WHEN we first met five years ago, Dyan Rañoja made me cry. Definitely not a normal occurrence upon meeting someone new! I got teary back then, when she openly talked about what almost killed her: a traumatic birthing experience. Her unwavering faith and indomitable spirit to overcome life’s insurmountable challenges serve as an inspiration. I asked her to go down memory lane and face demons of the past for this piece, and she bravely said yes.
Birth Plan Gone Awry
On the fateful day of September 3, 2008, Dyan thought she would have a happy normal birth to her second child. But her membranes had ruptured, and without contractions, her doctor deemed it was time for a C-section. Unfortunately, she had a severe allergic reaction to anesthesia.
Anaphylactic shock deprived her of oxygen, which resulted in cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure. The supposedly uneventful birth turned into a living nightmare, rendering her immobile. Sadly, her baby, Khalil, was also adversely affected with colpocephaly (mental retardation and seizures).
She doesn’t have a vivid recollection of events because she spent two weeks in the ICU and another two in a regular room. The details she now knows were filled-in for her later when she recovered.
Dyan said wistfully: “When it happened, Alex was on board (her seaman husband). He was devastated to come home and see me in a semi-coma. I was not me anymore. They released me from the hospital on a wheel chair. I couldn’t talk, walk, or hold anything. I even had to be bathed and fed.”
Therapy with the Oldies
She had physical therapy in AKBAY, a center for stroke patients. She said with an impish grin: “I was 23 and all the rest were senior citizens. There, I relearned many things from holding a pen to write, regain my balance to walk, grasp a spoon to eat. I even had to master talking again.”
Dyan was able to focus on rehabilitation; supported by her husband, sister, and mother. She shared: “I worked on recovery, while Khalil and Dana (her older daughter who was 5 then) were cared for by family. It was difficult and heartbreaking because as a mom, you know your role and responsibility is to attend to the kids. But I couldn’t! I could only cry.”
After six months of therapy, there was improvement so she began to handle her children again. She recounted: “I was determined to do well for my kids. Khalil needed me the most. Aside from the colpocephaly, he is deaf in both ears and has a growth hormone deficiency. He needs therapy and I wanted to be the one to bring him to his doctors. That motivated me to the point where I even learned to drive.”
Dyan was candid enough to admit that in the beginning, she was mad at her doctors. She rationalized: “I guess it’s natural to feel that way; to question their judgment. But I am not mad anymore. I’m now grateful to them for doing what they can for us.”
At some point, she blamed herself too— “I felt bad. Is it my fault this happened to Khalil? But with my husband’s love and affirmation, the guilt was erased. Alex is my rock!”
There was a time when she also questioned God; what His message was for their family. She explained: “You know, I tried to do my best when I was pregnant. We waited for this boy! So I really couldn’t understand why this challenge was given to us. I thought many times, why.”
“And the only reason I could come up with is God will not put you through something you cannot carry or handle. I wished before that God didn’t place too much trust on us. But then we have Khalil. He made our family complete. He is the life of our home,” she said.
With Khalil’s issues, he needs help all his life. When Dyan initially found out the severity, she could only hug him. She admitted, “It was a lot to take in. But as Mommy and primary caregiver, I have to embrace and accept it even if it hurts. Khalil is now 9, but his mental age is one. He’s just happy to eat, even veggies. He likes to watch news and commercials. It’s all innocent simple joys.”
With their son’s routine including therapists and specialists, they had to make Dana understand the gravity of the situation. Dyan said: “When she was younger, we told her he needs special attention as a special child, and that made her a special sister, and us, special parents. We’re a special family.”
Now that Dana is much older, she studies well to build a good future for herself; so she can also help her brother. Dyan clarified— “She knows that as the only sister, maybe there would come a time that she has to share the load in his care: emotionally, physically, and financially. She has matured at a young age. It cannot be helped because Khalil made us a team.”
Dyan now only counts her rewards from this experience. She described: “My family is always there. And friends that have become like family are important in our lives. All of them are supporters and cheerers in the best and lowest times.”
She added: “When I was sick, Lourdes School, my alma mater, had me in their intentions for morning prayers. Because of that, I have been volunteering myself to the Alumni, especially my batch. The college and HS batch of Alex also did the same, which we repay by being active. I also joined JCI to share my blessings.”
Most of all, Dyan learned that God maybe unfathomable and works in mysterious ways, but in the end, He knows what’s best for all of us. “I have been allowed another life. And life is short and sweet. Right now, I do not even fear Khalil’s future. I can always count on my family and God. I’m just enjoying life together with my family and friends. And I can only look forward to our future!” she concluded with a smile.
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Dyan with her son, Khalil. He is 9 years old, but his mental age is that of an innocent one year old child. She almost died giving birth to him, but in spite of the challenges, she remains faithful to God and His infinite goodness.