards her, the guards at the upper floor heard her screaming, and when the elevator was opened, they saw the elevator lady.

The elevator is still “under renovation” as of this moment.

The Woman

Suite 4 of the OR is notorious for the surgical cases usually booked in the morning. At night however, the staff has been hearing incessant beeping of cardiac monitors and swooshing of anesthesia machines. Every time the nurses commence with their graveyard shift rounds, the sound miraculously disappears, only to return when they were away.


Malfunctioning cardiac monitors and anesthesia machines. General services tried to replace the monitors as documented in their office logbook.


One time the charge nurse made her rounds, the cardiac monitor suddenly went on. It shows an ECG tracing similar to a healthy, alive adult. The anesthesia machine went on, and the bulb inflated and deflated as if someone was breathing through the tubes. When she moved the monitors away, she saw something standing behind the machines.

A woman clad in hospital gown, the face decomposing, looking at her. She saw one of her legs amputated, her blood dripping all over the floor, the other leg floating in midair.
Just like the one standing right behind you.


Happy Halloween Everyone!

Images from, stockphoto and

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gone Too Soon

Paz was one of my best-mannered patients. She was unquestioning, unobtrusive, peaceful and serene. She rarely makes noises. She never complains every time I visit her in the room. Performing any invasive procedures on her is a breeze. There are no struggles, no resistance, no fighting back. She takes her medications without queries or qualms. She was just plain perfect --- in fact the best patient assignment any nurse could ever get --- except for one single thing:

She was in a coma for the past 7 months already.

Bioethical principles dictate that we should value human life at all cost. Medical ethics, however, makes it a little complicated. Technology is even blamed for its often useless and unnecessary means of prolonging life. Heart-lung-machines, artificial feeding, respirators, aggressive antibiotics --- they have been used indiscriminately that instead of helping the person die in peace, they just prolong the patient’s agony. And sometimes the thin line differentiating murder/euthanasia or a peaceful death is now gone.

Would you remove your dying mother’s ventilator if in case she gets comatose?

Would you stop giving artificial feedings if in case your mom could not eat by ordinary means anymore?

Would you be very much willing to allow her to die? Withhold fluids and not give CPR?

As an ICU Nurse, I have seen patients die. I have seen how their relatives weep outside of their dying loved ones’ room, waiting and praying eagerly that the chest compressions and non-stop pushing of medications would bring their loved ones back to life. I have seen how their eyes and their faces mourn with sorrow. So piercing they need not say any word at all.

But like any other job, for a nurse like me, after every death, and each post-mortem care, the show must definitely go on. Repress the image of death at the back of your head and wear a jolly smile before entering another patient’s den.
And one could only hope that the rest of the day would be a better one.

How do nurses cope with loss, with pain, with death?

My colleagues do it in the shopping malls. They sing karaoke till they finally kill somebody with their horrendous voices. They buy white and light blue rubber shoes to match their cerulean scrubs. They eat like there’s no tomorrow. They take care of their babies, hubbies and sweeties. They do the unmentionables.

I, for one, do it in the arcade shoppes. I race cars while imagining the Reaper chasing after me. I hold fake guns while visualizing Death as just another character in The Night of the Living Dead game. I play those Marvel games and picture my opponent as the Grim Reaper as I pierce him using Wolverine’s claws. I catch toys in magic cranes hoping that the loosened hinges would grasp the weighty bear. I watch young lads play Dance Revolution because I’m too shy to play in one. I surround myself with noise, fun, and company of good friends. I stargaze. I celebrate.

Dare people might say it is discourteous, disrespectful, foul even. But if nurses, and doctors, who experience death day in and day out would wallow in grief and sadness, I bet there’ll be no more medical staff in hospitals anymore.

We try to do the best in life, for life is always mean, cruel, and unfair. And for that reason we cope. We cope and we hope. We hope that the things to come will be better. The load will be easier. The days will be brighter.

I do not seek approval for the way I lead my life. I am proud to live life the way I intended it to be lived. For always in the end, the only person answerable for my life, my behavior, my decisions, my choices, is no one but myself.
Paz died in peace a week ago.
Her grandson who used to have my cell phone number informed me that she has succumbed to the overwhelming infection as her organs gradually fail one by one.

It looks like I’m heading for the arcade in a little while.

Wanna play?


Related Posts:
Littlest Things. A triumvirate of strange medical stories.
Dust In The Wind. Another triumvirate of hazing-related medical stories.
Tell Me Where It Hurts. A tragic medical story of a patient's broken childhood.

Listening to Vertical Horizon's Best I Ever Had. Images from

Friday, October 19, 2007

In The Arms Of The Angel

It was said in Jerusalem lies a pool called Bethesda. During the era of the Kings, the pool was used to wash the sheep prior to their sacrifice in the temple. This use of the pool gave the water a halo of sanctity, and many invalids came to the pool to be healed.

Angel of the Waters was said to occasionally visit the pool to stir its waters. The first person who enters the pool right after the angeltroubles” the waters will be healed of whatever disease he has. It is for this reason that the blind, the lame, the paralyzed and the sick are all waiting for the occasional, surprise stirring of the pool’s waters.

As Jesus walked among the sick at Bethesda, he passed before a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and who had no one to put him first into the pool when the waters were troubled. Christ pitied this neglected man and said to him, “Take up your pallet and walk.” Obediently, without even reaching the angel-troubled waters, he took up his stretcher and walked.
Have you missed the angel’s splash?

Just recently, I have finished watching HBO’s Angels in America (I know it’s too late, sorry) and it was soooo good! Magnificent, spectacular, breathtaking, moving, poignant, enlightening are just few words that I could say about this once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece. Watching it is definitely one of the best-spent 6 hours of my life.

Adapted from two award winning Kushner stage plays, Angels is an arresting portrayal of the fight against AIDS and for (religious, sexual, ethnic, cultural, political) tolerance, shown through the loves and losses of all-too-human characters, in a climate of national hysteria. But it is also far more, setting the story of the early years of AIDS in the much larger context of American culture itself.

Angels in America broadcasts a message of love and loss, hope, healing, and tolerancenot only for those affected by AIDS, but for all of us. As Prior says at the end, “We aren't going away. We won't die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”
It just . . . It just . . . We can't just stop. We're not rocks—progress, migration, motion is . . . modernity. It's animate, it's what living things do. We desire. Even if all we desire is stillness, it's still desire for. Even if we go faster than we should. We can't wait. And wait for what? God. . .

He isn't coming back.

And as tagged by McRey, Dazed, and other fellow bloggers, here’s my desktop image:

I’m tagging everyone who hasn’t done it yet.

And oh, "and when love is dead,
I’m loving angels instead."

Have a great weekend everyone!

Angel of the Waters of Bethesda story here and here. Angels In America reviews here, here and here. Images from and

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thank You

When your mom was having painful labor pains, she stayed with her to coach her breathe and assured her that "everything will be fine."

When your mom was in the delivery room, tired and vulnerable, with both legs hanging up in the stirrups, she pulled you out of her uterus to give you the life you are enjoying right now.

When you could not breathe, she suctioned your nose and slapped your butt cheeks to help re-expand those collapsed lungs of yours and not choke on your own pee (you drink your own pee when you’re still inside the womb).

When you were in the nursery, she clothed you and kept you warm and cuddly in those pretty pink and sky blue quilts. She changed your diaper when you pee or poo, and knowing how temperamental you are (just like what you still are right now), she heeded to your every call.

When you were growing up, she consistently took your weight and height and made sure you get all the shots so you wouldn’t catch measles, mumps and pox that Rambunctious Raymond or Pesky Patty had contracted the summer before.

When you entered school, she was always there to clean your wound and apply the “it-wouldn’t-hurt-it’s-just-like-water” ointment every time you scraped your knee while you’re playing tag with Innocent Ivan and Jovial Jacque.

When you grew up, she stayed with you in that cold operating room, she held your hand, made you feel comfortable while you’re there lying in the OR table helpless and naked, and kept on explaining to you that your tummy ache was caused by a ruptured appendix.

When you got admitted at the hospital, she welcomed you into her ward, made you feel at ease, and reassured you that if you have any problem you could call her at ALL times.

When your doctor told you of your frightening diagnosis, she stayed by your side, gave you a pat on your back, held your hand, and explained to you that epistaxis simply meant nosebleed and your diagnosis wasn’t that bad after all.

When you got older and body pains have become a normal part of your life, she fed you, bathed you, clothed you, brushed your hair, changed your diaper, cleaned your poo, and did almost everything a loving mom would’ve done to her precious child.

When you were lonely and depressed, she made you feel important with her reassuring stories, she comforted you with her therapeutic words, and she stood by you when your sons and daughters have forgotten your birthdays and special anniversaries. =(

When you’re old and gray, she still stayed by your side, she listened to your melancholic, albeit repetitive, stories about your grandchildren and what-have-you’s, she cried with you, comforted you till your last dying breath, and made sure that you’ll have the most peaceful transition from the land of the living to the other side.


And this is her day.

And this time you owe it to her.

Have you told her how much you really appreciated her taking care of you from the time you were born until the time you get old and die? Can you still remember her name? Can you still recall how many times she heeded your call? Can you still remember her face, her smile, her tender, loving words, and her priceless acts of caring?

Have you thanked your nurse today?

This post is dedicated to nurses all over the world whose special day we’re celebrating right now. For all the things that you do, I will be forever indebted. Long live and Happy Nurse’s Day everyone.

Text: If Caring Were Enough, Anyone Could Be A Nurse

What have you done for her today?


Images from Flickr, Adcouncil for Nurses and Google Search.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In Pursuit Of Happiness

"There comes a time when a man has to ask himself whether he wants a life of happiness or a life of meaning….(they’re) two very different paths… To be truly happy a man must live absolutely in the present. No thought of what has gone before and no thought of what lies ahead… but a for a life of meaning, a man is condemned to wallow in the past and obsess about the future."

I guess I'm living a life of meaning after all.

What kind of life are you living?

Quote from Heroes. Image from flickr.

Monday, October 08, 2007

One Of The Brightest Stars

Two boys are standing on the edge of a balcony, stargazing.

The boy points out one of the brighter stars and asks, “What’s the name of that one?”

“It is Polaris of the north,” says the other guy. “It is beautiful, isn’t it? It is really made up of three stars, but in the distance, they are one.”

“I would like to go to Polaris someday,” says the boy.

“Why don’t we?” says the other guy.

“Now?” he asks.

“Yes. Now.”

So they kiss each other, for the last time embraced in the innocence of this world, and set off together on their long journey.


I hope that my series of hospital interviews this week will push through smoothly. Prayers and well-wishes will be very much appreciated.

Adapted from a work by JPM Goitia. Image from

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes

1611 was the year when this certain university was founded. Three and a half centuries after, in 1946, the premiere hospital was established. At present, the hospital is comprised of three main wings --- the Medical Arts, the Clinical Division (Charity Ward), and the Pay Division.

The hospital building was primarily used as an interment camp during the Second World War. When the Third Philippine Republic was created, the building was then converted into an infirmary for the wounded soldiers. Decades after, the hospital, though still operational, still holds some brutal memories of the past --- lurking along the lonely hospital halls.

A hospital. Image from The Hospital's website.

Charity Division, Third Floor, Male Surgical Ward, Room 311.

The room was deserted because necessary renovation of the ward comfort room was still unfinished. He was the nurse-in-charge and as a part of the night shift inventory, he decided to proceed with the customary night-shift ward rounds. He took his phone with him as he was doing the rounds, and visited each room one-by-one.

First in 301, then to 303, up until 309 where all the patients are either sleeping or having chats with their fellow surgical wardmates. At the corner of the building was room 311 --- adjacent to it was St. Blaise Ward that caters to Head and Neck Surgery patients. He took his phone inside the room and in his least unexpected moment, something was captured on his mobile phone video camera.

Halloween came early for him this year.

Who/what is that image in 00:29 (or 00:04 if reversed) frame of the clip? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some Good Things Never Last

I just finished watching the debut episode (A Change Is Gonna Come) of the 4th Season of Grey’s Anatomy… and it was sooooo good!

Saying that this episode is spectacular is an understatement.
It was like I’m seeing too much of a good thing it’s almost illegal. I know that downloading shows over the Net is unlawful but for the love of everything-Meredith-Grey-related, I do not have the patience of Job. Impulse control is not even included in my vocabulary.

"Change; we don’t like it, we fear it, but we can't stop it from coming. We either adapt to change or we get left behind. And it hurts to grow, anybody who tells you it doesn’t is lying. But heres the truth: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes, oh, sometimes change is good. Oh, sometimes change is everything."


I was at the Philippine Nursing Expo over the weekends (hence, the busy part) and seriously, aside from too much promotional crap, the expo was the epitome of organizing gone awry. From the scheduling of the programs, to the choice of the venue, the conference was indisputably a one-man-show. It was still good, though.


Besides, a trip to the Megamall wouldn’t be complete without the compulsory visit to the “house that calories built.”

Krispy Kreme.

I couldn’t decide as to whether I should buy a dozen of Original Glazed Doughnuts or the Assorted Ones, so I bought a Double Dozen.

And lookie lookie! They even have the UAAP Men’s Basketball Final Four Doughnuts! Of course, I bought the UST Growling Tigers (the one with the yellow candy sprinkle).

I’m telling you guys, Krispy Kreme is evil, evil, evil! I have researched the caloric contents of their doughnut varieties and darn, on the average, each doughnut contains 300 calories in it (from 200 for the Original Glazed upto 350 for my personal favorite, Chocolate Iced Kreme Filled) which is almost equivalent to 1 and a half cup of rice or this. Moreover, through-the-roof amounts of trans-fats, cholesterol, sugars and saturated fats in a single dozen-box would be enough to fuel a furnace or operate a locomotive and I’m not even kidding.

My family is addicted to those deliciously sinful confectioners despite the fact that my mom is a diabetic and my dad has a heart disease. Using both of their genotypes to predict my phenotypic characteristics, I definitely am destined to suffer an early, untimely, catastrophic, tragic death. From obesity, bulimia or Prader-Willi syndrome, you take your pick.

If my neurons aren’t working well right now, it’s probably because I’m devouring on too much calories from the remaining pieces of doughnuts and my brain cells are essentially dehydrated from them too much glucose. And I’m telling you, I. JUST. CAN’T. STOP. EATING. THEM.

I’m getting an unlimited season’s pass to Bulimics Anonymous immediately after I publish this entry.

I know. This too shall pass.

What are your guilty pleasures?