Saturday, June 23, 2012

honest mistake

I was nearly defeated yesterday.

After nearly four and a half hours of waiting and calming down my nerves, I was finally called to step inside the consultation room where my new doctor would conduct her follow-up. Pleasantries were exchanged and a few niceties, she then proceeded to ask me, “Would you like to know your CD4 count?”

Of course, who wouldn’t want to know? Would I subject to a round of extraction that inevitably led to an obvious hematoma just to pass off my number?

I nodded silently. So she looked at my CD4 baseline written on the paper stacked in my medical folder and then pulled down afterwards the result paper folded neatly in thirds.

“Ok,” she said as a matter of factly, as if she wanted me to tell something really important and also wanted to ask what have I been up to for the longest time that I haven’t been around.

“Are you stressed? What’s your work?”

So I told her my job in one word and she was quite impressed as her lips drew a thin line from side to side. It was a fleeting smile though because the figure in the paper seemed more important.

“Ingatan mo ang sarili mo ha. Bumaba ang CD4 mo.”

Then she showed me the bottom part of the paper and encircled the number. As soon as I come round after the number glared at my face for a good ten seconds, I slipped into listlessness as I was plastered on my seat. I tried hard to listen to the doctor while she tells me what I should do and ask me more about my work. This while I wrestle the rumbling of my own demons victorious.

All I can hear as she try to speak and write were prophylaxis, another CD4 count on July, and Cotri. The rest were distant murmurs as I stare blankly at the wall asking whoever Supreme Being is hearing me if there was something wrong with me, or the meds, or the whole treatment. “And I thought ARV works wonder?” I asked myself.

I was about to give up when I finally picked up my jaded optimism and entertained an ounce of doubt. As the doctor scribbles her way onto the paper, I was looking at the medical result rotated 90 degrees from me that I was reading in reverse.

I noticed a blunder: “20/M.” It was the age. I’m not 20. Underneath that, the birthday: “**/**/90” I wasn’t born on that month. Neither was I born in 90s. Those two errors, the age and the birthdate, were enough.

“Doc, result ko po ba ‘yan kasi mali po yung age and birthdate?”

At first she was up on defense and said yes, that was mine. But when I insisted that she move her arms a bit so that we could see if the patient code on the paper her arms was covering really matched with my code, there goes the brouhaha.

Fastforward. It wasn’t my result. She was apologizing for the honest mistake committed and went outside to ask the nurse where my result is. She left. In those few minutes that I was alone in the room, my hope was renewed. It was a time I savored because after all I wouldn’t be in that situation if I did not side with my disbelief. She came back with my result and everything turned upside down.

“Buti na lang napansin mo. Ayan, tumaas count mo. Pasensya na talaga.”

I wouldn’t go finger pointing. It's no use to berate her or at the very least sneer a snide remark because knowing the real result, a favourable result that is, was enough vindication. There’s no point staging a scene. Doctors do make mistake. Though they should be least of the people and professionals making one, they’re not insulated from it.

Initially too, I should have seen my MD at lunchtime but even before noon, the nurse already informed me to come back again at three in the afternoon because she was busy with immunization.

“Babalik na lang daw siya ng three. Hindi na siya magla-lunch. Pupunta na siya dito kaagad.”

It’s really useless to act up and prove to them how traumatic it was to me to be informed that my count tremendously dropped, that as if the whole medication routine has gone awry despite the personal effort of religiously drinking the pills, rescuing myself all year round, and prayers lifted. There’s no point to blow off my head because the mere thought that she hasn’t eaten yet just to assist the patients was enough to trigger my soft side.

I left PGH at sundown, while revisiting what happened inside that room: Doctors and nurses aren’t infallible as well. They commit mistakes. They shouldn't but they do. They get stressed out and wade through a deep ocean of human angst just to get their work done.

And, they skip lunch too.

Taft Avenue was cooler at dusk. I headed home after I finally downed my book and my playlist of fifteen songs looped to around five or six times while I was waiting. As I wolf down a burger before riding home, I remembered the doctor and nurse. They might still be there. In the hospital. While I fill my tummy. They're still there. Working. Curing. Saving lives. On an overtime.

As for what my count is now, I’m not keen in sharing. But it was a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

how gym saved my life

I never saw myself inside the gym. Ever since I came across the reality that most men, or gay men perhaps, are beefing it up inside these watering holes, I thought I'd rather be a deviant on my own and just be comfortable with my skin.

But that changed after my condition presented a new light.

Few weeks after I got off my bout with Nevirapine rash, I thought of trying to put on some poundage. I've always been a slim guy, weighing pathetically at 98 pounds. A few good home work added four to the scales. But still, if I'd consider my BMI, I'm still underweight.

I can't really express the impulse that took over me that night, but for reason too incomprehensible for me, I just walked to a nearby local gym, held on to my guts, and the rest was history.

Spare me the common knowledge. Yes, I do know and have heard of backdoor rendezvous happening inside gyms (or because of the gym) but I know where to put my place. I prefer to maintain urban solitude than to yap with other gay/straight men while heaving and ho-ing with weights at the bench press.

Of course, this one post will and cannot downplay the reality that some go there to ogle over other gym-goers, savor the visual feast, and far worse, prey on unwitting figures. It's a reality every gay man knows. It's an open secret. Some go to the gym because it's a bid to notice and be noticed. That's the prevailing milieu across the gay culture.

I still find it a bit awkward when I go to the gym and find too many men hitting it up with steels. Men everywhere. They, the trace of humidity due to their manly sweat, and their somewhat misplaced bravado. Probably because my main setting is "snob." I find it tad uncomfortable when a walking testosterone walks up on me and try to dig up a chat be it in a gym or somewhere else. So I didn't go during the usual peak hours. I prefer when the gym is a total abandonment and no one’s there. I reworked my circadian rhythm. Now being a morning lark, I get up early and do my routine in the morning on weekdays. No one goes there during those hours. And with no one around, I feel much more at ease.

I took the effort of going to the gym to regain a sense of self. I don't know, but, ever since this condition bit me, it seemed like I lost a sense of well-being. It appeared to me that I was careless about my health, considering the one too many complications that you get with HIV.

I couldn't be too brooding for the longest time. I have to be productive. I have to exert effort to turn my life around. And so I went to the gym. Stuck with the routine. Slept right. Ate right. Jugged glasses of protein. I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs. Those are off the list at the get go. The most that I can do is to gain weight. Working out taught me to be disciplined. To be persevering. And to push myself when I think I can't do it. Put simply, gym saved my life.

Not every gym goer wishes to sculpt his physique to have a rough sweltering oral sex (at the very least) in the showers. Not everyone does it for vanity's sake. Vanity will be there, yes, that's given. But that's not everyone's priority.

Half a year into this routine, I gained 26 pounds now. I sit somewhere between 123 and 126. Not bad for a six-month change of perspective.

Whenever I peer at myself in the mirror now and accidentally see old pictures of mine while cleaning my files, I couldn't help but grin. I see improvement, and it feels really nice.

I'll be continuing this routine for only God knows when but as long as there's a room for improvement I can go on despite the muscle soreness.

I guess to a PLHIV like me, going to the gym has a deeper sense. I do not simply want to look good. It's my way of picking up my shattered sense of health and trying to make best with this virus that will be with me for the rest of my life.