ASKED to speak last Sunday at the Christmas get-together of dialysis patients of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, I rushed through a maze of thoughts, foremost of which was about the youngest patient - 13-year-old Marie Joy Ligudon.
So I presented the girl, citing the child’s unusual courage when being repeatedly punctured on the arm with two giant needles for her twice-a-week blood-cleansing sessions at the BGHMC.
Her fortitude was the reason that when she reached 13 earlier this year, Chong Loi of Luisa’s Café, Dhobie de Guzman of ABS-CBN and I brought in a cake with candles for her to blow. It was to celebrate young girl’s courage juxtaposed to the occasional sight of elder patients crying over their fate of having to undergo the expensive, cumbersome, four-hour medical procedure repeatedly for life.
Marie Joy, a native of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, developed urinary tract infection when she was three. BGHMC doctors then told her father she had to be confined and that it would be a long road to deliverance.
With no resource and the need to care for Marie Joy’s siblings in Ifugao, her dad left the kid to the care of Gina Epe, an Ibaloi woman of substance from Bokod, Benguet.
“We were visiting another patient near the girl’s hospital bed when we overheard Joy’s father explaining to a nurse he was not able to buy her medicines because he had no cash,” Gina recalled. “My twin daughters asked me money for them to buy the girl’s medicines.”
It was the beginning of a lasting relationship. The twins – Jordynne and Lordynne – made it a daily routine to bring the girl and her father food and support became routine during hospital visits before or after their classes.
As the girl’s father had to go home to care for her siblings, he asked Mrs. Epe if she could take Marie Joy under her wing. Gina accepted the arrangement. As if to explain why, she recalled that after her twins were born, an Ifugao woman who also had just delivered her baby offered her own breast milk to help nourish them.
Without the Epe family, Marie Joy could not have survived the urinary tract infection diagnosis that, three years back, developed into total kidney failure.
It was this on-going sacrifice of the Epe family that I inadvertently missed to state in my sharing at the dialysis patients’ holiday get-together.
As it is, couples and families would rather adopt normal children. It takes unusual courage, sacrifice and great love to take into the family fold a kid whose illness would require protracted treatment or twice-a-week dialysis for a lifetime.
This was the crucial, most important point I missed to note in my sharing at the Christmas get-together. It would have been in order to share my feeling of wonder. awe and joy over the Epe family’s courage and love for life that led them to taking on the young girl’s own fight for life.
Theirs is the beautiful message of sacrifice of the Holy Infant Jesus that is the meaning of Christmas, a message we soon forget in this age of material acquisitiveness.
We are with the Epe family in its hope for the kid’s deliverance, in their wish for a kidney transplant before Marie Joy would be totally denied of the best time of life called childhood.
That’s why I feel my eyes welling each time I recall what my daughter Veronica wrote me one time: “I met a woman who told me she was bipolar since she was a child. I am far luckier, Dad, for I had a childhood while she had none.”
Honestly, too, life is beautiful, even if you’re on life time-dialysis. That’s what I told fellow journalist Rima Opina a few weeks back, when, out of the blue, she expressed wonder on Facebook why I am still working as a newsman after my retirement from the city mayor’s office.
I wish you the blessings of the season, anak Veron, your brother Boogie and his family, and all of you out there. To celebrate, I offer this toast from former city councilor Edilberto Tenefrancia when he greeted Baguio’s guests from its sister city of Kislovodsk in the former Soviet Union: “To the weapons of war: may they all rust in peace.”
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