‘Bato’ of All ‘Bato’

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Sundown of Friday’s last September 21 saw Mr. Sun, with his ever effusive smile, lingered for a while, slowly retreated across the sky’s expanse, dipped a salute and kissed Baguio’s westward horizon, that signaled close of another working day for daily laborers in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1.

For this bearded laborer who couldn’t accomplish anything, he shut the computer, intending, too, to call it a day. But physical pain at his right side, slightly at his back and which started three days ago, throbbed again.

Ah Kong, no stranger to pain, wondered like a darned fool what caused the pain, but gave it  less attention, hoping the  ache would skedaddle  in time and leave him be.

It didn’t happen. Instead of subsiding, and like a woman who can change her mind instantly with temperamental pout, the pain instead smashed into Ah’s backside with intense and excruciating ferocity.

Ah waved away the nausea of pain and wished it away, but the pain waved back at him and instead of leaving, dug its claws at his underside like a malevolent creature from hell.

He thought he could bear the pain, dahil akala niya malalaki siya. Dead wrong, he was. The pain, surging in waves, made him vomit and hammered him to his knees. About 9 o’clock that evening, bearing it no longer, he called in one of his sons and his wife to bring him to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC).

At BGHMC’s Emergency Ward, doctors tried to determine what’s wrong with old fool, Ah. One doctor started by asking questions, particularly where the pain originated. Ah pointed it was at his back just below his ribs.

This doctor pressed the back of Ah and the pain roiled in intensity. Ah was forced to say “Aaaah,” in vain effort to suppress the pain.

Another doctor, a charming lady that made Ah squirm into a smile despite his pain, got Ah’s blood pressure, which showed it shot to 150 over 80.

Another doctor wanted to know by disputing Ah’s if the pain really originated at his back.  He said, “Is the pain coming here,” and pointed directly at Ah’s penis or scrotum. Aaah, this doctor, talaga, very suspicious, very funny, with a sense of humor.

Ah protested vehemently the pain didn’t come in the direction of his penis or scrotum.

The doctors pulled their heads together and conferred in hush-hush tones. Doctors talaga. If within earshot of patients, they speak in lingo no patient can understand, like they’re members of a secret society in secret talks while eyeing their patients suspiciously.

They decided on blood tests, siphoning blood from Ah’s vein and sent immediately to the laboratory.

They wanted to know if the laborer has venereal disease or HIV.   Results came in: all negative.


Then one of the doctors came over and informed him they suspect a kidney stone the reason for all his troubles.

Still, they wanted confirmation through ultra-sound examination.  The doctor who pressed his back injected a pain killer for Ah and prescribed some medicines and instructed the laborer to return to BGHMC the following day.

So back to BGHMC the next day, in the company of Bridger, Ah’s son who accompanied him that Friday.

Subjected to ultra-sound, the doctors suspicion was confirmed. To make confirmatory reading, the laborer was subjected to CT Scan. Confirmed.

Bridger sought a urologist from BGHMC for the next move.  Dr. Carlos Dumlao advised the laborer be confined immediately.

Accustomed to working on the fields, being confined in four corners of a private room at BGHMC is like being a caged animal.

How many days would he be confined, nobody was telling. Nurses would ward off his queries with sweet smiles and words of encouragement and say, “Your doctor will tell you.”

First confinement day. This daily laborer already felt pangs of freedom, to be out in the world, heckle at the devil and dare the creature from hell into a boxing bout.

When one’s confined, hospital staff are eagle-eyed, keeping tab on patients.

Wanting out of his room, this laborer went up to the nurse station and informed them he’d just take a walk around BGHMC compound for thirty minutes.

Since he wasn’t under dextrose, the nurses allowed him – but only for thirty minutes.  Trouble was, he exceeded staying out. By that time, nurses were scrambling around to locate him.

Second hospitalization day. He tried another gimmick, telling nurses he was only going to buy biscuits. But this time they knew his tomfoolery. He wasn’t allowed out.

A marked man, a fugitive, always inventing reasons to creep away from his room, a “takas boy”. To make him stay put, nurses, on doctor’s orders, finally inserted a needle in his veins and hung a dextrose near him. End of escapade for this laborer who thought he could hoodwink hospital staff.

It was explained previously by Dr. Dumlao the laborer will undergo Ureteroscopy, a method of treatment for small to medium-sized kidney stones, patient under general anesthesia.

In the procedure, the urologist passes a small scope through the urinary opening into the bladder and from there up into the ureter, the small tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder.

Often a small tube, called stent, will be embedded in the ureter to help the kidney drain after operation.

But the stent can cause throbbing pain, while embedded in the body.

It wasn’t the procedure that bothered him. What bothered Ah so much was: will his pubic hair be shaved at the Operating Room? If so, will it be done by a female nurse or female attendant, perhaps?

Ah knows too well that it’s medical standard procedure for pregnant women about to give birth to be shaved of their pubic hair.

But for a man like Ah to be shaved of his public hair.  Well, Caramba! That’s unique experience!

How does a man feel shaved off his pubic hair? Will he feel naked?  Well, only way to find out is  let the doctors shave away.

How would he be shaved, Ah pondered. Will they leave some of his pubic hair as memorabilia, or will they shave it all? Will they shave the way a barber shaves beard?

When you go to a barber for shave, the barber asks: “Uno, Dos, tres?”  Uno means clean shave, dos means barber leaves a stubble of beard, tres means edges of the beard will be snipped off only.

His mind conjured ideas that after the kidney operation, he’ll strut around like a rooster in the office of the Herald Express and tell employees and staff that he’s the only one who gained the experience of having his pubic hair shaved off.

And that Herald Express manager, Joe Manzano, jolly as ever, will give this laborer the nickname, “Mr. Nakarosan.”

Third confinement day. He was wheeled exactly 7 o’clock AM at the operating room and laid flat. A sheet was raised above his stomach to cover the doctors moves. An anesthesiologist gently rolled him, did something at his back and in a few moments, Ah couldn’t feel anything from his waist and below.

This laborer tried to catch drift of the doctors’ conversation milled around but failed, he, fading between consciousness and unconsciousness.

At over 8 o’clock, he was transported into recovery room. As he gained consciousness, he tried to lift his legs but couldn’t. His lower body was still girdled by anesthesia. Soon after, he was returned to his room.

Only to be informed the following day the operation didn’t end as planned.  The “bato”, curse of his pain, and floating in his ureter, retreated into his kidney after it was slightly nudged by the scope.

Good news however, the kidney stone wasn’t attached to his kidney, which would be something more difficult to extract.

For now, Ah will have to contend with the throbbing pain the stent is causing until he undergoes another operation which is the shock wave procedure.

And surprise of all surprise: the doctors decided not to shave his pubic hair at all.

Going home, Ah wanted to forget the pain the stent was giving him and decided for a bit of travel to Lamtang, La Trinidad. Along the road side, he saw an old man he estimated to be over 85 years old crying.

He went over to the old and asked, “Anya kadi ti problema, Apong?”

The old man pointed to a house nearby and said, “Kasaano saanak agsangit ket binaot-baot nak ni tatang ko!”

Boy, but oh boy, the old man still had his father. So he said, “Ala, bayam ta mapan ko ka-tungtung ni tatang mo.”

Ah went over to the house and saw an old man he estimated over a hundred years old. “Lolo, binaot mo kanu diay anak mo. Adda idiay kalsada, agsangsangit.”

The aged father replied, “Salbag nga ubing! Kasanu saan ko nga baoten. Imbes a tulungan na ni Lolong na nga adda idiay garden nga ag-gabgabyon ta maimula ti patatas, barbarsaken na ketdi ni Lolong na iti patatas. Binaot kon ah!”

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