Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines, July 22, 2017.
I convinced myself that I was okay. What happened in Jakarta was just a random and extraordinary event brought about by a bad stomach and a series of stressful situations that ended with an upset body.
I arrived in Bohol, pretending that not a thing happened. I acted like a self-assured adult, Googled all the symptoms I felt and read through countless articles on almost anything – from GERD to diabetes to TIA – that could potentially explain what happened. I subjected myself to a series of blood tests (which I ordered on my own, by the way) and saw that my results are within the normal range. I was trying everything to convince myself that I was okay. It helped that three weeks after the Jakarta incident, nothing unusual happened again.
But then, it happened again.
I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, and as people these days share anything on the platform, I saw that one of my friend’s husband, James, was rushed to the hospital. James was driving from work and felt the numbness in his left body. He stopped at a gasoline station at the side of the road and dialled Tina, his wife. The next thing he knew, he was in the emergency room of the hospital. James was lucky; he was able to stop his car and called his wife, who was doing her groceries two blocks away. James had a stroke.
As I read through the post and the many comments wishing James well, I felt a sense of numbness in my left leg. My heart beat faster. I was sweating all over. My body was practically mimicking what I have read from the Facebook post I just saw. I panicked.
I read from somewhere that deep breathing can work wonders. So I took a deep breath in, then out.
In, and out. In, and out. In, and out.
For a minute or two, I was gasping for air. I didn’t feel tightness on my chest, so I reckoned this couldn’t be a heart attack. I raised both arms, remembering Pehm’s instructions at that episode in Jakarta. “
“Miko, you are fine. You are okay. You are not having a stroke.”, I tried to assure myself.
In, and out. In, and out. In, and out.
“Please, Lord, not now. Not yet.” I prayed hard.
After some time, I moved my legs. The numbness was gone. The sweating subsided. I was okay.
Again, I didn’t tell anyone. I was then at my home library taking a break by Facebook browsing after a few hours of intense work. My wife was just upstairs, and our househelp was at the kitchen preparing dinner. I can’t make my wife worry over something that I only imagined. If it were indeed a stroke, I would know later, just as James did when he woke up at the emergency room.
You know, I had self-doubts. Was I just imagining things? Or was it real? I used Google again and searched for mini-strokes, how it feels, what the symptoms are, etc. I became intensely worried, especially when I read that there are such things as silent stroke. I decided to see a cardiologist the following day. When my wife asked why I just said it’s about time. I am already 42.
I was ordered to take a series of tests. I have not had a full check for a year, so I decided to have a thorough check-up. The day after, I was at the medical laboratory early in the morning to have my blood samples taken. All my results, including Xray, abdominal ultrasound, blood tests, ECG, and so on, were ready the day after. I went through all of them, researched their meanings, and felt relieved. I seemed to be okay.
I was anxious when I was waiting at the doctor’s clinic for my appointment. The receptionist asked me to approach her and took my temperature and blood pressure. My temperature was okay. My blood pressure was relatively high, at 140 over 90.
The doctor was calm. He told me stories and told me to relax. He retook my BP, and it went down to 120 over 80. He told me of my risks and advised me to take some medications. I asked him if my risk of heart attack or stroke is high. He told me that based on my results and his overall assessment – it’s relatively low.
I was relieved but was worried at the same time. If I am okay, so what then was that feeling three days ago? Maybe I was just tired, I told myself. Perhaps that was just an isolated case. A relative said that it must only be “kabuhi”, a local term that does not have an exact English translation but is something related to the gut. She told me to go to a local healer, but I didn’t bother.
That was not the last incident, though. There were several after. They usually occur when I was doing nothing – like when I was in a queue at the airport, attending mass with my family, riding on a bus, and similar incidents. And every time they occur, I just convince myself that I am fine, take deep breaths, and think about my wife and kids. They need me. So God won’t make me die just yet.