Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 17:
Hospitalization for Hilda:
The sudden realization of what Hilda had done hit me like a sledge hammer as soon as I saw the mostly empty quinine bottle and as the implications began to descend on me I felt the room spin and next thing I knew I was sitting on the bed trying to get some sense of normality through the thick haze that seemingly enveloped my brain. A million questions assaulted my mind, why had Hilda done this, had I done something wrong driving her to overdose, how many pills had she taken and what was going to be the effect, was this a suicide attempt or was she just crying out for attention, what effect would this have on her unborn baby? These and a hundred other similar questions bombarded my shell shocked brain. At this stage in my life I had, had little dealings with emotional women let alone an emotional Filipina with a serious case of anxiety and a flare for the dramatic, so as a result this was all shocking to me and I had no idea to handle it.
After what must have been about 5 minutes but seemed like a life time the shock of what had happened began to wear of and I was left to deal with the practicalities of the situation. Slowly I got up splashed some cold water on my face from the bathroom sink and then set about thinking what would be my best course of action. I decided that my friend the guard would have most of the information so the first person I should go and see was him. Quickly I checked to see that I had my wallet with some money and then bolted out of the room to find the guard and ask for more details about what happened. I found him downstairs and within half an hour I had a somewhat garbled story of how Hilda had rung reception from the room and asked for help. Apparently the quick thinking receptionist had made her way up to the room to discover Hilda lying in bed nearly unconscious so she had ran down stairs and organized the guard to carry Hilda out while she got a taxi in which to transport Hilda to hospital.
With this information gathered I was now able to form a picture of what had happened and although a little bit relieved that the situation had been taken care of seemingly very effectively I was still full of questions which needed answering. I asked the guard did he know what hospital Hilda was taken to but he had no idea and what’s more the receptionist who had escorted Hilda to the hospital had finished duty and there was no way to contact her. Upon hearing this information I resigned myself to the fact that there would be nothing I could do until the morning when the receptionist reported for duty so I decided to head up to my room in the vague hope of getting some sleep before I had to tackle the problems tomorrow. I thanked the guard and on the way back to the room I asked Mario who was doubling up as front desk counter person to write down a note asking the receptionist to ring my room as soon as she came to work in the morning.
That night the questions bombarded my head and it soon became very evident that sleep was a luxury not to be afforded to me. I remember sitting on the end of the bed in a sort of daze waiting for the phone call but by this time the questions had ceased and my mind was in a kind of empty void. All I knew was I had to get to the hospital, see Hilda, and give her what support I could. The phone call eventually came at around 630 jolting me out of my stupor and I raced down to the receptionist who informed me she had taken Hilda to PGH (Philippine General Hospital) where she had been admitted into the emergency room. I thanked her profusely for her prompt action and walked outside to hail a cab. Surprisingly I managed to hail a cab straight away and I told the driver “PGH and step on it”. The driver immediately sensed I was in a hurry and step on it is exactly what he did. Despite the ever present crawling traffic we managed to make it to the Hospital within twenty minutes and I hurriedly gave the driver 100 piso then raced into the emergency room.
I don’t know if anyone has noticed but emergency rooms all over the world seem to smell the same, it is a sort of antiseptic sterile smell and this is exactly what hit me as I walked through the doors of PGH emergency room. Inside the room was a scene of carnage with bleeding bodies being wheeled around on gurneys that looked like remnants of the Vietnam war, kids huddled in the corner screaming at the top of their lungs, worried relatives with tears in their eyes and pained expressions on their faces and most importantly a team of doctors who seemed to be everywhere at once without breaking a sweat or without any expression on their face.
I stood there for what seemed like ages until an orderly asked me. “yes sir can I help you”. I told him I was looking for a lady named Hilda who had been admitted earlier that morning. He looked at me and replied, “sir we are very busy but if you wait for a while I will see if I can find her for you”. This was hardly good enough but given the circumstances there wasn’t much I could do but accept his offer so I made my way to a plastic white chair situated just outside the emergency room. Very shortly the orderly came back and said, “sir we have found her please follow me”. With that he proceeded to walk away towards a plastic door in the distance with me hot on his heels. He led me through several doorways and we eventually arrived at a large room where there were about 20 people laid on beds. I slowly scanned the beds until I saw Hilda and walked rapidly over to her.
Hilda had always been a delicate yet lively girl full of life and a sparkling personality but when I saw her lying on the bed with an oxygen mask and drip inside her arms I nearly fell down from shock. I looked at Hilda but could hardly believe this was the same lady who had frolicked with me on the beach at Boracay. She seemed so pale, frail and sickly. I looked at Hilda but her eyes were closed and she was breathing lightly. I slipped my hand into Hildas and gave her a little kiss on the cheek but no reaction. I very gently aqueezed her hand and whispered in her ear that I loved her and which point I think I saw her eye lids twitch but apart from this Hildas was totally unresponsive. I sat there for about 3 minutes just holding Hilda’s hand trying to get a response from her but Hilda was seemingly comatozed and I realized there was something very wrong here. I looked around for the orderly but he had dissapeared and the room was empty apart from me Hilda and the other patients. This situation was wrong, very wrong and I resolved then and there to find a doctor and find out why nobody was doing anything to help the girl. I walked out of the room but was unable to find anyone to answer my questions. Eventually I managed to make my way back to the emergency room where I found the orderly who had originally shown me to Hilda so I asked him, “what is the progress with my girlfriend Hilda” to which he replied, “I don’t know sir but if you would like to take a seat I will find out”. I informed him that I would go back to the room to be beside her and if he could kindly send a doctor there to explain things to me that would be very much appreciated. He smiled at me and with an assurance that he would not be long and strode away towards some unknown destination.
I made my way back to the ward where Hilda was and just sat on the bed holding her hand telling her I loved her and pleading with her to wake up but once again she was totally unresponsive. After about half an hour a female doctor with a name tag that said Doctor Herera came in and straight away I asked her, “Doctor what is the situation here, why wont Hilda open her eyes or respond to me and what can I do to help”?Doctor Herera could see my very obvious concern and keeping her voice level she replied “Sir before I answer your questions I need some information from you. Now I need to know what were the pills she swallowed and how many”? I told the Doctor Hilda had swallowed quinine tablets and I think she had taken about thirty or so. The doctor wrote this down and then asked me how many months pregnant Hilda was to which I replied seven months. The questions went on for another five minutes until finally she seemed to have finished grilling me so I asked her excuse me Doctor what exactly is Hildas condition now and what are you going to do to help her. Doctor Herera then replied in a pensive but calm voice, “Sir it looks like the pills have killed the baby so we will have to take the baby out and then we have to concentrate on Hilda herself”. When I heard this I asked the Doctor well that sounds fine but why haven’t you done that already and the doctor explained to me that operations cost money and before they performed any operation on Hilda they needed to know whether or not I would pay for it. When the doctor told me this I was quite naturally shocked having come from a country where they put a persons life before money but this was the Philippines and this was to be my first lesson in the importance of money throughout all levels of Philippine society. I rapidly assured the doctor I would pay for the operation and gave her my name and the address of the Mayfair hotel. With this assurance now given Doctor Herera gave me a weary smile and then asked “excuse me sir one last question” yes I replied somewhat exasperated, sir do you have a way to contact miss Hildas family”?