12 Feet

Last January 24, 2010, I came home from my best friend’s birthday party and went to my room to pack my bags for another dorm-life week in Manila. Father knocked at my door at about 6 PM. He handed me my allowance for the week, and broke the news: Kuya Vincent had an accident.

At about 3 PM that day, Kuya Vincent was working on renovating some roofing on a house next door. For us, this was just another typical day; Kuya Vincent was no stranger to doing odd jobs. Nothing prepared us for what happened. Father narrated how he fell from the roof he was working on, and fell headfirst on the pavement. I would later know through Kuya Jay that he fell about 12 feet from the ground. According to Kuya Jay, the back of his right head bore the brunt of the impact.

After that, the scene was heartbreaking. Mother called for Kuya to rush and get the family van ready to take Kuya Vincent to the hospital. Ate Rose told me that if the scene weren’t a matter of life and death, it would have been a morbidly funny one.

Mother called Father, who was on his way to a meeting with Kuya Jay and Choi at that time, to turn back and go home to rush Kuya Vincent to the hospital. Kuya Jay did a 180-degree turn and burnt rubber.

At home, Kuya rushed downstairs without his shorts and with toothpaste still in his mouth. Some people carried Kuya Vincent to the car. He was bleeding profusely, blood was coming out of his ears. Then Kuya realized that he didn’t have his license. The whole house was in chaos, ripping out garments and seats to find the elusive license. When it was found a short while later, Kuya got to the van and started the car. I think it was then that Father, Choi, and Kuya Jay arrived home. They hitched a ride to take Kuya Vincent to the hospital.

Kuya was shaking at the wheel. Kuya Jay was at the passenger seat and was trying to keep Kuya focused on driving on the road. Father was cradling Kuya Vincent, pounding on his chest and shouting, trying to keep Kuya Vincent from losing consciousness. Mother was at the window near Father, shouting at cars to yield. “Emergency! Emergency!” she shouted.

When they arrived at the first hospital, all those diagnostic tests were done. CT scans, X-rays, those kinds of tests. Kuya Vincent made violent, jerky movements and spoke incoherent phrases. He was then transferred to another hospital, where he was confined. At that second hospital, he was in a state of coma. Kuya Jay described his face as someone who had been to a big fight: his whole face was swollen and bruised, black and blue, the area around his eyes seemingly pummeled by a crazy boxer. The doctors there told us that he would be put on observation for the meantime.

When I arrived at the dorm, I couldn’t help but think of the possible outcomes: paralysis, coma, death. I cried to my roommate about the accident, and how crappy all the things that have happened felt. Kuya Vincent was the guy who taught me how to ride a bike, took me fishing on a murky creek, fashioned my first slingshot and insect net, and the guy who was always there for me. I felt helpless and angry at something. I didn’t know what it was.

That week our professor lectured on Grieving and Death. How timely, I thought to myself. I couldn’t help but cry while our professor was lecturing. After the class, I told her about what happened and asked what would happen. She felt that it was a bad case.

I felt weak. I was this guy who knew things about health but couldn’t do anything to help save a life. All I knew was that bad things have happened to people who fell off a roof and landed on their head. I didn’t know what to do. All I had were theories and facts and concepts, and nothing of a miracle.

I lost my appetite that day and decided to just go to our rented room and spend some time alone. I prayed. All that I could do then was pray. Before I knew it, I was crying again.

I would have to admit that the events that transpired distracted me from focusing on a removal exam I was going to take that week. Before all those things happened, this removal exam felt like an arduous mountain trek. I realized then that it was just a little rock on the road compared to what Kuya Vincent was going through. A strange peace came upon me. I felt strong. Kuya Vincent wouldn’t want me to be distracted. He’d want me to do great. He wanted me to be a doctor. Suck it up, he’d say, don’t worry about me. Suck it up I did.

Fast forward. When I came home after the first week after the accident, I was informed that he was still under observation at the hospital. Ate Rose told me that he tried to escape from the hospital one day. He ripped out his IV from his arm, pulled a drainage tube attached to his thorax, and tugged a catheter inserted through his urinary tract loose. He was sedated by the staff and was in stupor for the week.

Today, Kuya Jay and Choi picked me up from the LRT station. Along the way, Kuya Jay told me that Kuya Vincent was discharged from the hospital and was home.

When I was away, they told me that Lola recommended a ritual to be done to make peace with the spirits. Kuya Wilson, the brother of Kuya Vincent did it.

Lola instructed him to take an article of Kuya Vincent’s, go to the site of the accident, and wipe the two sides of the shirt on the site. Kuya Wilson said some sort of prayers and said some apologies. He then folded the shirt and held it in place at his armpit. Without saying a single word or paying notice to anyone, Kuya Wilson was silently driven to the hospital. He described that during his ascent to Kuya Vincent’s room, he felt a strange feeling, a coldness. He proceeded on, silently. When he arrived at the room, he put the article of clothing on Kuya Vincent. Then Kuya Vincent’s eyes suddenly lighted up and said, “this is my brother”, pointing to Kuya Wilson.

I went to Kuya Vincent’s room a while ago. He looked at me. I took his left hand and held it tightly. He told me “hinahanap na nila ako.”, “they’re looking for me.” He didn’t say my name. What he said, I do not know either. He was being fed by JJ, Kuya Wilson’s son. He pointed to the food and told me to have some. I declined but thanked him for the offer and took my leave. I’m publishing this post now, and after that, I’m going to pray.

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6 Comments

  1. Starlight

     /  February 7, 2010

    Glad to know he’s recovering. I understand how you feel, but you shouldn’t blame yourself. It was his doctors’ job to save his life, not yours.

    Reply
  2. meeyamia

     /  February 28, 2010

    I can’t believe I wasn’t there for you. I am a friend but I am nowhere to be found. I apologize, if somehow that makes sense. Be strong, Jian, like you always are. I am submitting this comment, and after that, I will pray.

    Reply
  3. I have something EMO to say. So I’ll save it for private. 😛

    Reply

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