As you read my piece today (March 4, 2021), I will be celebrating the first day of my third life. Either that or this will be the final piece of my long and not so illustrious sportswriting career spanning more than four decades.
Last Saturday afternoon, together with my wife Marissa, I went to Makati Medical Center for a treadmill test to determine what was causing the heart palpitations I had been feeling the last two months whenever I exert some physical efforts including walking around our village in Taguig.
You see I have always thought of myself as a healthy, no-maintenance taking senior citizen. It turned out I was being more optimistic than factual.
I could not even finish the early stages of the treadmill test and asked them to stop the machine, as I went down from it. I was asked to rest and sit on a chair and that was when I got scared because of the concern on the face of the lady doctor, more so when she told me I had to see a cardiologist immediately and would not allow me to leave the hospital anymore.
Then, I was brought into the Emergency Room for a mandatory swab test. While waiting for a room to be available, the waiting took more than 24 hours and I was exposed to the raw side of hospital life seeing other patients being brought in, some of them struggling for life and a few losing the battle.
That was the longest 24 hours I have experienced in my life, not a wonderful one at that, with all sorts of tests, 2D echo, ECG, bloodtests, etc. happening at various times. Good thing my daughter Jemi arrived to be with me. Sunday before lunch, my cardiologist Dr. Paul Quetua gave me the initial findings -- I had to undergo an angiogram to determine the extent of the blockage in my arteries after which I was given the three possible scenarios, namely it can be treated with medicine, do an angioplasty or the dreaded bypass depending on the damage.
We also thought of transferring either to the Philippine General Hospital or Philippine Heart Center, where costs are significantly lower than at the Makati Medical Center, but the waiting lists in both hospitals were just too long and Janis could not secure a room there. And we had to make quick decisions because of my condition.
That same night, I finally got transferred to a regular room with an angiogram set at 9 a.m. the following day. The test was relatively quick, a bit painful but the worst pain was when the doctor told me that the only real solution to my condition was a quadruple bypass, and our family had to decide real quick about the matter, factoring in the high costs involved.
My family, actually only my son JM was there, and was firm about going all the way without thinking initially of the costs, estimated between P1.5 and P2M telling me my life was more important than money. That was the time I shed tears of joy and sadness.
Earlier, I already posted in my FB page about my situation with regular updates and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers, encouraging words, all the way to offers of financial assistance. Believe me, it was a real good feeling to get all those positive affirmations giving me a needed boost as I was devastated when first told about the need for a quad bypass.
There was a non-stop flow of messages from different people in my life, family and friends, colleagues in the sporting world, high school batchmates, former co-employees, clients and former members of a youth group in Mandaluyong.
Now, more than ever, I decided to give it a good fight.
If you ask me why I said it is my third life, 16 years ago, just before the SEA Games we hosted here, I underwent another major operation to drain the blood clot from my brain because of a concussion I suffered earlier. Attending physician was Dr. Willy Lopez, father of national triathlete Kaye Lopez. Ironically, I was supposed to leave for Subic that day to cover the events being held there and ended up watching the games live from my hospital bed, also at the Makati Medical Center. Now, I hope the wonderful team of doctors, nurses, orderlies and other staff who took care of me here will not make me a liar and make this a self-written obituary.
My heartfelt thanks to all, you know who you are and you are too many to name individually. Enough said.