Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 18:
The loss of a friend:
When the doctor asked me do I have any contact with Hildas family the implications were only to clear. There it was smack bang in my face the dreaded realization that Hilda may not live through this ordeal. When I heard Doctor Herera asking me this it was like my whole world collapsed and I was at a total loss for words. This was the first time I had been confronted with the possibility of death so close at hand and I realized how sheltered my life had been up to this point. In answer to the doctors question I remember feeling woozy and experiencing the blood drain from my face. I remember the doctor offering me a seat and as I gratefully accepted it I mumbled something about meeting Hilda in a bar and even though I did not know her family maybe her friends or her mamasan in the bar could help.
Looking back on it now I am sure I sat in the corridor for a couple of seconds in a sort of daze then my own sense of self preservation kicked in and next thing I knew I was promising doctor Herera that I would go back to the Mayfair hotel and try to get some sleep then after that would go to the bar and try to find out some contact details for Hildas family. Doctor Herera asked me for the number of the Mayfair and then assured me should there be any developments in Hildas situation she or a fellow physician would contact me. With that said doctor Herera strode briskly down the corridor towards an endless stream of patients requiring her attention.
I remember walking slowly down the corridor feeling like I was doing some sort of death march with all eyes upon me. I remember the guilt ridden questions flooding through me. Was this situation somehow my fault, what if I had stayed in the hotel with Hilda instead of going out bar hopping then this would never have happened. What if I had never bought the damned Malaria pills, what if I had never taken Hilda down to Boracay and spent so much time with her. These and a thousand other questions pounded through my brain and I was still in a state of shock when I reached the hospitals front door and emerged into the bright sunlight and repressive humidity that is a hallmark of Manila.
Hailing a cab I made my way back to the Mayfair hotel and when I entered I could sense a sort of hushed expectancy in the air as if everybody staying there had heard about mine and Hildas troubles and were awaiting to hear the outcome. I walked into the reception area where uncle Ken and David Goldshaft were waiting for me and gently guided me towards one of the plastic chairs in the courtyard. David looked at me and said “you look like you could use a good strong drink and some sleep mate”. With that he handed me a Scotch on the rocks and a cigarette which I gratefully accepted and proceeded to unburden my woes upon my new found friends. I remember David and Ken listening intently as I recited the news of Hildas condition and then David put his hand on my shoulder and said, “mate there’s nothing you can do right now. Hilda is in the doctors hands so the best thing you can do is try to get some sleep. In the meantime I will go to punchline and try to find out some contact details for Hildas family. Now get your ass upstairs mate and get some sleep”.
I am not sure how long I slept for but I remember waking up to the bedside phone ringing and the voice of my favorite receptionist telling me she had received a call from Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and she was to inform me that Miss Hilda was experiencing complications and my presence was required at the hospital immediately. Upon hearing this I felt an emptiness in the pit of my stomach and as I shook off the clouds of sleep I mumbled a sort of thank you to the receptionist, hung up the phone and headed for the shower. Thirty minutes later I was jumping out of a taxi and rushing through the doors of PGH heading towards the ever crowded emergency room. I must have looked slightly crazed because when I entered the emergency room the doctors reeled back until I caught sight of the orderly I had seen before and I asked him slowly “where is Hilda”? Once I had lowered my voice the Filipino staff didn’t seem so scared and the orderly responded “come with me Mr Martin I will show you.”
I followed the orderly down a series of corridors through some plastic swinging doors and then suddenly there I was looking through a glass window at an operating theater with Hilda lying on the operating table. I asked the orderly what are they doing why are they going to operate and he informed me that Hilda had been experiencing convulsions and they had decided to operate. I could hardly believe what I was hearing let alone seeing so I asked him for more details and he informed me they had to now remove the baby then simply walked out leaving me to gasp in awe as they operated on Hilda
I have always prided myself as having a fairly strong stomach but to see someone who had been so full of life and someone who had been my lover and friend just lying there totally helpless being operated on broke me down and next thing I knew I was sobbing uncontrollably. I could hardly believe this was the Hilda who I had spent time with frolicking on the beautiful white sands of Boracay, making love in the crystal clear waters as the moonlight shone down from the heavens above, drinking banana smoothies while gently swinging in a hammock underneath a coconut tree and simply lying in the bed after a particularly heated love making session exploring each other bodies, minds and souls. This woman who was my lover, my companion and most importantly my friend and now here she was lying deadly still on an operating table with her life force slowly ebbing away.
I must have watched Hilda for about twenty minutes hardly believing what I was seeing. How could this possibly be happening just because of simple quinine pills, I was struggling to come to terms with the thoughts and feelings bombarding my head when all of a sudden Hilda began to shake and convulse. Oh no what now I thought, surely this couldn’t get any worse and just then the convulsions started to get more intense and I remember thinking my god this is like something out of the exorcist. I watched Hilda helplessly for what seemed like an eternity and with each convulsion it felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest then just as quickly as they had started the spasms stopped, Hilda opened her eyes and seemed to look in my direction, then she smiled and I could have sworn I saw her whisper the word goodbye. With her final words said Hilda gently closed her eyes again and slipped away into whatever awaits us on the other side of life.