Saturday, February 19, 2005


Sept 5, 2001: 3am

This morning, my daughter said something to me that made my eyes fill with tears. She said, "Mommy, kanta ka." As I started to sing, she closed her eyes, buried her face in her pillow and smiled. I stroked her cheek as I brushed away several strands of hair from her face. I heard her sigh as she drifted off to sleep. I felt I was the best singer in the world.

Alex and I have shared several moments such as this. I have always felt the need to be connected to her, physically, after I almost lost her when she was only 6 months old.

My mom had been insisting that I bring Alex to a specialist to have her head examined. She said Alex's forehead was bigger than the other children's and her eyes sometimes looked at you sharply. I assured my mom that my daughter's forehead was just the right size. Alex was, after all, an 8-pounder when I gave birth to her. And babies sometimes look at things sharply when they are surprised or when they have discovered something new. I also was not worried because Alex had regular monthly check-ups.

In hindsight, I was glad my mom was such a pest about this. She asked an anesthesiologist-friend to schedule my daughter for a CT scan. I agreed because we were really going to the hospital that day to visit my sister, who was confined because of a foot infection.

The scan was uncomfortable for Alex. She was crying the whole time. But I reasoned it was because she wasn't allowed to eat or drink milk for several hours before the test.

The technician repeated the scan over and over again. She said my daughter's head kept on moving, when I knew this wasn't true. Alex had her head strapped to the table the whole time. I should have been worried then but no. When the test was over, I picked up my baby. Still, I felt no fear.

It was as I was walking out of the room that I started to be afraid. I saw my mom crying. And when she looked at me, I saw in her eyes the fear that I was supposed to be feeling. Her anesthesiologist-friend was talking to her and when they saw me, they stopped talking. All my mom could say was, "Tina... Tina... Si Alex..."

Her friend turned to me and the first thing she said was, "We might have to operate on her brain." It took about 5 seconds for the shock to wear off. Everything was a blur to me. I heard myself crying, loudly and unabashedly, right in the middle of the hospital corridor. I held on to Alex tightly, afraid I was going to lose her right then and there. The nurses, who just minutes ago had been cooing over Alex, stayed at both ends of the corridor, unsure whether to comfort me or to leave me in my misery.

The doctor tried to explain what was wrong. I didn't hear all of it. I only caught a few disjointed phrases. "Blood clot. So big. Her brain pushed to one side. Nabagok ang ulo. Nahulog." I couldn't understand how all this happened. My daughter never fell, at least when I was the one taking care of her. The only other person who took care of her was my husband's mother and she would not allow anything bad to happen to her granddaughter.

My mom guided me to a chair. I gave Alex a bottle of milk but when she saw me crying, she stopped feeding and cried. I guess she felt my fear although she did not understand any of it.
We weren't allowed to leave the hospital that morning. In the afternoon, Alex was taken to the operating room. The whole day, I felt like a zombie, moving but not functioning. The flood of emotions sweeping through me was more than I could handle. I kept turning to my husband for comfort and assurance that Alex will survive the operation. I refused to eat. I could only pray to God to look after my baby and make sure she'll come out of the operating room as healthy as a baby could be. I asked God to transfer whatever ailment my baby had to me. I was willing to suffer. I knew I could handle it. What I couldn't handle was the thought of losing my baby.

The operation was successful. Actually, I saw it as a miracle. The blood clot in my baby's head was liquid. Her fontanel had not closed because the opening adjusted as the clot grew larger. Looking back, I was thankful it was this way because the doctor did not need to slice open Alex's head. A tube was inserted through the open fontanel and this drained the blood from her head.
In a few days, we were allowed to go home. Alex recovered fast.

This happened exactly a week before Christmas. My daughter's health was the best Christmas gift I ever received.

Now, Alex, at 2, is an ate to baby Gabby. As I look at them both, lying on either side of me, I thank God. He has given my husband and me the best gifts ever.

PS Alex is now 5 and is one of the top students in her class. Gabby is turning 4 soon and will be in kindergarten this June.

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