Is It August Yet?

I can’t wait to be August. Soon it will be August, and my future will be bright.

Do you know how many drafts I have in my box? I think i have at least 7 that I never finished writing, either I lost the thought or I got distracted that I cannot go back to it unless I get the inspiration again. 

So for this, I intend to finish this one. 

You ask … why August?

Well, that would be the time I will finally get my final reading glasses grade so I can read properly. Right now I am struggling to concentrate on looking at the computer screen or my phone, even reading magazines and newspaper becoming tiresome. And today I am starting to feel dizzy when doing those wearing my old glasses because I have nothing else to wear. And if I don’t use it, I will end up watching a lot of TVs.

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The glasses that don’t fit …

In August, I will stop using a progressive type of eyeglasses. My new lenses made that possible, but I will still need to use reading glasses.

I had the option to do that – I mean to not use either distance or reading glasses but my insurance didn’t cover that type of surgery so I opted for the one that I can afford.  At least I can still wear stylish and colorful eyewear as a consolation.

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A lot of us take things for granted until it’s too late, I know because that’s how it was for me. Read this Do Not Wait Too Long

Although it was not too late, I still took my eye problem in stride only to realize that I could have had it corrected in 15 minutes (yeah true read this Windows to the Soul) over the weekend and return to work after a week. But I didn’t do that then, and if I say I regret it, I would say yes.

When my vision started to falter, I guess subconsciously I decided to stop going out at night alone. I would rather stay in on a Friday night and binge on music videos or my favorite series because I was afraid I would get an accident. Turkish driver is barbaric when it comes to driving, and they will not make it easy for you to feel safe even on the sidewalk.

But consciously I was in denial, I pretended I am just lazy, or I am saving my money, telling my bf that it’s cheaper to stay in and buy the wine we like. He bought it, never complained and then I moved out to Tunisia.

In Tunisia, walking around was never a problem. During the day I was glued to my computer, I work from home, and the house itself has good lighting, so I was not bothered that only one eye was actually doing the work for me. My stairs are well lighted, and when I venture outside, I was not afraid because the area where I lived has low traffic and sometimes I can even walk in the middle of the streets plus streets are almost well lit.

Then the inevitable happened and further delayed my surgery until late June, and now I have to endure using my old reading glasses until the lens finally reached its maximum adjustment and will not affect when I finally get prescribed my new spectacles.

That is why I am so looking forward to early August to finally get that final grade and start reading without eye strain and headache.

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Windows to the Soul

I had the operation.

Tomorrow will be the second week since I had it done and I feel very good. Now, I can see with both eyes, no need to cover my right eye to read the fine prints.  The next time I see my doctor that is to confirm the final prescription I will need for my reading glasses.

The last post Do Not Wait Too Long was all about my right eye that is 90 percent blind. When I went to the ophthalmologist in Izmir, in Turkey, to have new glasses prescribed the doctor discovered I have something in my eyes the translator cannot translate in English, and I didn’t press on. The specialist just told me I am 60 percent blind and he can correct it very easy.  That was in April 2017.

A little over a year, I felt I completely lost my eyesight because all I can see are bright lights behind a smoke screen.  The moment I become mobility independent, I decided to do something about it.

A day at the beach 

As I promised my niece, we will go and have a vacation at the beach before classes start in July, I confirmed we will go the weekend after my surgery.

30th June, I was sitting in the verandah of my friends resort in Saryaya, Quezon Province, 2.5 hours away from my dad’s place in San Pedro, Laguna. Tomorrow will begin the second half of 2018 and I am officially back to my old self and can say my disability journey is complete.

Is it really, how?

Aside from my physical injury and temporary disability I also had a visual impairment that I chose to ignore until it cannot be ignored anymore and finally decided do something about it.

I noticed that my right eye cannot see anything anymore, even as close as an inch into my face. All I can see are the lights behind a smoke screen. In spite of that, I still took my sweet time to seek medical help. Part of it was my injury, and the other part was fear.

So …

Early June I sucked it up and went to seek professional help and was told that my vision could be restored. But was told what I have is the type of cataract well beyond my age – it was for those over the age of 70.

I breath easy!

For years I was able to fool myself that I have good vision and the changes in grade were associated with age, which is a normal progression of life.  I wore fancy looking glasses and life went its merry way.

Last year was no different. I knew I have a problem, but I still didn’t do anything to change my situation. I wanted it done in the Philippines, and I convinced myself that we have better treatment procedures and I was not wrong except the timing.

Galileo

The father of telescope.

A fitting name for the center that took care of my eye surgery, aided with the latest technology to make the operation and healing as painless as possible with very little to no inconvenience, getting you back on your own as soon as possible.

They correct the windows to the soul and restore them to its former glory.

My sister was the one who told me about the center. She was the only person that knew I have such problem. The Salesian nuns used Galileo’s services and had nothing but good words to say on the quality of care they do including the doctors.

I also found out from my orthopedic doctor that they are one of the oldest eye centers around, he knows because his wife is an ophthalmologist but specializes in glaucoma management.

Right place wrong age 

When I visited the center, I was greeted pleasantly by their staff and made comfortable as I wait for my turn to be seen by the consultant. The streams of people coming in the center peaked at mid-day for consult and follow-up, but all of them are way over the age of 60, I felt out of place.

I chatted one of them that had the surgery the week before and was there for follow-up. She was gushing to tell me how clear her vision is and it’s getting better every day. She asked me back and was surprised that I am a patient and that I may have a cataract, but despite that, she assured me that I am in good hands –  the doctor, the services, and the outcome and wished me well.

That conversation boosted my confidence until I was called to be seen by the doctor, I was ready to accept whatever the outcome is.  It was confirmed, I have a cataract, but it’s the type commonly seen in older patients, those over the age of 70.

It was really hard to tell how I got cataract at this age but he attributed it to the kind of work I do and nothing on the lifestyle I maintain. I was assured that it can be reversed and will have my vision restored immediately after the surgery and they were not kidding.

All it took was fifteen minutes

That was the case from the moment they numbed my eyes, extracted the cataract and inserted the IOL it was done in a quarter of an hour.

The preparation was like delivering a baby – they waited for my pupil to dilate which needed four drops before they ushered me to the ER. It took longer than the actual operation.

I was seated in what looks like a dental chair and hooked up to different monitoring machines and oxygen.

Once done, headphones with music were placed over my ears to relax me until I heard the doctors shuffling, talking over my head giving information on what they are doing in my eye. All of that while I continue to relax with gospel music first, followed by instrumental music which was more the kind I like.

The fifteen minutes began after they cleaned my eyes and anesthesia was administered. I tensed up when I started hearing a buzzing sound on top of the music playing in my ear.  My fingers started playing air piano, and the nurse holds my hand until the operation was done.

While they work on my eye, I keep seeing two red squares in front of me.  The red squares after a few minutes started to have a yellow hue around it and I started to see my doctor from my peripheral vision and was told the damaged lens was out.

The moment of truth followed – my doctor was talking while he inserted the plastic IOL and as it happens, the red square with some shades of yellow suddenly had defined dots inside the box. It was like looking at a beehive, and it was so bright. I felt good and relaxed because I knew then that my vision was restored. And that was it!

I just needed to wait for the anesthesia to wear off, and I am good as new.

Like nothing happened

I went back to my hotel and slept the anesthesia off. I have to wear protective glasses but no more eye patch. If you didn’t know you will not think I had eye surgery.  I slept for the rest of the day and worked up as if nothing happened. Felt no pain, it felt good.

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Couldn’t believe that just hours earlier I cannot see when I close my left eye, so I kept trying to close it to make sure that the right eye can see.  There was no reason for me to skip my friends “concert” because there were no complications.

Post-op care

The first thing I asked my doctor after he gave me post-op care is whether I can watch concerts and he said yes. I was told that I could do everything from using computers, watching TV and using mobile phones but no washing of the eyes for a week and no swimming for a month.

I ended the night feeling happy I watched my friends concert, and as soon as I woke up I declared I can see NOW! 

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I invite you to click the photo and listen to Side A band, the only local band I like back in the days.

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For information on Galileo SurgiCenter, please contact +63 7216412 or visit their website http://galileoeyecenter.com/

When Thank You Is Not Enough

I am not anymore injured, nor I am disabled. I am back to my old self except I have marks to prove something had happened to me before. The scars (Happy Scar) that reminded me that as a person with no superhuman power I am vulnerable physically, mentally and emotionally (My Road to Recovery Is Bumpy, Now that I Am Thinking of It).

What I experienced in the last 5 months of recovery gave me the opportunity to really dig into the issues people with disabilities have in their lives (not that I don’t do it every day for the last two decades). But most of my experience is not comparable to those I’ve seen in the field where I work. The struggles that I complained and whine about are nothing to the struggles people experience living in camps or even within their own community.

Unlikely allies

I become spiritual when the accident happened, and I thank God more and more for the experience. I learn to appreciate more my life and the people I encounter in it.

When I had the accident The Day I Broke My Leg, I was overwhelmed by the attention I got from my landlord and colleagues – that they are willing to look after me until I am comfortable enough to be on my own.

How many people will do that for you? 

The same when I was at the hospital. That one week in January that I was there was both fun and funny (on hindsight). Although I did not cry, I was like a cry baby always pressing the help button and asking the nurses to do things for me even in the wee hours of the morning. I know I disturbed them because I can see sleep in their eyes when I needed to go to the toilet at 3 in the morning or I needed adjustments in my bed very early because I cannot stay still and all my beddings hanging off it. But I don’t see them angry or annoyed. I like to think, I am fun to be around because while I speak English, they answer me in Arabic or French and when no translation is possible, hand gestures and head movements enough for us to understand each other.

It was enough time to have a routine, I eventually became friends with most of them at that time. But I am sure by now I am just a memory or maybe forgotten, but I will not forget them.  I tried to get their names but in the chaos of checking out I lost my list, and photos are all that I have of them. God knows how thankful I am for them looking after me. Extended to the two ambulance guys that brought me to the airport and back to the hospital and airport again until the airlines finally allowed me to fly home.

 

There is not a day since I left Tunisia that I am not thanking God for sending me those people. For crossing their path and making my experience as a person with injury good despite it happening overseas and life-changing. I felt that God is working in them and I pray every day for them, that they continue to be a blessing to others they encounter in their lives and in their work.

Forever grateful 

If I have a way to get this story to them, I would like for them to know that there is no amount of “thank you” enough to show my gratitude. I can only continue to pray for them and ask God to continue to bless them and to let them continue to give kindness to all the people they care in that hospital.

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From the hospital reception to the ER nurses to my doctors and the floor nurses and aides that kept me company all through my one-week stay at Clinique Amen La Marsa, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dhidhak Collections / Tunisia 2018
My nurses, nurse aide and ambo nurse from Clinique Amen La Marsa (Dhidhak Collections / Tunisia 2018)

To my family in Tunisia, the couple that adopted me and never left my side, waited for me and being there when I was out of surgery, thank you.  I believe that God brought me to your home for a reason.  When I needed help, you did not hesitate and even offered me a place in your heart to make me feel comfortable being alone in a new country.

(Dhidhak Collections / Tunisia 2018)
The family that took care of me when I was in Tunisia (Dhidhak Collections / Tunisia 2018)

To the friends I met, truly Filipinos are people of the world. Who would have thought that the first meeting we had would be a start of a lifelong friendship? At my lowest time, when I was not allowed to fly the first time, you were there. You took me back and brought me to the hospital safely and there again the next day as if God has planted you on my side until I am up in the air and landed in the Philippines.

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Ate Joy (in black beret) angel by my side with her cousin and my ambo nurse @ the check-in counter – Carthage Airport (Dhidhak Collections / Tunisia 2018)

Commitment 

With the 6-month grace period of recovery I give myself coming to an end, it is time to express my gratitude to all the people that helped me through this disability journey from Tunisia to France and here in the Philippines.

It has enriched my life and had opened my eyes to a new perspective on the kind of work I do and made me want to do more. Nobody can tell me now that I cannot advocate for disability because I am not disabled, because, with the little time I was in that shoes, I can say I understood the struggle.  Living with it even for a short time reaffirmed that this is what God wants me to continue doing. So continue I will.

0c2e59493fcefa8e4e4283de876e5934I do not wish for this kind of accident to happen to anyone, but this is a good opportunity for me to pay the kindness and generosity allocated for me forward in anyway possible.

Maraming salamat!

Je vous remercie!

Shukraan!

Key To Happiness In Your Job Is To Work With Passion

June had crept in, announcing that it was mid-way through 2018. Eventually, I will have to go back to my reality of doing what I love. But I am still trying to figure out what I will do after this accident.

I am praying to God that he shows me where I am supposed to be and what I should be doing next. And when that is revealed, I hope I will be ready to accept and take on the challenge.

For now, I hope you enjoy to read how I felt about my life as a humanitarian worker while I was recovering from my injuries.

My Decade Long Travels

I’m officially jobless and at the moment disabled. So you can say I have time on my hands, so I am going to update my blog site.

Actually, I still have work to finish from my last mission, but I am happy to finally break-free from the so-called “cursed” mission and will start fresh as a consultant. I am not at liberty to talk about the mission itself (this being a public platform) nor of the people I worked with. But the reason some of us called it a cursed mission was because of the stings of misfortune it had during the year and of course my unfortunate accident in the place that I had misgivings to move from the moment it was offered to me.

In fact, the moved to Tunisia made me realized how badly my position and myself was disregarded but I forged ahead because more than…

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Gabriel and His Wheelchair

I did something of my time last Friday. I went out and met (again) the community I wanted to give some of the wheelchairs I sourced from an organization in Australia and I went to visit Gab and had someone with me to check him and his wheelchair two years after we gave it to him.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
I am with a colleague adjusting Gab’s chair. On my feet half the time … I was tired but went home happy! (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

Gab is 8 years old last Thursday. I met him in 2014 together with his mom when I joined the local disabled people’s organization in my city. I offered my skills to help but my work does not allow me to fully commit to it. His mom and I continue to communicate. She contacts me when she has questions about Gabs condition and for some other pieces of advice.

He was born with cerebral palsy. He has spasticity on all of his extremities and he has difficulty to communicate. All his 8 years have been supported by therapy whenever money and professionals are available but he still cannot walk but he loves to be around people. So a wheelchair would be very good to have for him to be mobile and social and wheelchair he got two years ago!

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
Gab and his chair of 2 years were recently adjusted. He’s happy to fit well in his chair and to be outside (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

When he was 6-years old, I managed to get ten wheelchairs I was hoping to give to children like Gab. At that age, his parents are already complaining that it’s becoming difficult to move him around and the DIY chairs they built him doesn’t offer much support.

He is lucky because his family makes time for him, you can feel a happy family around him when you visit, they seek help and save up for some therapy, while other children have no opportunity to access health and rehabilitation services, no caregivers and often no knowledge of their human rights. I saw many with deformities that cannot be improved anymore, let alone sit in the chair. Some, there’s hope if parents can be given the training on how to manage their child’s conditions if they cannot afford therapy and transport.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)
Immediately after he received a new chair, Gab was able to participate in different activities for children with disabilities that summer. (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)

What has changed?

When I met Gab, he was smaller. My colleague who made most of the technical adjustment had to adjust his seat depth and more to accommodate his long legs. I also noticed how talkative he has become, although he was talkative then, this time I can understand them more and being able to carry more conversation with the small vocabulary he has. But he also has a shorter temper, which I think was because of the weather (summer temperature reached 35C that day) and being cooped in the house instead of going to the park.

Gab even has his own facebook page!

He follows instructions better. When we asked him to sit straight and put his neck straight, he can do it. He has better trunk control, I guess the time he can have the straight posture would determine his progress together with other activities. With the table attached to the chair, he interacts more with the people around the house, increasing his ability to use his hands. Feeding too has improved, and I noticed no drooling compared to the first times I met him. He will need continuous therapy, but I am happy with what I saw.

I even saw photos of him playing badminton with his siblings and had gone swimming with the family this summer.

What’s next for Gab and for the remaining chairs?

Experts say he needs to be re-evaluated together with his wheelchair. A 3-wheel type chairs that have hip, trunk and head control (depending on the design). The Wheelchair For Kids, Inc. produces these type of wheelchair. The organization is made up of a group of retired volunteer members of the Perth metropolitan community in Western Australia, and they donate these type of chair all over the world.

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Gab is featured in WFK website collage and see how small he was back in 2014 (Screen grabbed from WFK website)

I don’t exactly remember how I got to know WFK, but I remember it was during the time I was in East Timor. Later, when I returned home, I contacted WFK, Inc. and inquired whether they have links with a local organization here in the Philippines where I could get access to their wheelchairs and distribute to the children in San Pedro City.

No, they don’t have specific local partners in the Philippines, but they have better links – the RSL Angeles City, a sub-branch of Returned and Services League of Australia. They send wheelchairs to them and distribute them to children in Angeles City and neighboring province (which is in the north part of the Philippines). They suggested I contact them and request the 10 chairs I was asking them.

I made contact with RSL, after some negotiations, they agreed, and I picked up the chairs. Unfortunately, I only managed to give out 1 out of 10 chairs. For many reasons but one of them was me being called off to join an emergency mission in Nepal. Partly I am to blame for the delay, but I have a pretty good excuse why the delay but don’t worry, I already arranged with someone with technical knowledge on the wheelchair and good network in the disability sector, we hope to give out those chairs in the next three months.

This time, being ambulatory, I tried to revive the project and give the remaining 9 chairs to the rightful owners. I made contact again with experts in the field, and with their help, I would be able to reach out to those kids that could use this type of chair for their everyday lives.

So I ended the day tired, with a swollen ankle but went home happy. The feeling of not being able to do anything worthwhile had faded over the weekend knowing that I will have something to look forward to in the coming days. For now, I will focus on Gab and see how much more we can still improve his chair and until when we can keep him using them until we need to find him a new one.

Postscript:

If you want to know more about disability and how you can help get children appropriate wheelchair send me a message here! Thank you in advance.