Angels on Earth

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Sunday, March 16, 2014


AS A child, I always feared doctors.

Must be because whenever I became more than a handful, everyone would say our family doctor was visiting and bringing the injection.

That always did the trick, and I’d be the most well-behaved child that day.

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Summertimes, however, made no difference whether or not I behaved well. Those were booster shot times, thus non-negotiables. That’s when the house’s calm and quiet would be shattered by a sustained shrieking and crying from the doctor’s arrival to departure.

So noisy was the racket that neighbors and passersby could have thought the house was under siege. I’m sure my two brothers felt some pain, but they behaved like the brave boys they were expected to be. Me? I just let go; couldn’t care less what the neighbors thought.

So, for a long time in my growing and even adult years, any doctor was my public enemy number one. And understandably, when my parents suggested I take up medicine, I gave a tight, unmitigated, unconditional and non-negotiable NO!

Also, I avoided doctors like plagues, even refused visits from courting wannabe doctors. To me, they were always clear and present danger.

This posturing was on-hold when I gave birth to my first child by caesarian operation.

Having zero tolerance for pain, I practically hounded nurses to give me my painkillers even when these were not yet due.

My persistent badgering would, thus, force them to call up my ob-gyne even at wee hours of the morning. They eventually gave me something, I don’t know what, but that quieted me. Until the next hint of a pain surfaced.

Doctors and me? We’ve got to stop meeting like this, I said.

But when it comes to other family members, I regularly monitor or arrange visits to doctors; they are my family’s angels on earth. Not just because of their medical expertise, but especially because of their great ability to be truthful and kind.

In my family’s book, ob-gyne Marie Antonette Mendoza and pediatricians Generosa “Genying” Solano and Nathalie Anne Hernaez will always be “Lifesavers,” involving between us difficult pregnancies, bouts with dengue, and scares of fast heartbeats in neonates.

Having yesterday’s students at UP College Cebu becoming the family doctors is very heartwarming and pulse-calming. This, especially when medical procedures are needed, and I can feel my childhood phobia with doctors peeping malevolently from a corner.

That’s when I need doctors whom I can repose my full trust and confidence. So it has been with Dr. Bienvenido “Benjie” Cimafranca, our favorite ophthalmologist.

The nurses and staff fondly call him Doctor Benj, and it’s refreshing to see how his seriousness about helping patients has remained constant, and his manners consistently flawless.

Urologist Edwin Lim and geriatrician Noel Ponce make my father and my sibs break at the seams. “Makabuhi og patay!,” my father says. While attending to my father, Lim asks how many times my father makes “suroy-suroy” and to make sure it’s at Ayala because “tu-a didto ang mga gwapa ug mestiza.”

Ponce marvels at how my father is up and about at 96 years old. Then amusedly he asks me, “Maka-abot kaha ta anang idara?”

Hmm…. Some childhood fears are difficult to shake off.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 17, 2014.

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