EVEN in death two women are keeping me alive. Their unusual rage against the dying of the light is keeping me and many other dialysis patients live on, notwithstanding the pain and expense one has to cope with for a lifetime or earlier. I always look back at how these two women struggled to live to the fullest tell us how beautiful and precious life is, however insurmountable the odds maybe.
I recently went to the wake of one of them. Amor Inacay Orpilla who succumbed to pneumonia, at 39. Pneumonia is a fatal illness we, who are undergoing regular dialysis, dread and are prone to develop. Thrice I’ve been lucky it was detected early, while I was confined for another ailment less serious.
Amor had to be in Manila recently, to bring a group of patients to offices of politicians where they could be given a portion of the medical fund of the senators and congressmen. She made the trip despite feeling weak, as she badly needed the extra fund for the trip organizer to temporarily sustain her lifetime dialysis and medication. So she came home in pain and was rushed to the Baguio General Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
In a country where millions are poor, it’s normal for legions to pursue dreams of instant financial relief. They queue up daily, hoping to be part of the audience and then be chosen at random by the master of ceremonies to play, dance or do whatever for cash rewards dangled in those noon-time game and variety television shows.
“Pumila at nakapasok ako at nagbakasakali, ngunit di ako natawag ni Mr. Willie Revillame (I lined up and was let in but I was never called by (host) Willie Revillame.)”
“Still, I keep trying,” she admitted when I interviewed her three years back, before I would also start my four-times-a-week dialysis for life.
Over lunch at the city hall canteen she and fellow dialysis patient Mary Grace Binay-an, then 23, from Barangay Irisan, continued to day-dream.
They had just hiked to the City Hall to work out the release of two vans to bring 20 patients to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office on June 12, a day after Independence Day.
A college scholar who had to quit school to concentrate on her work as secretary of Irisan village here, Mary Grace was less outward than Amor, who was straight-forward in telling you the first time you meet she needed financial support to make it for another day=which is always the truth.
Amor and Mary Grace found strength in each other. Amor was devastated when she learned Mary Grace earlier succumbed to pneumonia. She never gave up, continuing her fight for survival that earned her the respect of fellow patients whose resources to go on – material and otherwise – were far beyond her means.
Some people introduced to Amor were surprised by her openness in seeking support, as she knew it was the only way her straightforwardness would eventually be seen as part of her undying rage for life. Eventually, they learn she was orphaned and living in the care of her two aunts and that she must tell people she needed their help to survive. Eventually, those who had reached out to her would understand, and give inspiration to fellow patients who, despite their resources, initially feel they were in conditions far worse than Amor’s.
“Sulatan kaya naming ang ‘Wish Ko Lang,’” Amor wondered aloud, referring to the Saturday show over GMA 7 that turns wishes of some of the poor into reality.
The two women’s wish was, is and will always be a long shot. At that time, Amor estimated there were 130 patients reporting twice a week for their blood-cleansing sessions at the renal room of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. At P2,200 per patient per session, the wish would require P228,800, excluding the expense for other medicines.
The only child of Moreno Orpila, then a 70-year-old widower who retired as an engineer and was also then on maintenance medication for heart ailment, Amor had been on dialysis since January 2010. Father and child were both jobless, yet defied reality by trying to survive on his P3,000 monthly SSS pension.
Amor reached this far in a relentless fight for life, a feat fellow patients almost couldn’t believe, given the meager resources she had and the will to sacrifice self-restraint for the sake of life. Looking back at what she had undergone, one can’t help but realize that she was right in her rage against the dying of the light and that no matter how difficult it had become, life is and will always be beautiful. That’s why she did her best to live fully, even beyond the circumstances and dictates of convention.