Now that my brother Larry has decided to make his condition public via a new blog he started (ikidney.blogspot.com), I feel that I am free to disclose it as well, though with a heavy heart.
It was with much surprise last month when my sister in law informed me that my brother was in the hospital. After all, last time I saw him, he didn't exhibit anything that would show he was sick. Yet there he was, confined at the National Kidney Institute in the Philippines. I've always tried to avoid asking him about his health because I assumed that if there was something wrong with him, he would take care of it with the help of my sister in law. It was already bad enough that people who haven't seen him in awhile always mentioned his weight so I didn't want to be impolite and add to what my brother was already aware of. With his weight and our family history, I already suspected that he might have high blood pressure and diabetes, but I was confident that he was at least keeping those under control. So when I was informed that his kidney function was down to 5% and he needed a blood transfusion plus regular kidney dialysis for the duration, it was shocking news to say the least. The first questions in my mind were what was the rate of survival and is he still able to produce urine. Next question was what other alternatives he had other than hemodialysis.
While my sister in law Ninette gave me updates via email and MagicJack calls, I really didn't grasp the severity of the problem until Larry started writing about it. I have a tendency to be stoic which most times comes off as being cold, detached, and unfeeling, so my initial response is to get the facts and try to digest them objectively even though it involves loved ones. That was the same way I responded to my mother's illness. But when I read it from Larry's own perspective, the cold reality started to hit hard. Life has thrown another curve at our family. As his doctor has told him in no uncertain terms, it's dialysis or death.
I may be older than Larry by five years but I admire him because of what he has accomplished despite inauspicious beginnings. With my parents, he survived the 1974 conflagration of Jolo. But like me, he had troubles adjusting to life in college in Manila while away from our parents, however he was able to surmount that. After that initial bump in the road, everything seemed to have worked well from college in Western Mindanao State University, Masters in the University of the Philippines, working in Zamboanga, then Xavier High School in Metro Manila in the last decade or so, most recently as a New Technology teacher. He was also able to do some extensive traveling with Ninette which is something I've never been able to do due to financial constraints. I also admire him because he inherited the public relations skills of my father and the compassion of my mother. This is not to discount my admiration for my sister-in-law who has a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
Since I moved to the U.S. in 1980, my brother and I were in touch infrequently and because of our age difference, I was already gone from home when he was just 10 years old, so the normal close bonding between siblings didn't really materialize, which is regretful now. It was only during last year's visit to Zamboanga in the last days of our mother that we achieved that connection in the short time we were together. There, I learned how to appreciate him more for being someone you can confidently rely on. Mama had the perfect idea when she said it was one of her last wishes.
Now, Larry is facing this challenging new journey in dealing with end stage renal disease. The cold hard fact is that with dialysis, the usual life span is 4 to 5 years, so the better option is to find a kidney donor. With the abundance of her love for my brother, Ninette has offered one of her kidneys. This is something that is being explored at the moment and we can only hope and pray that it plays out and works out well for both of them. So with strength and determination, Larry and Ninette are forging ahead together.
Hey, here's a message to you Bro: I love you and you've got to outlive me because after all you are the sole beneficiary of my assets now that Mama is gone, so you better get well despite the odds, okay? I'm not sure if that's a proper message to send but that's just my irreverence talking again as a defense mechanism.