In Singapore I had a great time with my co –fellows, 16 journalists from across Asia, learning and cultivating friendship. I indulged in the world’s best cuisine, going on a nightly trip to a hawker’s place, tasting food that I have not tried before. Singapore, being known as a culinary destination, where the world’s best cuisine can be found. There’s even a Michelin star hawker’s stall I’ve seen. You can’t resist the delectable food they serve. To gain traction on my weight loss program, I went every morning to the gym, one of the amenities at our posh condominium hotel called Kent Vale, using all the gizmos there, especially the treadmill.
After then a hearty buffet breakfast, i would go take a few laps on the pool. Then I go prepare for our trip to the seminar and study workshops. In the afternoon, Vikhar, my co fellow from India and i would take a leisurely walk around the park just across our hotel. It was my routine for the past two months or so.
Then an excruciating headache came one day, I thought I just could just sleep it off and it will be gone. I thought it was due to my vision, I had bouts of flickering lights. I even went to see an Opthalmologist at the mall, but the eye doctor said maybe I should consult a physician to check on my general state of health. Something I dismiss as I thought I was healthy as an Ox. I didn’t even bother to see one back home, even if I have a brother in law, who specializes on internal medicine.
Then one day, I had an appointment with my research-mentor Robert Coloma at his office at Agence France Presse. He serves as the AFP top honcho for both Singapore and Malaysia bureau. I was midway in my briefing with him, when the left side body went numb, my speech slurred, I coud not even hear myself or understand what I am saying. Then I excuse myself to Robert, maybe a drink of water would remedy it. On my way to the pantry, I just fell down, good thing the office floor was carpeted. The next thing I knew, Robert was calling his staff to call an ambulance. Maybe roughly 20 minutes, I was at the emergency room of the hospital. The days and nights passed by in a daze, I could not move my body, i could not talk, if I did manage, it was slurred. I was in a tube for a few days I guess, and the pain in my head would not go away.
Then one night, maybe I was in a state of somnambulism, a condition, were you are half awake and half asleep. I saw from my bedside window behind me an apparition of a serene looking woman, I felt calm seeing her. I seriously thought to myself, did I just die? How could this woman had take a peep at me outside the window, when I am certain, I was at the second floor of the hospital. Is she a crazy woman or what. If she ever speaks, maybe to invite me to come with her, wherever, there was no hesitancy in my mind that I would come with her. I was rather thinking maybe my father or my grandmother, who already passed away would fetch me, if I am indeed dead. I was ready, there’s no doubt in my head. I think I even prayed. “Please take me, I am ready, I can’t take anymore of this pain.” I had lived a full life but I remember the many people in my life, who are dear to me, who are either already dead or still living. Wait a minute, you tend to hold back on that thought of forever ending your mundane existence. I still have something to look forward too, so many unfinished business.
Spending many more days became bearable with the steady stream of good friends and my co-fellows at the AJF led by our director Alan John,who came to visit me, almost like a daily pilgrimage, cheering me up. I witnessed first hand the generosity of these friends. Alan, even brought his doctor friends with him and introduced me to them. “This is Dennis our fellow from the Philippines,” I overheard him say. They handed over some cash donations, knowing my hospital bill would be that hefty. I said my thank yous, but first asking them, “why are you doing this kind gesture, you don’t know me.” On my last day. Alan made sure, I don’t look like a guy who looks like he came from hell. He brought with him his barber to trim my hair. I was brought home to Davao and I am now on my road to recovery. Not there yet, but the steady stream of family members and even long-time friends I haven’t seen for several decades, keep my spirits high. Not everyone is lucky to survive a stroke.
The world health organization estimate that strokes affect at least 15 million people -5 million died, 5 million disabled- every year, across the globe. The demographics is even changing. It does not affect the elderly alone, young generations are susceptible too due to sedentary or unhealthy lifestyle. This column is to all those who continue to fight and never give up, the caring support from your friends and love ones, knowing our condition and our will to survive is hard fought. To our health professionals, therapists and doctors, who knows full well our struggle. Thank you sincerely from the deep chambers of our hearts. And to those who perished on this deadly malady, may their souls rest in peace. May this story of mine, serve as a humble lesson and understanding of surviving a stroke.