WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Diwata in pain

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 December) — At breakfast the other Saturday, I opened my email to find an unfamiliar word on my X-ray report. Osteopenia. GMT (for Google Mo, Te) told me it meant loss of bone density, quite common among women 50 years and older.

Two lines down the report innocently nestled the dreaded clinical word. Fracture, it said. 
Rats.

I interrupted breakfast to call Manong Bryan Ilagan and ask for an osteo referral. He was driving and couldn’t talk. He called me back to make sure he heard me right

“How did you break your finger?” he asked

“The sidewalk refused to yield,” I said, cursing under my breath the safety hazards that are the sidewalks of Davao City.

The hand was swelling, yes, but I seemed to have gotten used to the constant throbbing. I really did not think it was broken. Sprained perhaps. I thought a broken bone would hurt like the Dickens, as my brother used to say.

Bryan was going to send me downtown to Davao Doctors or farther across town to Metro Davao. But now that I knew that the finger was broken, I felt this urgency to have it immediately seen to, rather than to wait for an ortho to show up at his clinic and may not have time to entertain someone who did not have an appointment.

I called my colleague Chris del Monte at Hoffen Clinic at the Adventist Hospital, just a stone’s throw away from where I now live. Chris asked me to email the X-ray result. He was kind enough to have it checked by Dr. Mangahas who instructed me to proceed to the emergency room.

When I got there, the ER personnel were ready with a tongue depressor and an elastic bandage to immobilize the finger and the rest of my left hand. They handed me prescriptions for pain meds and directed me to the insurance verification counter. I checked back with them on the way out, and I was given instructions to come back for checkup six days later. The entire process did not take 20 minutes.

Finding myself with a legitimate excuse not to go to work, I stopped by a salon to have my nails done. I consoled myself with the thought that this hand may be broken, but it’s gonna have pretty nails. The manicurist gamely tried to work around my mobility issues.

By the time we were done, my hand remembered to feel pain. I walked over to Mercury Drugstore to have my prescription filled. I had a feeling I was going to need it.

Right enough. By the time I reached my front gate, the hand was swimming in a sea of pain. I went in and right back to my laptop to file a request for medical leave using my right hand.

My southpaw is my power hand – my signing hand – now rendered useless. Three to five days, the good ER nurse said. That’s usually how long it takes for the swelling to come down. The bruising – well, maybe two weeks. The fracture would heal in six to eight.

Ah, well. Off to Tawi-Tawi then. It wouldn’t make sense to recuperate here where people can still bother me with work concerns.

So I traveled with a MindaNews training team to Tawi-Tawi. Amy, the training director, was kind enough not to give me any other assignment except to do the closing remarks five days hence.

“Sakit, Gail?” she inquired. Yes, it was. And constant sakit it stayed for four days. I measured time in 8-hour stretches, marking the end of each cycle with a dose of antibiotics. I tried to match the schedule with taking pain meds, but in the early days I often gave in before the 8th hour rolled in. 

Much as I tried to summon up what I knew about pain management, I found living in constant pain can be exhausting. My body would just give up and would want to lie down ever so often. So no climbing the Bud Bongao for me this time around.

But true enough, the pain subsided somewhat on Thursday, just in time for us to run to the airport for our flight back to Cotabato. No online check in so we missed breakfast to line up at the check in desk. I endured 90 minutes jammed up in line at the counter. Mercifully, Jocan joined me as I was getting a bit lightheaded. I handed him our IDs and asked him to spell me.

A while later, the plane landed. There was a commotion at the counter as irate passengers with confirmed booking were demanding for the processing of their boarding passes. I sat that one out playing Wordscapes near the entrance. Red Batario joined me to say that this looked like a scene straight out of the movie Last Plane Out.

They were calling me to the counter. On the way, I passed by MP Eddie Alih who bade me goodbye.

It was the last boarding pass to be issued. I held it for about a minute. Then, I handed it back to the ground stewardess with a request for it to be issued to Red instead. I was, after all, still on medical leave. He on the other hand had business to attend to in that place where the tempo is unmistakably faster.

Coming out of my room for dinner that night, MP Alih hailed me in surprise. “I thought you had left,” he said.

“Tawi-tawi won’t let me go yet,” I replied.

That night by the beach under the stars, Carol had this urge to picture us all trying to hold the moon. I indulged her with the diwata shot she wanted.

The picture reminds me of Red a few days back noting a psychological change in tempo for himself while contemplating the vastness of nature. The vastness of eternity perhaps – with these waves rhythmically kissing the shore long before we were born and going on doing that long after we die. The moon coming and going and not at our command – so like, how small we are and how insignificant our concerns, I said.

The waves, the moon, the stars… they don’t care for a 50-something professor’s broken pinkie. Or that she’ll miss her appointment to have it checked.

And strange it may seem, there’s some kind of wonder to that.

(“Wayward and Fanciful” is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. llagan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the Ateneo de Davao University. She heads the Peace and Development Committee of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division Multisectoral Advisory and Action Group.)