Because Phyllis and I plan to be nurses, we pay attention on how to attend to the gravely ill. From Mrs. Sayo we learn what they should eat, how to change the sheets of someone who can’t leave the bed, how to shield them from dust, light and noise, but to be sure there is circulation of air. There should be a table beside their bed, and a bell if they need to call you. We take notes word for word.
Then the best part: “Take a shoebox and create the diorama of a proper sickroom.” We carve two windows and make tiny curtains to close and pull open. I paste a little sheet to matchbox bed, plump up a little pillow, and set it facing the window. On the table beside the bed, mom helps me create a lamp out of origami paper. This is really makeup since houses have florescent overhead lights. Most of us have cared for someone in our family who was gravely ill, but we never arrange the room like this.
My mother emails me as we communicate about illnesses:
Are you writing about the time you saved my life? I had stepped on a nail in the street, wearing toe shoes (flip flops). The nail had gone right through the sole into my foot. It swelled up and became infected. I went to the doctor (not Reyes), but probably at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital where we had our doctors. I got two shots. One was an
antibiotic (possibly penicillin to which I was allergic, as learned from having it used by a dentist) and the other was an antihistamine in case I was allergic to the antibiotic. And I was given pills to continue the treatment.
I got the pills mixed up and took two of the antibiotic and one of the antihistimine. I realized immediately what I had done and began to fear the worst. I began to tingle around my nose and ears, my first signs of an allergic reaction. Then my mouth. My face broke out in a rash. The rash began to go down my throat, my arms, my body. I couldn't swallow or breathe correctly. Dick wasn't home and wouldn't be for several more hours. You were the only one there. Someone called the doctor. Maybe I did, and, I think, this was Dr. Reyes.
I lay down on my bed and if I was absolutely motionless I could slowly breathe. You came and sat with me. You sang, and talked, and prayed. While you were there I could relax, remain motionless, didn't choke, and the rash didn't itch so much. At some point the antihistamine was expected to conk in. The rash continued down my body, slowly, slowly. Then, finally, it stopped at my knees. You sat there, holding my hand, until, at last, a doctor came and gave me another antihistimine shot. It had been almost two hours. Dick came home.
Always the hula girls stun us with joy and envy as they sashay onto the concrete court in grass skirts and skimpy tops. Florence Nightingale Perez is the reigning queen of the Polynesian shimmy.
We are the impossible contrast to the Bayanihan dance troop, who model the pandango sa ilaw, tinkling, and general repertoire one should finesse as a Filipina.
So that when Eve Ensler creates One Billion Rising to end violence against women in our new century, it comes with dance instructions in the Manila, with school kids in an industrial park in Marikina, out-door aerobics in Baguio and the Pride March in 2012.