Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Impressions Of Windows 8 By a Non-IT Person

Windows 8 Start Page

The moment I got the email from Microsoft that Windows 8 was available for download, I downloaded it right away last Friday. I had other things to take care of so I just copied the ISO file to a DVD disk and installed it on Sunday because I spent most of Saturday making an image copy of Windows 7 on 14 DVD disks.
These were my first bumbling attempts at installing this new Operating System. I had a big enough hard drive (750 GB) so instead of installing Windows 8 on top of Windows 7, I installed it on a separate partition, thus making my recently acquired Asus Core i5 Laptop a dual boot machine. On my first try to install Windows 8, it hanged and wouldn’t proceed any further. I couldn’t even shut it down properly or use Ctrl-Alt-Del, so I had to use the power button. On the second try, Windows 8 proceeded to install itself. When this was done, the computer restarted and gave me the option to boot into Windows 7 or 8. I chose the latter of course. Setting up was no problem. Instead of the usual way of making you choose a username, it gave you the option of using your Microsoft account if you had one. Since I was already using Outlook email (the reinvented Hotmail), I logged on under that username. As advertised and discussed since the Beta version was released for testers, tiles appeared on the screen which were representative of apps that came with the operating system. Some examples were: email, travel, maps, weather, news, etc. If you are a tablet PC user, you may already be familiar with this type of interface. So what about the Desktop? Well, there’s an app for that too, which when you click, takes you to the more familiar screen, but without the start button on the bottom left. Start is now actually that whole screen with tiles. Right clicking on the desktop brought out the same choices as previous versions of Windows, so that’s how I found my way to My Computer and Control Panel. One of the first problems I encountered was that Windows 8 could not find my external hard drive, wouldn’t let me use my cordless mouse, and didn’t launch MagicJack which I use extensively for long distance calls. These were all connected to a 10 port powered USB hub. Even when I connected the external hard drive directly to the USB port on the computer, it still didn’t work. I thought these were driver problems and I needed to update them. But despite downloading the latest drivers, it was still a no-go. Only much later and after several hours of frustration did I discover that when I used a different USB port, everything worked as they were supposed to, even the 10 port hub. I don’t know what was wrong with the first USB port because it worked very well with Windows 7. Perhaps it is a USB2 and the others USB3’s. So everything is now hunky dory with all my USB connections: cordless mouse, MagicJack, TV tuner, cell phone charger, external hard drive, and printer cable. See, that’s why I need a 10 port hub!
Here are some problems that I encountered with Windows 8:  When using the trackpad, sometimes my mouse pointer disappears if I overshoot the dimensions of the screen, and it takes a few wide swipes to find it again. Ever since my cordless mouse started working, I am able to control the movements better and it eliminated the problem. Initially, I had problems shutting down and restarting - when I tried shutting down, my computer didn’t shutdown completely. The Power light stayed on and wouldn’t turn off. I had to do the press and hold to turn it off completely. When I turned it back on, Windows had to do an extensive disk check to make sure there was nothing wrong with the hard drive.  Similarly, when I clicked Restart instead of Shutdown, it just made the computer hang and I had to press the power button several seconds to turn the computer off, which is not the proper way to do it. This problem mysteriously disappeared a couple of days later. Well, I hope it doesn’t come back. Another mysterious thing - sometimes when you install new software, the installation freezes. When I downloaded Windows Updates and tried to install my old Microsoft Office 2007 (Windows 8 did not even include Office Starter anymore), the message onscreen was stuck at: Installing. Normally, you would see some hard drive activity when something is being installed and I didn’t see that. The next attempt I did  wasbefore I went to bed. Another miracle happened. Windows Update and Microsoft Office installed properly overnight. I guess all I needed was patience. Because of all these negative experiences, I was even thinking of staying with Windows 7 for awhile since support from Microsoft for that supposedly goes all the way to 2024. Windows 8 is either buggy, or I am the one who has the bugs.
                When I was having problems installing Office 2007, I downloaded Open Office and Abisoft.  My previously saved Microsoft Word files did not come out properly in those two applications until I figured out that I had to re-save the MS Word files in ODF format (Open Document Format which I guess is the new Rich Text Format). That took me awhile.
So going back to the “Metro” interface, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what those tiles are on the Start screen, then you can launch the app and do whatever it’s supposed to do. When you right click on the mouse at an empty spot on the Start screen, an option comes up to show all the apps, not just the ones docked on the Start screen. I won’t even tell you what swiping to the upper right or upper left corner will do. You can figure that one out for yourself if you haven’t read about them already.
Windows 8 Desktop

Being more comfortable working on the familiar Desktop, I downloaded the software I normally use in Windows 7 and installed them (all my Cloud drives, VLC Media Player, MS Office,  Chrome browser, Google Desktop, Gmail notifier , etc.). In short, you can still do your previous work at the desktop including your familiar applications. Even some of the apps in the Start screen open in the Desktop. By the way, all the software I installed appeared as apps on the Start screen. Since I have my frequently used files already on the Cloud, it made the transition much easier.
I remember reading months ago that Windows Media Center was not automatically included in Windows 8 and that you had to purchase it separately. Later, Microsoft changed its mind and made it a free download for Windows 8 Pro. When I tried downloading Media Center, the product key I had for Windows 8 was not recognized. I had to call technical support to find out why my product key didn't work, and was very surprised that an actual person answered the phone after just a few button pushes. The lady was able to help me connect to the proper website which asked for my email address (which now happens to be my Windows 8 log in name) and it would take 24 hours for Microsoft to email me the free Media Center product key. Sure enough, almost exactly 24 hours later, the email with my product key arrived and Media Center installed flawlessly. I reprogrammed all the TV shows I wanted to record and Media Center was actually more responsive than the previous version.
With all the inconveniences I encountered installing Windows 8, at only $14.99 for recently purchased computers, I’m just glad the update isn’t expensive because if it was, I would have waited longer.
Other than the installation and rebooting problems I had, which seems to have corrected themselves, the main first impression I have is this -  it appears that Windows 8 is just Windows 7 dressed up with apps just in time for Halloween.
Here’s an unusual suggestion: if you miss the old Start button so much on the Desktop screen, you can either install all your familiar apps or shortcuts on the Desktop or make a new folder and place those apps in your new Start Folder.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Random Thoughts About Zamboanga – Part 2

I passed this plaza and the city hall behind it almost every day in my  walkabouts

Then there was this woman named Janna who is at least a couple of decades younger whom I met on Facebook because she has the same last name as a high school batchmate I was looking for. She also came from the same high school as we did. After a few text messages, I finally met her at her print shop in Southway Shopping Center and as a souvenir, she gave me a coffee mug with my picture on it which she downloaded from Facebook. Nice to finally meet you Janna, and thanks for the mug with my mug J.
The mug says "I Love Zambo"

While Mama was still in the hospital, my kindergarten teacher also happened to be there just a couple of rooms away. I visited Sister Ursula and reintroduced myself. Despite the hundreds if not thousands of kindergartners who went to her class through the decades, she still remembered me. Most remarkable was what she remembered about my brother Larry. She told him that he was used as the baby Jesus in a live Nativity scene at the Catholic church in Jolo one Christmas. Sister Ursula, you don’t look a day older than you were in 1962. I pray that they have resolved your medical problems by now.
Still while in the hospital I met Dr. Romulo Garcia, his wife Aida, and daughter Joy. They were in the emergency room because if I remember correctly, the doc had problems with his blood sugar and blood pressure. We were townmates in Jolo and former neighbors in Zamboanga. They happen to be in the States right now visiting some relatives near San Diego. Hey Joy, if ever you read this, you’re looking as cute as ever and I might even be crushing on you in my old age :D. You’ve got my email address and phone number so if you ever wanna get in touch… After all, you’re single and so am I J.
What do you think folks? Is she cute or what? Photo downloaded from Facebook

One thing I didn’t know until last month was that Mama was one of the first students of Notre Dame of Jolo Girls’ Department. As such, her batch was honored at the Notre Dame Grand Reunion three years ago. Irene Hassan gave me a program from that reunion. Unfortunately the batch picture of Mama was blurry and the people were unrecognizable. Well, what can you expect from an early 1950’s picture?
I was warned by my sister-in-law before I left for Zamboanga about small time kidnappers who would nab you on the street and ask for a small ransom. So I became vigilant during my walks, never going the same route twice in a row, and trying to always be aware of my surroundings. I survived Zamboanga without being kidnapped.
Owning a pharmacy in Zamboanga appears to be very good business. Each time I went to one, the counters were always swarming with customers. It didn’t matter which pharmacy it was - Joan’s, Oro, Mercury, and a couple of others which names I don’t remember.
I can truly say that I overdosed on satti in Zamboanga. I just wish there was more roughage in it, because the white rice tamu certainly didn’t cut it. I would have gotten more fiber if I chewed on the sticks, which were probably not much tougher than the chicken skewered on them.

Whenever people asked about Mama’s ailment and I told them colon cancer, responses would almost always mention Cory Aquino’s valiant battle with it and losing anyway, probably shortening her life with aggressive chemotherapy. Mama decided with the opposite treatment plan, meaning doing nothing  after the initial surgery, and lived a better life for more than 5 years after.
On the night of Mama’s death, I had gone commando for a few hours between the time I was awakened, up to the time I returned home pre-dawn. You see, I slept in this very thin technical shorts with no built in underwear liner because of the heat and humidity. At least the shorts kept some semblance of modesty and decency instead of being completely naked while staying in other people’s homes. In the dark of night you couldn’t see through the shorts. At least I hope you couldn’t and didn’t.
          It just occurred to me a month later that the metal plate I’ve had in my left ankle since 1972 didn’t set off any metal detectors in airports. I was in a motorcycle accident that year.
                Well folks, I think that’s it for my Zamboanga experiences. Thanks for reading if you did and I hope I didn’t bore you too much. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Random Thoughts About Zamboanga – Part 1

These are random things I wasn’t able to cover in my recent posts about my trip to Zamboanga.
I had mentioned that I didn’t sleep well while I was in Zamboanga and not even on the flight back to L.A.  It wasn’t until I was in my own bed when I arrived on Thursday, September 13th, that I slept fitfully for 8 hours with some pharmacological help. Unfortunately, for several more weeks after that, I still suffered from insomnia. Before I left for Zamboanga, I would wake up at about 4 a.m. and could not sleep again. When I returned, I couldn’t fall asleep until 3 a.m., wake up at about 8 and my mind would feel cloudy the rest of the day until it awakened at about 7 p.m. 30 plus hours of jet lag is difficult to catch up with. Although I had a mild anti anxiety pill available while I was in Zamboanga, I didn’t want to take it because I didn’t want to be impaired in case something happened in the middle of the night. It turned out to be the right decision.
One of the more glaring observations I had in Zamboanga and perhaps that also goes for the whole Philippines, is the religiosity of the people. It seems like I’ve become more secular in my decades here in the U.S., that with the sudden exposure to so much religion, I experienced religion burn out after just a few days. There were so many rituals after someone dies and those rituals don’t necessarily serve the dead but just to make the living feel better about themselves. I apologize to the religious people for feeling that way. Despite my burn out on religion, I want to thank the Pabellon Family and Irene Hassan for their religious guidance.
Another major observation that was hard to miss was the kindness of people like the Tupaz and Pabellon families, the Mother Butler group, former classmates, relatives I haven’t seen in a long time, and even strangers. Somehow I had forgotten about the well known hospitality of Filipinos. Being a recipient of such hospitality, kindness, and compassion was a humbling experience. To the Tupaz Family, I heard that Mama was an investor in your company. In that case, she profited a thousandfold in the form of your kindness.
 I’m a loner by nature. I’ve never had so much face to face contact as I had in Zamboanga in the less than two weeks I was there. I had to brush up on my social skills rather quickly. Now, having returned to the U.S., I am starting to miss the human contact.
A few weeks before she died, my brother Larry told me that Mama gave away her handbags and shoes to the gay people operating a beauty salon next door. Then we gave away the rest later to the caregivers, helpers, and anyone who fancied anything. Each of Mama’s purses (and she had a lot) almost always contained a folding fan, a hanky, a rosary, and some money. I even found money I sent her two years ago. The receipt from the company I sent it through was with the money.
I use an internet appointment calendar and weeks before Mama’s birthday, the Memo To Me internet reminder service sent me an email saying that it was time to send money to Mama for her phone bill which I do once a year. Though I didn’t have to send money this year anymore, it still saddens me.
Another startling revelation was Mama’s remarkable memory. Even in her semi stuporous state, she would remind us what to do and even corrected the nurse in the hospital what medication she was scheduled  to take next.
           Thus concludes Part 1.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cholesterol - How Low Is Too Low?

This is not an endorsement of the product, I just like the warnings
How low should your cholesterol level be before it becomes dangerous and unhealthy? That was the question I had for my doctor after I got my cholesterol level results last week. After my chest pain episode last August, a routine blood test showed that my LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) had hit 130, which was at its upper limit of normal. So I was started on Atorvastatin (generic for Lipitor) 40 mg. and had been taking it daily for seven weeks. Well, the recent results showed that my total cholesterol dropped precipitously by 100 points in just 7 short weeks of taking the Lipitor. The LDL went from 130 to 44. My HDL (the good cholesterol), which was already good went up about 10 points.  I didn’t even think the huge LDL drop was possible so quickly. I thought maybe the consumption of fresh unprocessed foods in Zamboanga contributed to the decrease, but I’m sure, not by much.

 Of course I checked on the internet before my doctor’s appointment to find out how very low cholesterol might affect the body. Well there’s the increased risk of some cancers, anxiety, and depression. Hmm, none of those I want to experience. So I did what I thought a rational person would do, and that’s to catch up on my cholesterol intake. For the first time in years, I had chili cheese fries for lunch one day. I stopped eating those when my cholesterol started to rise about 5 years ago. I don’t expect to go overboard and start eating all the junk food available, but at least it’s good to be able to indulge once in awhile. In the meantime, my doctor said my levels were still within normal limits, although he ordered another cholesterol level in a month, and halved my dose from 40 mg. to 20 mg. This means I have to split the pill in half thereby saving me some money. If my cholesterol level goes down any further in a month, the doctor said he will decrease the Lipitor to 10 mg.
 When I first tried to split the 40 mg. pill, I thought I may have to use much force especially that it wasn’t scored in the middle. I was surprised at how easily I was able to cut it in half with the pill cutter. The smaller Lisinopril blood pressure pill is much tougher to split even though it’s scored. Well, I’ll let you know in a month’s time what the new results are. In the meantime, can I start eating fried chicken, eggs, and ice cream again?

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Return To Work and Workmen’s Compensation

It was back to the asylum this weekend

Just as my body was adjusting to reporting for work on the day shift (albeit sitting in a classroom for days), the occupational health doctor, the third different one I’ve seen in the three times I went to that clinic, took me off modified duty and returned me to full duty.
Well, it’s back to the old grind for me this weekend. As I reported for work Saturday night, I felt a slight apprehension, but as soon as I started doing the routine stuff, it was as if I wasn’t gone for almost two weeks. I guess the doctor was right. I was getting better despite the headaches. The problem with taking so many nights off from work was that I had to catch up with making chart packs for new admissions since others can’t seem to find the initiative to pick up the slack when I’m gone. Same thing happened when I left for the Philippines. Oh well, at least it’s good to know that they still need me for something.
Before I went to work Saturday night, I was back in Signal Hill that morning walking with the Long Beach Walking Club. I was in for a surprise. There were actually five of us with similar paces instead of just Cheryl and I. We were joined by Kelly, Kristy, and Victoria. Finally, a pack of sub 15 minutes per mile walkers. I managed to do some running too, doing so on all the uphills, while walking the downhills and the flats with the rest of the group. I ended up with an extra half mile with all the backtracking I did to stay with the pack. It made for a great workout for me because I was able to run short distances. According to my exercise log, the last time I ran was on October 4th (40 minutes) and prior to that it was in September while I was still in Zamboanga (30 minutes). See, that’s how irregular running has been for me that I don’t consider myself a runner anymore. My butt and hips were actually sore after all that running uphill. Running and working made for a good weekend.
                And then there are these workmen’s compensation forms I have to fill out. They are asking me about my medical history for the past five years, where I was treated, and what the diagnoses were. Another portion was asking to list whatever disabilities I had the last five years, and another asking for how many miles I traveled for treatment of my present injury, so I can be (hopefully) reimbursed for it. The form didn’t say how much they are paying per mile though or if it included just my trips to the doctor's clinic, or it also counts my trips to the modified duty classes. I included both. After trying my best to remember the purpose of my doctor’s visit for the last five years, I mailed the forms back. I guess I have to prove to them that my head injury is not a preexisting condition. Hopefully, I gave the correct responses. If not, I’m sure I’ll hear from the claims adjuster.
                Boring stuff, I know…well, except for the walking and running J

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Hard Drive Fail !@#$%^&*

As if I didn't have enough problems already, the hard drive on my Gateway laptop crashed early last week. Windows 7 gave a warning that the drive was failing so I scanned it for errors using Windows Error Checking and a couple of other hard drive checking software. None of them found anything wrong with the drive. After working a couple more days, the computer would no longer boot up. Since it no longer came with a CD/DVD of the operating system, I tried looking for a Windows 7 - 64 Bit rescue disk which I thought I had made when I first got the computer. Well, I'll be darned, but I didn't make one! Fortunately, I back up my files weekly and was able to restore them on an older Toshiba computer running Windows 7-32 Bit. It worked sluggishly though, but at least I was able to retrieve everything, even though the hard drive of the Toshiba only had half the capacity of the broken Gateway (only 160 gigabytes). After several tests, I figured the Gateway hard drive was unfixable.
I had a spare 250 gigabyte blank hard drive lying around so, using a free software I downloaded called Macrium Reflect, I was able to clone the hard drive of the Toshiba to the 250 GB drive.  I then removed the broken drive from the Gateway and replaced it with the cloned drive. Voila, it worked! I notice though that the cloned drive was only showing 160 GB capacity instead of 250 GB. After further internet research, I launched Windows 7 Disk Management and found where the missing gigabytes went. The cloning software had placed it in a separate partition which I was able to recover and assign a new drive letter to.
If I ever get a new computer, please remind me to create a rescue boot up disk first. Even though my weekly backups will continue, I have now copied most of my important documents to the cloud. I have Dropbox (2 GB free), Sky drive (7 GB), and Google (5 GB). Then I found out a couple of days later that I also had 5 GB free with Asus Webstorage!
A follow up: I was experiencing problems with the restored computer. While watching videos on the TV screen via HDMI connection, I was getting frequent BSOD crashes (blue screen of death). I couldn’t figure out the reason for it. It may have been an overclocked processor or overheating but I had a similar a couple of months ago while video chatting so it could also be and underpowered video card.
 Remember I mentioned above that I must have forgotten to make a rescue disk? Well, I was wrong because I found them. It was back to square one. I formatted the 250 GB hard drive and did a clean install of Windows 7–64 bit. I now have a fully restored “clean” computer. Anybody wanna buy it? Anyway, I apologize for boring you with all this technical stuff.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Long Beach Walking Club Pre and Post Zamboanga

Stanley Avenue hill with 13% incline

The week before I left for the Philippines, I joined the Long Beach Walking Club workout in Signal Hill. If you have followed this blog, you would know that I have walked with this group a few times before. There were a few more participants than usual and that was a pleasant surprise. As I was wont to do, I went ahead of everybody going up hills then returned to the pack afterwards. In the last couple of flat miles, I noticed this woman who was walking as fast as I was. I haven't met anyone in that club who could match my pace until that day. Since the walk was almost ending, we were only able to talk briefly, and this included learning that she originally came from Guyana. I know, I know, the only thing most people know about Guyana is that that's where Jim Jones killed his religious followers decades ago. I don't care to go into details so you could just please Google or Bing Jim Jones and Guyana, if you are interested to know about that infamous incident.
Fast forward to October 13, 2012 which I showed up for the walk again after having been gone for several weeks. Since the last time, I had been to the Philippines, seen my mother in her last days, buried her, came back to the U.S., only to be assaulted at work by a patient. Anyway, I seem to have digressed.
There were the usual walkers plus a couple of new ones I never met before. Also present was Cheryl, the one from Guyana who had a similar walking pace as I did. Wonderful! Now I'm really going to get a good workout with added company. We left the pack before the first mile except for Laura and her dog. She happens to be an AREC member but we didn't know each other. I've only seen her name mentioned before at AREC. So I quickly introduced myself and kept on walking. When we hit the first major hill, Cheryl told me go ahead and she would catch up with me on the downhills and flats. Not willing to lose her company, I rejoined her after cresting the hill. She did not go up on what we call Bonus Hill but she waited for me at the base. I was so thankful for that because that was the part of the course which I still haven't burned in my memory. We resumed walking together after I descended Bonus Hill. By this time Laura and her dog had gone ahead since she didn't do the extra hill either. And so it went - Cheryl would let me go ahead on the uphill portions then I would pace with her on the flats, which I estimated to be about 14:30 per mile pace. Cheryl and I talked about my recent trip to the Philippines and she told me about how her mother died a few years ago in Guyana. She moved to California recently after living in Maryland for a few years. We joked about her not responding to a jury summons from Maryland and that she may now be considered a fugitive, never able to return to that state again because U.S. Marshalls may be waiting for her at the airport. From what I gathered and I hope I'm not mistaken, she is a representative of a nutritional products company.
Anyway, we finished the walk way ahead of the pack and exchanged email addresses. She wanted to send me a You Tube link about high cholesterol and other alternative health information. While she waited for the others, I walked a few hundred feet to the very well known Rossmoor Bakery to check out their goodies. Nothing caught my fancy so I didn't buy anything. When I returned to my car and drove away, Cheryl was still waiting for the other walkers. My goodness, we must have set a really fast pace compared to the rest. Cheryl mentioned in an email later that she must have waited another 15 minutes or so before the others finished. She didn't have a choice because she hitched a ride from one of the other walkers and needed a ride back home.
By the way folks, the purported 900 calorie burn advertised for this Meet Up workout is grossly overblown so please refrain from overdoing the calorie replacement afterwards. Also, it's a wee bit short of the supposed 6 miles, but not by much. Maybe not more than a quarter mile lesser.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Days After The Assault

The days that followed the assault, I had to report to the Memorial Occupational Medical Clinic at Long Beach Community Hospital for a follow up check with the doctor. The doc did neurological checks on me (which the ER never did, by the way. Neuro checks are a must for any head injury!). Some of these checks are the same as what a cop would give you to test for drunk driving. I passed the tests but was still having headaches and occassional dizziness, so the doctor ordered me to be assigned to modified duty. When I submitted those orders to the Human Resources Department, I was told that the hospital didn't offer modified duty. However, in cases like this, they sent employees to a company called Healthpointe in the city of La Mirada, to attend safety classes while recuperating. I would be paid my regular hourly wages other than the night shift differential. A coworker was sent to these classes months ago and told me then what it was like. So the day after seeing the doctor, I reported to Healthpointe. The first person I saw looked familiar and he happened to be a housekeeper from the same hospital I work in. In fact I met him months ago when he helped us deal with a flood on the night shift. At least Juan would be able to show me around and tell me what to expect for the duration of our daily 8 hour stay at Healthpointe.
At exactly 8 a.m., we reported to the classroom which had a few rows of tables with computer terminals on them. The first thing we did was go to the physical therapy gym for stretching exercises, but you could do pretty much whatever you want to do for 15 minutes, be it lifting weights, using the stationary bike or treadmill, or walking outside. After that, it was back to the classroom for what would be a whole day of watching videos with lengthy pauses in between. Lunch was from noon to 1p.m. then it was back to the videos until 4:45. Then it was back to the gym for 15 minutes, then time to go home. This happened on Wednesday where one of the nurses at the front desk had to do double duty of doing her regular job and showing us the videos (the poor woman). The next couple of days were better because the lady who conducted the class was more structured. In between videos, we were given reading material, then had written quizzes on them. As much as I don't like taking tests, at least it made the time go quicker.
Before I went to class last Friday, I had to go back to the doctor at the Occupational Clinic for a reevaluation. A nurse practitioner saw me instead and gave me another neuro check. Everything was okay except for the huge migraine headache I experienced the day before (my first one ever!), and a bunch of milder ones since the day I was punched. The nurse said that was to be expected and that the headaches would diminish over time. She did give me another 3 days of modified duty and another follow up appointment for this coming Wednesday (10/17/12). If I'm feeling better then, they may return me to full duty.
In the meantime, while I've been attending these safety classes, with my sleeplessness at night, I've learned to act like a cat. You may infer what you wish with that one.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

An Assault With No Visible Triggers

I've been working in Psych Units since 1981 and as psychiatric workers (nurses and mental health workers) we are trained how to manage assaultive behaviors (MAB). We are taught to watch for signs of an impending assault so it can be nipped in the bud, so to speak, before an assault happens, and the cycle that follows. When we see a patient starting to get agitated, we could intervene verbally and/or with medications to calm him/her down so that a full blown assault doesn't happen. Basically these are the steps to an assault: Baseline behavior where a patient is acting normally, a trigger which gets a patient agitated, the assault itself if the patient perceives that his/her needs are not met and attacks somebody, the recovery phase when the agitation declines, then back to baseline when the patient is acting normally again.
So what can you do when the usual signs of an assault cycle do not exist like it happened to me? There did not appear to be any triggers when the patient jumped off the bed twice nor when he tried to punch the respiratory therapist. Certainly none when he punched me at least three times on the head and face, since I was only helping him go to the bathroom. Whatever triggers all appeared to be hidden in the patient's mind. How does one defend from that especially when the patient exhibits baseline behavior right before and immediately after the assault? It was like turning a light on and off.
The doctor could have ordered a tranquilizer after the patient already tried to strike the respiratory therapist, but was concerned that it may impair his breathing if he fell asleep. But that was why I was assigned to watch him 1 to 1, so in case he had breathing problems, I could intervene by at least repositioning him or calling the nurse for assistance.
With the patient's history of assault, I believe he should have at least received a sedative. That may have prevented the attack on me and at the same time, I could have observed him all night to make sure he didn't go on respiratory arrest. Instead, I had to go to the emergency room at 4:15 a.m. to be checked out while leaving the patient alone with his breathing problems. I ended up not leaving the emergency room until close to 8 a.m.
So what happened to the patient after I left him? I don't know and I really don't care. What I care about is my own health because without it, I can't take care of the same kinds of patients who may or may not try to hurt me.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Assaulted By A Patient On The Medical Floor

October 9, 2012. 03:50 a.m.
Twenty four hours ago, I became a victim of an assault at work. A patient I was watching on the medical floor punched me on the back of my head and face while I was assisting him in going to the bathroom. But first let me backtrack to the events that led to this assault. I reported for work in South Campus and saw that one of the mental health workers had to float to 1 South. I checked the log book  to see whose turn it was to do it and it was me. I drove to the main building and when I arrived in 1 South I was assigned to watch an elderly Filipino man who the staff reported created no problems during that day, although he had acted out the day before, becoming violent because he wanted to leave the hospital. After getting a snack and receiving his medications, he went to bed and I thought it was going to be a long but easy night for me. At about 10:30 p.m. a nurse discovered another patient having a seizure in his room and the Rapid Response Team was summoned to check him. This patient was just transferred earlier in the day from South Campus for assaulting another patient. He had a previous history of having an adverse reaction to medications causing him to become unconscious. In fact a few days before, he was in ICU because of that. The family also reported that this has happened while the patient was not in the hospital.
 After being evaluated by the doctor, the patient was ordered transferred to the medical floor (2 North). He had apnea and had to be hooked up to the Bi-pap machine. A staffmember was needed to watch him for breathing problems and in case he throws up while hooked up to the machine. Having no other options, the nursing supervisor pulled me from my duties of watching the elderly man and sent me to 2 North to watch what turned out to be a crazier version of Mike Tyson. At first there was no problem because the patient was very sedated from the medications he got earlier in the evening. He was even taken to the radiology department to have a CT scan of the head done, and a chest X-ray in his room to make sure he didn’t breathe anything solid in his lungs while he was having a seizure earlier. Well, after all those tests were done, the patient suddenly woke up and jumped over the siderails of his bed to the ground. He was convinced by the staff to return to bed. As the respiratory therapist was trying to hook him up to the Bi-pap machine, he kept taking the mask off. He was given a regular oxygen mask instead. Then out of the blue, he got up and tried to punch the respiratory therapist. A code gray was called requesting assistance to control an assaultive patient. It was the beginning of a long and difficult night for me.
Due to the recent reactions the patient had to medications, the doctor didn’t want to order anything to sedate the patient for fear that he would go into respiratory distress (I’m assuming). Just a second after the patient tried to punch the respiratory therapist, he looked calm as if nothing happened. He jumped off the bed a second time. A second code gray was called. Again, just as soon as the patient was agitated, he was quiet again. This was a dangerous sign because he was unpredictable and could strike at any time without provocation. Still, a sedative was not ordered. The rest of the staff went about their business after that and I was left alone with the patient. He was also hooked up to an IV and he kept punching numbers on the keypad of the IV machine. When I asked him what he was doing, he glared at me and told me to leave him alone. I checked with the nurse to see if what the patient was doing would affect the operation of the IV machine and he said it did not, so I let the patient do whatever he thought he was doing. He even got angry at a nurse when she told him to put his oxygen mask back on.
The patient fell asleep for about an hour or so, but woke up suddenly at 3:50 a.m. wanting to use the bathroom. I lowered his siderails, unplugged the IV machine, then as I was ready to escort him to the bathroom, I felt a very hard punch land in the back of my head. I felt another one near the same area, then on my left cheek. I yelled for help as I was falling to the floor and a bunch of staff showed up at the door. Then just like a couple of hours earlier, the patient appeared calm right after he assaulted me. He even gave me a urine specimen that the nurse asked me to obtain from him earlier. He was finally placed on soft restraints which I wasn’t sure was going to hold him because he appeared to be too strong for them.
In the meantime, I had other concerns. My head was throbbing and I was dizzy from the punches. I felt a bump where the first punch connected in the back of my head and had some pain on my left cheek. I told the nursing supervisor that I needed to go to the employee injury clinic as soon as possible because I was afraid that I had a concussion. He asked me if it can wait until 7 a.m. because he didn’t have enough staff to cover the patient, and I said it couldn’t. He went to get the paperwork. When he came back, he asked me to fill them out while he contacted the clinic. He planned to have the hospital van take me there because I couldn’t drive myself due to the dizziness. I learned much later that the clinic was supposed to have a shuttle to pick people up but it wasn’t available and not only that, there was no doctor available at the clinic. The nursing supervisor managed to get authorization from the administrator on call to have me treated at our own emergency room. I was escorted there at about 4:15 a.m. and more paperwork had to be completed. Soon, I was evaluated by nurse Jack whom I knew from being floated to the ER once in a while. He obtained an order for a head, neck, and face CT scan. Funny to think about it now, but other than getting my vital signs, neuro checks were not even done on me, nor a doctor see me until was discharged several hours later.
So I was assigned a bed and while waiting to be taken for the CT scan, I just sat there and read a magazine. Pretty soon, I got a text message from Michelle, one of the nurses I work with at South Campus, asking how I was doing. Our charge nurse Jim was checking for possible admissions from the ER and saw my name as a patient there. They haven’t heard about what happened to me. I texted Michelle back saying I was waiting for the CT scan because a patient punched me on the head a few times.
After waiting for more than an hour, the radiology technician showed up and escorted me to the CT room where she took the three ordered tests for the head, neck, and face. She was the same technician who did the CT scan hours earlier, of the patient who assaulted me. After the scan I was back in my ER bed to await the results. My headache and dizziness were still present but felt lesser. Michelle asked me if I needed a ride home and I said I would let her know. Feeling less dizzy an hour later, I told her that I may be able to drive myself home and thanked her for her offer.
Change of shift came at 7 a.m. and I was still in the ER waiting for the CT scan results. This was the worst time to ask a nurse for it as hospital workers would agree, so I just waited until night shift to day shift report was done. I checked with Olga to ask her if radiology is going to call in the results or if they had to check the computer if it was already in. She said they just got the results and the doctor was reading it. Then Jim, my charge nurse and Paulette, the psychiatric emergency team nurse (she was working the ER that morning) showed up to check on me. I told them what happened and that I was just waiting to be cleared by the doctor. A few minutes later, a doctor came to ask me a few questions while I asked him a few as well about my condition and CT results. He said I might have suffered a mild concussion since I didn’t lose consciousness , I was not disoriented, I answered his questions without hesitation, and didn’t have nausea and vomiting. Those were all signs of a concussion by the way. He offered me Toradol for the headache, but I declined fearing it would impair me from driving. He said it wouldn’t but I said no anyway, saying I would just take a Motrin when I get home. After that, with Paulette facilitating the paperwork, I was discharged from the ER. I’m glad she didn’t put me on a 5150 – 72 hour hold J.
My long night wasn’t over yet because I still had to report to the nursing supervisor to find out what to do next with this workmen’s compensation issue. He gave me an authorization for treatment at the employee injury clinic and I was finally able to clock out from work close to 8 a.m. I called the clinic asking them if there was a time limit after the injury for me to show up and the lady said no. I’m planning on going there today for a follow up and see if I can be cleared to return to work tonight barring any complications the rest of the day.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Returning To Los Angeles From Zamboanga

Goodbye #59 Pilar St. - My home for two weeks.

(Cue music: J. Cole’s “I’m Coming Home”)
Thinking back to the night before I left Zamboanga City, I am hoping we had met all our dear Mama’s wishes before she died. I can’t think of anything we missed so I’m comfortable in thinking that we had done all she asked for in her last days and the few days that followed. Would you believe that a couple of years ago, Mama told me her goal was to reach at least the age of 80? Well, she planned that perfectly too. Incidentally, that happens to be my goal also. That evening, Larry and I invited the Pabellon and Tupaz families to dinner at the Grand Astoria Hotel Lotus Restaurant. Other than the children, this was the same group that planned Operation Pilar two weeks before and executed the plan to a T. As I mentioned before, these two families were the source of moral, emotional, spiritual, and physical support of Mama in our absence. We cannot thank them enough for what they have done to help Mama the past few years and especially the last few months, when the demands of her illness most likely also put a strain on those two families. We will owe them a debt of gratitude forever.
Dark and early Thursday morning, it was time to catch my 6:45 flight from Zamboanga to Manila. The compulsiveness to exercise will have to be satisfied later in the airport terminal hallways. Larry drove me to the airport taking a slightly circuitous route along Cawa-Cawa Boulevard. If I only knew that going all the way down Governor Lim Avenue took me to the seaside boulevard, I would have made that one of my exercise destinations too. Maybe if I ever make it back to Zamboanga, I’ll be able to run or walk along Cawa-Cawa. Larry dropped me off at the airport and and I felt sad as we hugged each other goodbye. He was staying a day or two more to tie up any loose ends. I was left to fend for myself one more time. You won’t, and I can’t believe how much dependent I had become on other people in the two short weeks I was there. Taken out of my element, I had become helpless and useless in Zamboanga.
Pretty soon Airphil Express departed Zamboanga City and landed in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3. I had plenty of time to make it to Terminal 1 as I had a four hour layover. I asked an airport worker and a desk police officer where I could catch the shuttle bus. They pointed me to a certain direction. I went there and boarded the bus which left quickly because I filled the last seat. During my arrival a couple of weeks before, I had taken the shuttle from Terminal I to Terminal 3 without any problems. A few minutes into the trip, I noticed that we appeared to be going farther away from the airport so I asked my seatmate where the bus was heading to. She said Baclaran. Oops, that’s not where I wanted to go so I approached the driver to make sure. Sure enough the bus was heading downtown, so I quickly jumped off. How was I to know there where two kinds of shuttle service (one that went around three terminals and one that took you downtown)? I hailed a taxicab and asked to driver to take me to Terminal 1 where I was supposed to fly on Korean Airlines back to Incheon and L.A. I requested the driver to please turn on his meter since he hadn’t in the few seconds I was in the back seat. He started a conversation about his missed opportunity to move to Italy a few years back. Without being too specific, I told him why I was in the Philippines. Thankfully, the conversation was short because I had not been dropped by the shuttle bus too far away from NAIA. It was an 85 peso taxi ride (about $2.00).
I entered Terminal 1 and looked around for the Korean Airlines counters. Owing to my disorientation, I lined up behind a couple of people not noticing that one of them was in a wheelchair. Another oops because this was the handicapped line and I was redirected by an airport worker to the proper line. After checking in, I headed to the nearest money changer and except for a few hundred pesos for the terminal fee (550 pesos) and in case I had to buy food, I exchanged everything back to dollars. It was about that time that Leonard called and offered condolences. He only heard about Mama’s passing that morning via Facebook (the same way he heard I arrived in Zamboanga two weeks before). We chatted briefly and wished each other well. He said he may visit the U.S. again soon.
After that, I queued in the Immigration line and when I got to the counter, the lady asked me if I had changed the spelling of my last name because it didn’t appear in their database.. I said that when I became a U.S. citizen, I connected all the letters of my last name. I was then cleared to enter the departure area. I walked past the duty free stores and snack concessions and found my way to the Korean Airlines gate. I had about 2 hours to kill so I went back up front to get some food. I ate some overpriced arroz caldo with tough to bite chicken leg and a siopao. With still more time to kill, I decided to put in my walking workout by traipsing up and down a long hallway between the concession stands and the departure gate. Each way took about a minute and 15 seconds so you can do the multiplication on how many laps I had to take to finish 35 minutes. As usual, I was pulling my luggage while walking, just like I did at Incheon and Terminal 3 a few weeks before. The airport workers who were at their permanent posts were probably thinking how crazy I was (they were not completely wrong). At least I was able to satisfy my obligation to my body for the day and not miss a workout.
I don't know exactly what this was but it appeared like people depicting a wedding party was walking through Incheon Airport
The three hour flight from Manila to Incheon was pretty uneventful other than an old lady behind me getting mad at me for reclining my chair too far back which almost spilled water on her. I tried to get some zzz’s to no avail. I initially had the row of three seats all to myself until a man transferred from his more crowded row to take the window seat in mine. We had a couple of hours layover in Incheon so I connected to their wi-fi to check email and Facebook. I was out of cellphone range with either my U.S. Virgin Mobile service or Philippines SMART service so when the flight from Incheon to L.A. was delayed almost an hour, I had no way of contacting my neighbor who was supposed to pick me up at the airport. Since she works for Southwest Airways, I was hoping she was tracking my flight online. With that delay, I got a little peckish so I looked around the airport and found something familiar: Subway sandwiches. First I asked if they accepted dollars and how much the tuna sandwich was. The half sub size was $4.00 which I think would be similar to the U.S. price.  At least the Koreans did not overcharge, not like the 10 plus dollars hotdog, chips, and soda I got at LAX.
Before we boarded the plane to L.A., we went through another security check and this was probably because it was the anniversary of 9-11 and also because of the killing of the diplomat in Syria. This was slightly more rigorous since the x-ray machine wasn’t used but rather, security people opened our bags. Having passed that, we left rainy South Korea. Another 12 hour endurance event for the buttocks stuck in a 36 inch wide seat. At least that was better than the 32 inch seat of domestic planes. Speaking of buttocks, I noticed that despite the downsizing of toilet paper through the years in the U.S. the Koreans still appeared to have full sized ones. Or maybe the TP just looked bigger because the plane lavatories were too small. While the majority of passengers went to sleep between meals, my mind was constantly turning on and off, thus denying me the pleasure that others were too glad to partake of. Lack of sleep would be my norm to this day regardless of airplane seat or my own bed. My sleep patterns have been majorly destabilized.
When we arrived in LAX, we had to take a shuttle bus from where the plane dropped us off to the main terminal which was about a couple of miles away. Interesting twist there. While still on the plane, I texted my neighbor Colleen that we just landed and when I was at the Customs line she texted back that she was circling the airport while waiting for me. Fortunately, Customs didn’t hold me up and was soon waiting for Colleen outside the arrival area. While waiting there,  a lady asked to borrow my cell phone to call her daughter. They spoke in a language I didn’t understand. Was I happy to see Colleen and her son Kenny driving up. Finally, something and someone very familiar. I was back home. (Cue music: Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”)

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Setting The Funeral Wheels In Motion

Minutes following Mama’s passing, Kuya Vic, Ate Chit, Caloy, Madie, and I gathered around and contemplated our next move. Vic called La Merced Funeral Parlor to consult with them what to do next. We then went to La Merced and told the person in charge that we needed to transfer Mama to their facility. He summoned another worker and they brought a guerney to their truck and followed us home. There, they transferred Mama on the guerney and took her back to the funeral parlor with me riding shotgun. Mama was placed in a room next to the embalming area. I guess they had some regulation that required them to wait a certain number of hours before they can start the embalming process. Someone mentioned that it was to make sure there was no spontaneous resurrection. Caregiver Neneng and helper Andrea arrived at about 3 a.m. to keep watch over Mama while I went home to contact my supervisor and rebook my flights. Kuya Vic mentioned earlier that it was important to keep watch because there have been instances in the past where organs were harvested illegally. The ubiquitous stray dog(s) was also seen hanging around the funeral parlor so that was another cause for concern in case their hunger got the better of them. Sorry about being so morbid here. In the meantime the Pabellons and Tupazes gathered information on the proper paperwork to fill out and submit to authorities regarding Mama’s death. Nothing else could be done until after 8 a.m. that morning.
Sending an email to my supervisor wasn’t a problem. My Cebu Pacific Airlines ticket wasn’t refundable or rebookable so that was as good as lost. Scouring the Korean Airlines website, I didn’t find a page which allowed me to rebook. Instead, a message popped up saying that the Philippine government does not allow online booking for international flights. I had to find the Manila phone number of Korean Airlines and promptly gave them a call. Telling them my situation, they were able to rebook me for Thursday with the same schedule as my Monday flight. Just after the rebooking was confirmed, the load on my cell phone ran out! Thankfully I already received the confirmation number, although I was still doubtful. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I felt reassured, when an email confirmation with a new eticket arrived.
I returned to La Merced at about 7 a.m. to relieve Neneng while awaiting the arrival of Larry. The other caregiver – Joanna arrived shortly to join Andrea and I. I was relieved to see Larry walking down the hallway towards us. Together we went to look at Mama. Quiet prayers were said, then Mama was taken to the embalming room. Larry and I went to the office to find out options for visitation rooms and caskets and that was taken cared of at that time. Caloy and Madie arrived with a government social worker who came to verify the demise of Mama so that a medical officer could issue a death certificate. The Pabellons came shortly and together with Larry, we picked a casket for Mama based on her prior instructions. Then they had to leave to follow up with more paperwork. Larry said he even had to obtain a cedula. I added some load to my cell phone at a store across the funeral parlor, then a chain of text messages was sent around to relatives and friends regarding Mama’s passing and Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita came by the funeral parlor to join us.
After the embalming process, Mama was dressed in the clothes that were chosen two days before, then placed in the casket. Initially, the workers brought the wrong casket, so we had to show them the one we picked. Mama was then brought upstairs to an air conditioned visitation room (only one of two, I think). By afternoon, flowers and visitors began to trickle in. The chain of text messages had done its job.

We had decided beforehand that the visitation would only be two days so the burial was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Prayers and masses were arranged, the details of which were pretty much a blur to me by that time because I hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours. I just assented to what people were telling me. About 9 p.m., as Ate Chit was saying something, I felt dizzy and had to excuse myself to go home. As usual, I didn’t sleep well despite my exhaustion.
I managed to do my walking workout on Tuesday morning after which I humped it all the way back to La Merced (running and walking) because I was running late, and I had told Larry beforehand that I would be back by 8 a.m. to relieve him. I was running low on pesos but found a money changer nearby which was also a booking agent for Airphil Express Airlines. That took care of two things at once and saved me time. Visitors came and went thru late Tuesday evening. I met relatives and family friends whom I haven’t seen in years or met for the first time, and got phone calls and text messages from the rest who were not in Zamboanga. Thank you all for your condolences and offerings of prayers.
I left briefly and went home to get a small pillow and my earplugs because I planned on staying at La Merced that night. It was Larry’s turn to get some shuteye  at the apartment, but he stayed with us that night too. So it was Larry, Neneng, Mary Cate, Andrea, Erning’s family (sorry I forgot your names), and I who stayed overnight with Mama.  We secured the visitation room door, barring the two handles with an umbrella just like Larry did the night before, then took turns sleeping on the pews.
When I awoke at 5 a.m. Wednesday, Larry was already up. It was raining outside and I had no raingear. I also only had one pair of running shoes which I also wore for the rest of the day. I couldn’t get those wet because I had to wear them for the funeral later that day, so I mentally prepared myself to missing my first workout in 30 odd years. Then I started walking in my slide sandals, doing laps around the second floor of the funeral parlor and pretty soon added the stairs (only one flight though) until I reached my requisite 30 minutes, then added 2 more for good measure. My exercise streak lives on! If it was still a running streak, I'm not sure if I would have been able to continue it since running inside a funeral parlor seemed inappropriate.
I went home for a quick shower then returned to La Merced bringing the clothes I brought from the U.S.  for this particular purpose. Even though anticipating the death of a loved one is difficult to think about, and of course you don’t want it to happen, I still had to be realistic based on reports I received before travelling back to Zamboanga.
Prayers led by the Mother Butler group
Hours passed, relatives and friends came, a rosary was recited and pretty soon, it was time to transport Mama to St. Joseph’s Cathedral for the funeral mass. Remember I said I thought I may not be seeing my Notre Dame classmates again real soon? Well, some of them showed up that day too. I can’t say much about the funeral mass because it was another moment of blur for me.
Funeral Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral
 The video that our cousin in law took pretty much portrayed what happened accurately. Thanks again Boni Salinas. I shall post that video again below. We were transported to Forest Lake Cemetery after the mass where I saw Papa’s burial site for the first time since I attended his funeral. I thought that happened 11 years ago and I was grossly mistaken when I saw his headstone dated 13 years prior. Brief services and blessings were conducted and Mama’s casket was soon lain on top of Papa’s.

While the workers covered up the grave, snacks were passed around to the attendees (thanks to Ate Chit for taking care of this). They were purchased from and delivered by KFC (yes, folks – Kentucky Fried Chicken). Mama would have been smiling about that blend of Filipino tradition and American commerce.

Goodbye Mama. We Love You Very Much. Thanks For Everything You Have Given Us.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pilar’s Last Days

Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita

Mama hardly said anything if at all from Friday through Sunday even though visitors came in and out through the day.  Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita were there every day. Others who came to visit were baby Annika and her mom, Carmela Marfil, Leonardo Wee, Irene Hassan, Vic and Chit Pabellon, the Mother Butler group, Caloy, Madie, and their children of course, who just lived upstairs, and other people who escape my mind now, so please forgive me if I forgot to mention you.
Annika - Apo sa tuhod
We purchased a bulb syringe to try to clear Mama’s throat of phlegm or saliva when she started choking from drinking fluids. She was also having difficulty swallowing by this time and took all her energy just to sip water from a straw when taking her medications. Because of the heat and humidity, the caregivers changed her clothes frequently which was no easy matter because these were house dresses and not hospital gowns. Under the circumstances, we did our best to keep Mama as comfortable as possible.
Mama was on oxygen by nasal cannula all day and night. By Friday, the oxygen was running low and Caloy with his trusty handyman, Erning found a wrench in case we had to switch the regulator from one oxygen bottle to a backup one if the delivery of a new bottle didn’t come on time. It turns out that the regulator came with its own wrench as Larry told us. We just had to find the box it came in. I tried transferring the regulator to the backup bottle but heard some hissing indicating a leak. Fortunately, the oxygen company delivery guy came shortly and showed us how to detect a leak by using soap bubbles. It turns out, I only had to put more muscle into it to tighten the valve. Well, we can always learn something new every day, can’t we?
With Madie and Ate Chit present on Saturday, they went through Mama’s dresses to pick out what she would wear at the end. They knew Mama’s preferences very well and picked out a pretty cream colored ensemble that Mama would have approved of.
With Notre Dame classmates at Palmeras Restaurant on Notre Dame day.
I had to leave Mama for a couple of hours Saturday night because my Notre Dame of Jolo classmates invited me to dinner at Palmeras Restaurant. It was going to be a mini reunion on Notre Dame Day!  Mimi and her son picked me up and we encountered the worst evening traffic on the way. The car could barely move at the corner of Nunez Street and Governor Alvarez Avenue. What normally would have taken 10 minutes took half an hour. The same group that met me at Amil’s the week before was there minus Nayda, but plus Delia and Fatmawati. Earlier in the day, Delia sent mangosteen, homemade durian preserve, native organic Jolo coffee, and itlug payukan (I will not translate that last one because it’s supposed to be illegal obtaining them anymore), to Mama’s apartment. We had Japanese cuisine that evening which I offered to pay for but my classmates declined again. An equivalent of less than 75 dollars fed 10 people Japanese food with much left for doggie bags! A great time was had by all but we had to say our goodbyes pretty soon. People don’t spend too many late nights out in that city. I thought it would be a few years before I would see my classmates again.
I was driven home by Mimi and her son after dropping off Delia at her hotel. I checked on Mama and the caregiver said she hadn’t complained of any pain while I was gone so I was relieved to hear that.
Sunday, I was out for my early morning walk again then attended mass at St. Joseph’s cathedral, where I saw Mama’s doctor with her family up front. On my way back home I stopped by Morning Sun Satti House to say goodbye to Solomon because I was leaving early Monday morning. I invited the Tupaz family to lunch and we went to Lantaka Hotel’s Sunday smorgasbord after they went to mass at 11 a.m.
A view from Lantaka Hotel showing the Port of Zamboanga and Santa Cruz Island beyond
When we returned home, the morning shift caregiver – Joanna reported that she was concerned about Mama’s low blood pressure so we monitored that closely through the day. It went as low as 70/40 which was cause for much concern even though Mama’s pulse was strong and constantly in the 100 to 110 range. When Joanna got that low reading she burst into tears. I rechecked it and it was similar even though I got 82 for the systolic. We couldn’t really do anything about it. Mama was having what is called fluid volume deficit due to lack of fluid intake, not to mention food. I told her to hang on and that I was leaving the next day to go back to the States, and that Larry will be with her in a few days time. But I had a feeling at that point that Mama wasn’t going to let me get off that easy in leaving Zamboanga. I can only imagine what she was thinking (“oh no you’re not!”). So I made a mental checklist of what I had to do if the inevitable happened while I was still there. Since arrangements for Mama were already done, all I had to do was contact my work supervisor via email in case I had to extend my leave, and rebook my flights. I also made a backup plan for Auntie Beth in California to call my supervisor in case she doesn’t get my email over the weekend. As for Mama, we can only monitor her. Because of her difficulty swallowing, I told the caregivers to hold all her maintenance medications because those were inconsequential at that point. Basically they were blood pressure and acid reflux medications plus multivitamins. Her blood pressure was already too low and there was no acid reflux because she wasn’t eating. She had to reserve all her energy to take the pain medications because that was all that mattered now.
I tried going to sleep but because of the situation, I couldn’t. I expected a phone call or text message to come at any time, and it did at 1 a.m. The text message from Neneng just said “sir Noel”. I rushed to Mama’s apartment and saw that she had started gasping for breath. It was no longer the usual the respiratory pattern I had observed consistently during the past week that I had been there. I held her hand, felt for her pulse with the other and detected that her pulse rate had slowed down considerably. I whispered to her that we loved her and that it was okay to let go and to say hello to Papa for us. Part of me felt like getting a panic attack and getting out of there to avoid the situation. In Mama’s last few moments, I prayed to God to help her go peacefully and to give me the strength to handle the situation and not freak out. Thank you God for being so accommodating. Drawing one last deep breath, Mama left the earthy world and to her Maker’s hands, also reuniting with Papa, no doubt. The date was September 10, 2012, 1:05 a.m.
I called and woke Larry up a few minutes later and told him our Mama was gone, and he prepared to return to Zamboanga on the next available morning flight.

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