24th December, Christmas Eve, was my late Dad’s Birthday. And so for the past 23 years of marriage, we have always had dinner at our old house in Sampaloc with the Silbors. . . even after Papa had passed away. We would then rush back to our Paranaque compound to have “Noche Buena” with the Magnos, Tess’s Family.
The year 2008 was different. The morning of the 24th found Tess busy especially with menu coordination with several families. I was taking a bath when I heard some dishes and silverware fall on the kitchen floor. I heard some muffled hysterical voices. Thinking nothing of this, I walked casually to the kitchen only to see our son Mike sprawled on the floor with Tess and our maid helping him up. My surprise was nothing compared to the shock at what would I see next. The whole kitchen sink was filled with blood and there was fresh blood all over the kitchen floor. Mike had vomited blood all over the kitchen. Then he had keeled over and fainted and was just coming to when I reached him on the kitchen floor.
“Pop I can’t see! My vision keeps getting dark! I need to rest,” he said. We half carried and half dragged him back to his bedroom to prepare for a rush to the hospital. Mike was too weak get up and dress but at least he was conscious now. After three gentle attempts we were able to get him in the car. There was a slight comforting feeling that Mike was becoming more lucid and conscious and was able to feebly answer our questions. Tess and I prayed as I drove to Makati Med via the skyway.
Psalm 91:14>. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
There was no traffic anywhere on that December 24 morning. Upon reaching the emergency room of the Makati Med, we were immediately attended to as a critical case. I saw at least seven doctors and nurses converge on Michael’s table. There were very few patients in the emergency room. We were one of them.
Our cellphones burned with SMS’s as we asked for prayers for Mike’s health. We then had a new BCBP team to pray for us – the Family Encounter 16 class from Makati and Alabang. God is good – our family doctor for gastro issues was at the hospital and attended to Mike immediately. By this time prayers were being slowly answered. Mike was now able to converse with everybody and was weakly getting back to his normal restless self. However, tests revealed that his blood pressure was still disturbingly low at 70/40 and his blood tests showed the effects of huge blood loss.
The first of two blessings arrived. After two hours in the ER, the doctor pronounced him out of danger and told us Mike was expected to naturally recover his blood count and blood pressure. ICU confinement was ruled out! However, he had to stay at the hospital overnight with very little possibility of being discharged at the end of that day. That day was Christmas Eve and that “overnight” period was “Noche Buena.” Both were to be spent in the hospital.
For Tess and me, spending Christmas in the hospital was a small price to pay for the assurance that Mike, our only child of 22 years, was pronounced out of danger after all that blood loss. This for us was the easy part . . . or so we thought. Mike had to undergo at least three more blood exams and his diet and blood pressure were being closely monitored. The only visitor we had for the day was Mike’s girlfriend Sheena.
By 5 pm, Mike was given a go signal to go on a normal diet in guarded amounts. But his blood pressure remained at 90 /70. And being the humans that we are, we flirted with the idea that the doctor would give us some release order before midnight. . . perhaps just in time to join our traditional Noche Buena with the Magnos. Each knock of the door would subject the nurse to a persistent question: “Is there a word from Dr. Leelin about our discharge?” No such word came. His blood pressure was still low at 90 over 60.
By 8 pm, we had resigned ourselves to staying in the hospital for Christmas Eve, away from the warmth of festive Noche Buena with our families. We consoled our selves by saying that the important thing is that Mike is out of danger – that for us was indeed enough. At 6:30 pm, we heard our Christmas Eve mass – on television – inside Mike’s hospital room. We were now resisting feelings of self pity.
We had to park our car at Tess’ office which was a walking distance away from Makati Med. And for the first time that day, the sense of loneliness really hit me. Makati on Christmas Eve qualifies for a ghost town. The zero traffic on Salcedo corner Herrera street was a strange sight for us. End to end we actually came across just three people whom, I guess, were all rushing to join their families for Noche Buena.
The security guards at Tess’ office greeted us Merry Christmas. These guys were making the most of Christmas Eve at work – simple food and sharing the evening with one or two other guards. We actually felt for them and prayed for them. Back at the hospital, only then did it hit us that the nurses, doctors, and orderlies on duty were also to spend a lonely Christmas away from their respective families.
What really hit us was a shared emotional statement from the elevator girl we had a conversation with. She said to Tess, “Ma’am, honestly, I would rather work on duty in the hospital on Christmas, rather than be in the hospital because a loved one is sick.” Wow! Reality check! We loved and prayed for that girl who reminded us how blessed we are and thanked the Lord for the nth time that Mike was out of danger.
Back in our room, we resigned ourselves to our version of Noche Buena by food delivery from North Park maybe some congee and siopao, maybe some fried noodles – after all it was Christmas. We quietly waited for our Noche Buena “feast” of delivered fast food.
At 8:30 pm, there was a knock on the door and food was delivered . . . not by North Park but by BCBP Makati Chapter! Chapter Head Joey and Lulu Avellana and their kids, Eric and Mary Ann Gustilo and kids; and Violy and daughter Angel Borbon burst through our door bearing pancit, pizza, hamburgers, soda and even some wine to bring us Christmas cheer! I didn’t admit it then, but I was close to tears as the warmth and love I was looking for on a normal Christmas had suddenly flooded Mike’s hospital room.
The second of two blessings had happened. The noise of corks and bottle caps popping, food wrappers tearing and greetings of “Merry Christmas” filled the room. God is Good! Merry Christmas! Only in the BCBP! These Brothers and sisters sacrificed their Christmas dinners with their families just to bring some Christmas Cheer into Mike’s hospital room – which by now had a party atmosphere akin to a fellowship at meal break during a chapter assembly. The nurse who came to check Mike’s blood pressure was shocked to see four BCBP kids on Mike’s hospital bed . . . some lying down, some sitting and one having fallen asleep. The “Christmas party” lasted for more than an hour.
All that love seemed to remain in the room even after they had all left to join their families. We quietly greeted each other Merry Christmas as no word had indeed arrived about that fancied discharge order before midnight. We had our first “hospital” Christmas together away from our respective families. As we contemplated on the true meaning of Christmas “the reason for the season”, our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth, we rejoiced that Mike was out of danger! For us this was the best gift of all!
PS. Mike was discharged 9:30 am the next day, Christmas Day, back to his normal self. The doctors concluded that Mike had a normally low blood pressure inherited from Tess. Being a talented and gifted cook, our only son then prepared two delicious gourmet dishes for the extended family’s Christmas Day lunch. God is Good!
Merry Christmas to you all!