Ate Alice is a very dear family friend. I met her the first time I arrived in Canada. She was Mama’s kumare first. I easily made a strong connection with Ate Alice during my first few days here in this foreign land. We were both pregnant then with our first babies and we were both far apart from our beloved partners, who were still in the Philippines.
I was 7 ½ months pregnant when I came to Canada. It was the first time that I have been apart from R and I was just overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I knew that I made the right decision to come here because life was just so hard back home. Yet I doubted if my relationship with R would stay strong with us being apart from each other. Besides, we wouldn’t be able to raise our baby together for a while. I was able to confide these feelings to Ate Alice.
When RG was born, I asked Ate Alice to be his ninang. Her family and mine have maintained a strong friendship and we kept close contact. We celebrated birthdays, christenings, weddings and anniversaries together. Our children are also friends with each other.
Late last year, Ate Alice discovered that she had a brain tumor. It was very scary but she kept strong.
On Tuesday, she was scheduled to have surgery to remove her brain tumor. The procedure that was supposed to last for 6 hours was extended to 10 hours. She had an internal bleeding. She remained unconscious that first night.
The following night, sis called and told me that Ate Alice’s condition has worsened. She was now brain-dead. She was breathing only with the help of a respirator. The doctor was talking about pulling out the plug and donating organs. My tears fell when I hung up the phone. That night I told my kids to pray for her.
On Thursday, R, RG (he didn’t have school) and I went with sis to the hospital to see Ate Alice. I was teary-eyed when we got on the 7th floor. I saw her sister Connie, puffy-eyed, in the “quiet room.” Ate’s husband, Nestor, and their two sons were also there. These boys could lose their mother and it just broke my heart. My children are just of the same ages and I couldn’t imagine leaving them. Later, the priest came by and we all prayed. I heard Connie crying while we were praying. Tears also ran down my cheeks.
I asked Kuya Nestor how Ate Alice was before the surgery. He said that she was happy. They were making jokes. She was even laughing, covering her mouth because the doctor made her take her dentures off. Hindi man lang siya nagbilin. With a cracking voice, Kuya Nestor said that he doesn’t even know the passwords to their bank accounts. She wasn’t expecting that anything bad would happen. But I guess that she must be worried, too. The couple talked about not crying but Kuya Nestor learned that Ate Alice had always been crying at work.
We went to the ICU to see her. She lay there on the bed, hooked up on the respirator. I saw where they cut her on the head, just behind the left ear. The attendant, who was looking after her, said that we could talk to her and hold her. I held her hand and touched her leg. She felt quite cold to the touch. The attendant said that there were only signs of lower brain activity. All signs of higher brain activity were no longer there. I couldn’t help crying.
Today, sis had some good news. Ate Alice was out of the ICU. She was transferred to a ward and breathing on her own. Mama also said that Ate Alice was perspiring and color has returned to her skin. It must be a good sign. Kuya Nestor wanted somebody to be there by her side all the time. Just in case she opens her eyes, he didn’t want her to be alone. But he has a store to attend to, and the kids had to go to school, too. They already missed a week of school.
Friends have volunteered to take turns in staying at the hospital. And though it would take a miracle to keep Ate Alice alive, that’s what we’re hoping for.