Recalling my burn accident and the generosity of the people around me
About six months ago, I had an accident. The alcohol for an improvised stove I was using to cook my children’s breakfast exploded, it burned me.
The accident happened swiftly; I had no time to think what to do better. Seeing myself in flames, I run to the toilet to douse myself with water.
My sister saw everything that happened; she panicked and could only cry for help.
Luckily, my instinct allowed me to think of what I should do next. I asked my sister to take me to the nearby private clinic for first aid where I received a shot of a pain killer. We had to go to a bigger hospital to get my wounds dressed. The doctor then told me I can go home, but only after a specialist is able to check my swollen right eye. So I thought everything was just fine with my burns but heeding the doctor’s advice on my eyes I asked to be sent to the East Avenue Medical Center – a much bigger and far better equipped hospital about two hours away from where I live- so that an ophthalmologist could see me.
I know accidents happen, but burning was the least of things I thought could ever happen to me.
The left half of my face including my left ear, down to my left shoulder and arm, my lower abdomen and my front thighs suffered superficial second degree burns.
On the way to the East Avenue Medical Center hospital and while enduring the pain of my burnt skin, my fatalistic thinking has been activated. I became so preoccupied of the morbid thought of possibly dying. By this time, I knew and could feel in my burns that everything isn’t fine yet.
Throughout that trip I was thinking of my little children, my wife, my mother, my life, my dreams.
I prayed to God to help me make it to the hospital alive and that my wounds would not be as fatal. I prayed that my eyes be spared from any damage. I remembered praying Psalm 23, but only the first lines I could recall. I remembered asking the intercession of the Our Lady of Fatima and of Venerable Father Al Schwartz, the saintly founder of the boystown where I studied for two years in high school.
I was admitted at East Avenue Medical Center’s Burn Unit where I spent the most grueling yet memorable days of my hospitalization.
The attending doctor in the burn unit (the kind Dr. Versoza) explained that a victim of a burning accident involving chemicals (alcohol in my case) risks his respiratory tract getting infected, even if at first I showed no signs of it.
They had to give me oxygen, and nebulization twice a day. My body also needed to regain the vast amount of fluid I lost so the dextrose, and to monitor my hydration, they needed to see how often I pee using a catheter. All those complications aside from the possibility of my wounds itself getting infected were in consideration.
I was so thankful for these attention and treatment, which makes me wonder up to this moment how could the doctor back in that previous hospital tell me that I can go home?
Spending my painful days in the hospital, I did not want to dwell too much into self-pity or to asking questions I could not answer. What I had in mind was to fight, heal fast and recover soon, and go home as early as possible.
Despite the pain and the boredom of my confinement, I was able to think of the many things that I should be thankful for because of this accident.
First, I thanked God that when the accident happened my kids were not with me. I had been accustomed to cooking while my kids just play near me, sometimes I’d let my eldest try cooking himself.
I was thankful that my sister who was there talking to me sustained no serious injuries when the explosion happened.
I thanked the Lord that my neighbor Jeff kindly obliged to help me get to the hospital using his own car for free. My brother in law assisted me in getting in and out of the car and on a wheelchair.
I had a handful of friends who sent me their kind thoughts and prayers. There were those who visited me personally which made me realize that I was not ‘friendless’ after all. First was my ninang Sozie Mira who came at the time I didn’t look so well. Then there was Bryan Perez, Christian Casin, Benjie Estor and Darwin Beceril, OP – my long-time friend and mentor in the faith.
Erron and Michael who were both working abroad found time to chat. Erron even sang me my favorite song while playing his guitar via Facebook messenger.
A friend we’ve known with the moniker Richard Paa for he literally goes around barefoot posted his prayers for me via his Facebook profile.
A few relatives living near the hospital also came like my cousin’s wife Marissa and Jengjeng my niece; Melissa, another cousin came with a bag full of fruits I wasn’t able to eat.
My colleagues in the office paid me a visit and gave financial help: Ms. Hazel, Dianne, Noemi, Dan, Francis and Maf; my bosses – Mr. Restubog who was kind to come with a can of imported biscuits; and Atty. Jack Racela our foundation’s president who generously donated for my bills and his staff, Maricel, Tata and Badong.
My friend and my financial guru, Grace Cabrera, went out of her busy schedule to see me, on her own wheelchair and driving her own car.
Two priests who knew me came to pray for me, Fr. James Nitollama, pastor of the Epiphany of our Lord parish and my wife’s boss together with three of his scholars; and Fr. Joseph Buslon of the Divine Mercy Parish in Quezon City who used to be our pastor. It was him who administered the anointing of the sick to me. His ever reliable secretary, Ate Angie who became a good friend to me and my wife also came with kuya Dan, ate Tess and Lara. They too helped.
I am especially grateful to my boss, Mrs Lulu Reyes who was there to help me morally and financially even to the point of soliciting help from some people whom I didn’t personally know and who doesn’t know me either, particularly Mrs. Baby Reyes a businesswoman, Dr. Leonid Nemenzo of Abbot Laboratories and the Rotary Club of Kagitingang Cubao. Mrs. Reyes that time was also suffering from her swollen knee which was scheduled for a replacement.
There are countless people who, despite not knowing me personally offered their help such as Fr. Joseph Paran ESHT, Cora, Evelyn Marzol, Tata Gagasa and many countless and faceless friends in both the virtual and real world.
My family was there to take care of me: my wife Queen; my brothers Ronie and Hunter; Vheck, my pregnant sister; my nanay Cresing; Mama Alice, my mother-in-law and Candy my sister in law took turns to watch over me. My children Benedict and Chiara, and my niece and nephews prayed for my recovery, and to help ease my boredom would occasionally send me their video recordings or call to ask when will I go home.
The nurses in the burn unit were surprisingly kind, not the type you would expect in a public hospital. They actually helped a lot in keeping my sanity, assuring me that I would soon recover.
I am thankful that my wounds were superficial; there were no serious damage or harm to my body and skin.
During my two week confinement, there was a day when I got so depressed, I thought I could not make it anymore. My body felt so weak, my burnt skin freshly ‘flayed’ felt so painful even with tramadol; I could not walk, nor eat well. I was praying really hard but felt like there is no one there.
I asked the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary Our Lady of Fatima and also of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz. I did not feel at once that they heard me, but there was one moment after too much worrying when I finally said to myself, “I could do this, I will make it”.
The assurance did not come from nowhere, it was never a self-reliant declaration, I knew it came from Jesus himself who was there with me right from the start. I knew the heavens heard my prayers, and the prayers of those who loved me. Would God turn a deaf ear to the intercession of Fr. Al and of the Blessed Mother? This was where my courage sprang forth.
I was able to appreciate many things in life, particularly the love of a family, the fellowship my friends and the people who love me as well.
Most importantly, the event which would have rather been unfortunate actually proved something better and bigger: God despite our sinfulness is always good to us; He will always be there for us.