Apr 19, 2013

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter XXV)

September 2012...

The Singapore Changi Airport was bustling with activity.  Tourists, executives, and other nationalities visiting the country whether for pleasure or business are streaming in and out of the airport doors.  For some, a trip to Singapore can also mean life and death.

It was the first time for Devon to go out of the country, and she wished she could have done it when she was stronger.  Better late than never, she said to herself, positively. 

She was being wheeled through the airport by James.  She could have done it by herself, after all she’s using an electronic which she could easily operate by clicking some buttons through her thumb.  But James said he prefer to wheel her out instead. 

Walking besides James and Devon was Dr. Alvarez who decided to fly with them to accompany them to the Singaporean clinic that specializes in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  There’s actually no need for him to travel with them, but Dr. Alvarez wants to make sure that his patient will be safe throughout her first flight out of the country. 

Mr. Rocafort immediately offered his residence in Singapore. Since it is one of the countries which he would often visit during his business trips, he has decided to purchase a property in the country several years ago. One of his father’s investments in Singapore is a 2-bedroom executive condominium unit in Flora Drive.  His father also made transportation arrangements for them.

“You don’t have to worry about anything,” Mr. Rocafort reassured. 

James remembered his father assuring him. He was still hesitant on taking his father’s help, but he can’t let his pride blind him. Devon needs this Singapore trip.

A van commissioned by Mr. Rocafort is already waiting for them outside, with the driver holding a sign with James’ name written on it.

The specialized van was able to fit Devon’s electric chair in it, and they went straight to the condominium unit.  Dr. Alvarez has an appointment with the clinic later that day while Devon rest.   They hope to take Devon to the hospital tomorrow for evaluation and inclusion in the clinical treatment. 

Devon looked extremely tired while on the elevator.  The almost four-hour flight has taken toll on her body. All she wants to do is lie down. But when James opened the apartment door, Devon’s eyebrows shot up.  

The living room was warm and yet sophisticated and modern.  The wooden tables were sleek and shiny, the brown couch looks inviting with its pale gray throw pillows. The lamps were also pale gray, while the rug in the middle of the room has squares with different hues of brown.  The only color in the room was the inviting baby blue soft-cushioned chair.

The windows have a perfect view of the city and also the swimming pool, with its palm trees and resort-like landscape. 

“Your father has good taste,” Dr. Alvarez announced. 

“It’s his assistant who has good taste,” James answered.  “All he does is look at the pictures and nod.”

“I will definitely nod my head, too” Devon interrupted.

James showed Dr. Alvarez his room and he went in to settle down. 

“I thought you’re tired?” James asked Devon softly, standing beside her as she glanced at the amazing view.  She momentarily forgot her tiredness.   If she visited and stayed in Singapore under different circumstances, she would already be dragging James out of the door to visit the sites.  But no. She is strapped on her chair, her portable BiPap already beside her and ready for use in any given situation.

It was July when Dr. Alvarez recommended the clinical trials, but it took them couple months to actually fly to Singapore.  It took a while before Devon’s condition stabilized as she would often have these “attacks” where her breathing will be ragged and difficult.  Dr. Alvarez refused to let them travel without him.  Her condition is too sensitive and a lot could happen during the trip, he insisted.  Dr. Alvarez paid for his own ticket and will be returning to Cebu tomorrow evening. 

Everybody has made sacrifices for this decision. Aside from Dr. Alvarez, James has already filed a two-month leave in order to be with Devon in Singapore. His mother and Aling Linda are already making arrangements on how they can fly to Singapore also to be with Devon.   Before they left the country, friends were always dropping by their home bringing gifts, and loving messages. 

Before leaving, Ivan and Shey announced during the family dinner, that they, together with several of Devon’s friends and former students, are planning to conduct an art auction.  Shey shared that it was not her idea, but one of Devon’s students approached her and said that their batch is wondering if they could have an art auction to help Devon.

She is surrounded by people who love her and would do everything for her and it was overwhelming. She felt so undeserving.

“What have I done to deserve such kindness,” Devon asked.

James taken aback by Devon question, looked at her.  “What are you talking about?”

“I feel like, I am the most blessed person in the world,” Devon reasoned. 

James touched her hair, letting the silky strands slip through his fingers. 

“It is because you’re one of the most selfless people in the world,” James whispered.  “You’re a wonderful friend, a caring daughter, an inspirational teacher, a generous workmate, and of course, the most loving wife.”

Devon looked at James and smiled.  She leaned her forehead against his.

“And  I was waiting for you to say the most beautiful and sexiest, too,” Devon joked.

James gave a soft chuckle.  “Okay, most beautiful and sexiest girl too.”

Devon laughed, but she ended up coughing, her chest heaving up and down heavily.  Her coughs led to spasm-like movements.  James immediately hooked up her portable BiPap.  Her breathing started to slow down. 

“Laughter is not the best medicine for you,” James joked, trying to make the situation lighter. 

Devon’s eyes smiled. James leaned forward and kissed her forehead. He looked out at the window, looking at the busy Singapore streets.  This will be their home, for now.  He looked at Devon whose eyes are slowly closing. 

Anyplace, as long as he’s with Devon, can be their home, he thought.


Second week of December 2012...

Ate, we already have our uniforms!” Danica and Diane were practically screaming on the laptop screen, waving their respective new office uniforms. 

Both of them have finally landed their first full-time jobs, after graduating from college.  Dianne is working in a bank while Danica got accepted as an administrative assistant in another company.  They just got their new uniforms making them official employees. 

“Congratulations,”  Devon typed.  Her back was leaning against the hospital bed and James was sitting beside her.  James read the word aloud, so the sisters would know what Devon was saying.

Mang Tony appeared on the screen, reprimanding the two.

“Not so loud, you two,” Mang Tony scolded.  “Neighbours may start thinking that somebody is murdering you.”

Devon smiled, looking at her parents and sisters squabble on the laptop screen.  James looked at her.  This Singapore hospital has served as their home for more than two months already.  Much has changed since they first arrived in the country.

Now, Devon is no longer using her BiPap machine to help her breathing.  They have finally made a life-changing decision, Devon has undergone a tracheostomy.  Instead of a BiPap machine, there’s a tube connected to a ventilator to her windpipe.  A hole can be seen on her neck.  James has undergone training on how to properly take care of her trache.  At first, it was terrifying.  But for Devon, it was life-changing and it provided her immediate relief. 

The first time that Aling Linda and Mang Tony saw Devon with her trache via Skype, they tried to pretend that they did not notice anything.  But Devon broke the ice and signalled that it was okay to talk about it.

“Look, Nanay,” Devon called out.  “A new hole!  I can work for the circus now!”

A few weeks since the surgery, they are finally getting over the shock of the trache.  But now, they are trying to get over the shock of her losing the ability to speak. 

Complicated and long sentences are often read by James, whenever they are on Skype.  But Devon can still say simple words, which somehow eases the fear from her  parents’ eyes.

“They’re just excited,” Devon typed for James to read, trying to defend her sisters.

“Excited? They look crazy!” Mang Tony answered. 

Devon gave a small smile.  Somebody knocked at the door and the doctors and nurses came into view. James smiled and looked at the laptop screen.

“Nanay, Tatay, the doctors are  here, talk to you later,” James said, saying goodbye.

“Bye!” Devon said, while her family waved goodbye at her and her sisters blew kisses.

James closed the laptop, while the doctor approached and checked Devon. 

“Dr. Wei,” greeted James, extending his hand.  Dr. Wei, the interim director of the ALS program, shook his hand.  James was able to meet the prestigious doctor twice. Behind Dr. Wei was Dr. Chen, the doctor who is directly overseeing Devon’s care. 

“Talking with family?” Dr. Wei asked, smiling.

Devon nodded.

“That’s good. Being homesick will not help you get better,” Dr. Wei answered, encouragingly.

The two doctors, assisted by the nurse checked Devon’s clipboard.  Dr. Chen approached Devon and checked her physically, as well as her trache. She nodded and smiled, finding nothing out of the ordinary in Devon’s condition.

“How’s the pain,” Dr. Chen asked.  Devon has been experiencing so much pain recently.

“Same,” Devon answered raggedly.

“It still comes and goes,” James added.

The two doctors nodded.   As part of the clinical trials, Devon takes a type of drug daily which is said to be capable of slowing down the progression of ALS. Devon has been taking it since September, and unfortunately, immediate results are not manifesting.

Her ALS is still progressing. She is now being fed through a feeding tube since her swallowing has become extremely difficult.  Her speech is deteriorating. There are days when she can barely say single syllable words.

The other day, James had a long conversation with Dr. Alvarez thru Skype. 

“She’s not improving, Ninong,” James shared, looking worried.

“Let’s be patient, James,” Dr. Alvarez soothed. “Things like these don’t manifest or show results, immediately.”

“I know,” James nodded. “But she’s getting lonely and homesick here.  We really want to be home for Christmas, Ninong.”

Dr. Alvarez sighed.  “Let me consult first with Dr. Chen, before we decide on this.”

James nodded.

It’s true. Devon is becoming lonelier everyday. Though she remained positive on her conversations with James and her family, it is evident that being back in Cebu will mean a lot to her. 

“Dr. Chen, has Dr. Alvarez asked you anything about the possibility of going home,”  James asked quietly. 

Dr. Chen nodded.  “He did.  We talked about it and he asked about the possibility of continuing the drug therapy in the Philippines.”

“And?” James asked.

Devon looked at them, hopefully.  She really wants to go home.  The two doctors looked at each other.

“We feel that it will be okay for her to go back, as long as her health can handle the travel,”  Dr. Chen continued.

James felt elated.  They can finally go back to Cebu.

“But how about the treatment,” James asked.

“I have already talked about Dr. Alvarez about continuing the treatment in the Philippines. We will be giving you the necessary medicines, as well as instruct you on its proper administration.  Dr. Alvarez, will be closely monitoring Devon’s condition, in order to determine her progress,” Dr. Wei explained.

“However, Dr. Alvarez mentioned that you prefer to have her at home?” Dr. Chen asked.

James looked at Devon, trying to confirm with her.  Devon made a small nod.

“Yes,” James agreed.  “We both like to stay at home.”

“Then  there are also several and necessary medical equipment you will need,” Dr. Chen cautioned.  “Aside from you, we recommend having professional carers or nurses to look after her.”

James nodded.  “We will manage,” he assured them.

“Okay,” Dr. Chen agreed, looking at Dr. Wei.

“We have to coordinate with Dr. Alvarez first before we discharge you and of course, you would like to make necessary arrangements first before you travel home,”  Dr. Wei asked.

James nodded.  “We can make arrangements in a week’s time, maybe.”

Dr. Wei nodded.  “Okay.”

Dr. Chen approached Devon and squeezed her hand gently.  “You’ll be home before Christmas then,” she smiled at Devon warmly.

“Thank you,” Devon managed to say slowly.

“We are both thankful for taking care of us,” James agreed.

Dr. Chen and Dr. Wei smiled at their heartfelt thanks before leaving the room.

James leaned and kissed Devon on the tip of her nose.

“We’re going home, baby,” he whispered.  Devon smiled brightly.


12th of December, 2012...

“You have got to be kidding me,” James was almost shouting on his phone. 

His face was already red in anger. He looked over his shoulder and saw Aling Linda and Mang Tony eyeing him.   They were sitting beside Devon who was sound asleep.  They just arrived in Singapore yesterday and will be going back with James and Devon to Cebu next week. 

Aling Linda, who used to work as a domestic helper in Singapore, offered to accompany them on their flight back to Cebu.  James initially refused, not wanting to bother them. But Mrs. Rocafort was most insistent.  She does not want the couple to fly back alone.  So Mrs. Rocafort, with her money and influence, managed to put not only Aling Linda on the flight to Singapore, but also Mang Tony.

Mang Tony insists on paying for their tickets, and refused to fly unless Melinda Rocafort accepts their payment. To avoid anymore delays, Mrs. Rocafort transferred her and her husbands’ free miles to Mang Tony and Aling Linda’s names.

James looked apologetically at Aling Linda and Mang Tony.  He walked towards the door and went outside. 

“Tell me you joking,” James went back to his phone call.

“I am not,” answered Ernie, one of his colleagues in the advertising agency he works for.  “They want you back, ASAP.”

“But I am on a leave,” James retorted.

“Wait,” Ernie interrupted.  “Ma’am Mye wants to talk to you.”

“Wha--,” but before James could finish his sentence, her boss’ voice came to the line.

“James,” Ma’am Mye said casually. “We need you back here. There’re some questions regarding the last contract a client signed with you.”

“But, I turned it over to Ernie.  He knows everything about it,” James reasoned out.

“I know,” Ma’am Mye answered.  “But the client refuses any kind of transaction nor communication with Ernie.”

“Everything was fine when we went over the contract. The lawyers were okay with it. What could possibly be wrong,” James reasoned, exasperated.

“I know this is stressful for you,”  Ma’am Mye, answered.  “The client is hard-headed and stupid, but he has money. For God’s sake, he’s the son of a senator. We’ll be facing some legal troubles if you won’t be able to settle this.”

James sighed.  “But I’m still on leave.”

“Unfortunately, James, just to let you know, your leave ended last November 30.  So now, you’re technically AWOL,” Ma’am Mye explained.  “But the HR department is understands your situation. We know about your wife’s condition, and we feel for you. But this is the last thing we will ask from you. We received your resignation and consider this dialogue as your last working day. After this, you’re free to go.”

James rubbed his forehead.  A headache is now starting to split his brain cells.

“I’ll see what I can do,” James answered quietly.

“We know that you’re going back to Cebu. All we’re asking for is for you to go home earlier.  We need you here, Friday next week,” Ma’am Mye insisted.

“I am not promising anything,” James weakly retaliated.

“Make it happen,” Ma’am Mye pleaded and ended the call.

James wanted to scream and punch the wall. His last client for the agency is threatening to file a legal case against him and the agency. Go to hell, he wanted to shout.

He was still mulling over his situation, when he went back to the room.

“You’re okay?” asked Mang Tony, asked looking worried.

James looked at his father-in-law carefully.  He slowly explained what the agency is asking him to do.

“Why don’t you fly back to Cebu ahead of us, then?” asked Mang Tony.

Devon who’s already awake, was listening to the conversation.  James approached her and occupied the chair beside her bed.  He held her hand tightly.

“What about Devon?” James asked, looking extremely worried.

“James,” Aling Linda spoke with a reassuring voice.  “It’s just a few days difference.  We will still fly on Sunday.”

James considered the situation closely.  This is the last thing he will be doing for the agency.  If he will be able to catch a late night flight on Thursday, he will be in time for the meeting on Friday. Besides, Devon and her parents will taking an early morning Sunday flight back to Cebu.

He looked at Devon, searching for reassurance.

“Will that work for you, baby?” James asked.  “I’m really sorry about this.”

Devon made a small smile. “It’s okay,” she managed to say. 

“I’m really sorry, baby,” James whispered apologetically. “Don’t worry, this will be the last time that work will take me away from you.”

Devon nodded. “Don’t worry. I’ll be home before fireworks begin,” her broken voice managed to say.

James smiled and kissed her lightly on the lips.  He decided not to correct her that fireworks display does not usually happen on Christmas Eve.


Anonymous said...

Oh my...:(

sana naman makabalik talaga siya..... pero sa takbo ng story mukhang di natalaga siya babalik... :(

Great story again Lola Bite :)

- nayrjade

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