It was all downhill since March 27, 2012 when a scab from the healed grapelike bunch of vesicles on ASI’s breast was rubbed off while bathing. The matter was not reported as the bleeding from the open wound was easily stemmed. It was morning of March 29, 2 days later, when ASI woke up to find her clothes and hammock blood-soaked!
No amount of pressure could stop the spurts of blood which came in synch with intense pricking pain! Dr. Sta. Maria came to the rescue with an old remedy which effectively stopped the bleeding. It was after lunch when, on checking the wound, ASI’s husband was shocked to find maggots crawling under the dressing! Surprised, he managed to get only 4, as the rest crawled back in from where they came from.
At outset, the flies which abound in their area, particularly when poultry was being harvested, had been of great concern to me as the family seemed to take their presence matter-of-factly. I had cautioned ASI and husband to make sure there were no flies in the room when cleaning/treating her breast because of the danger of infection. I had not known that ‘dahil madilim ho sa kuwarto’ they had taken to doing the cleaning and dressing all through these past 9 months out in their open space, and ‘ngayon lang ho nangyari ito.’ The difference? This was an open wound. Working under a mosquito net would have at least kept the flies at bay.
For lack of resources, the ordered antibiotics were started only after noon of March 30. The hydrogen peroxide treatment which seemed to have flushed the maggots out was continued. All in all, 16 were removed: 6 more by late afternoon, another 4 before bedtime. Except for the last 2 found the following morning, ASI’s husband had managed to keep the presence of the first 14 maggots from his wife. ASI said she had wondered why when the excruciating pain came, it seemed to move to and fro.
Checked by my brother, the extreme tenderness in the breast area was of grave concern and for which ASI was given a referral slip to the provincial hospital for proper medical management. In spite of the funds provided to cover transport and medical expenses, ASI procrastinated about going to the hospital: said she felt well, did not need to go, might, but probably after the Holy Week. I told the husband how crucial immediate treatment was, considering how greatly ASI had deteriorated since I last saw her, how I was worried that the worsening infection could become septicemia, that she needed hospitalization, antibiotics by IV, and blood work-up to find out extent of, and curb, infection.
It was already April 3 when ASI was finally brought to the hospital. I had hoped for the hospital to attend to the festering infection. But the referral was not addressed, first, because chemo was not completed ‘daw’; second, the tumor was too big. It was suggested that she first undergo chemo. As the daily trip for a month-long out-patient radiation therapy suggested by an onco surgeon was not feasible considering ASI’s weakened condition, a second antibiotic, Avelox 750 mg for 10 days, was prescribed for ASI. Breast tenderness eased by day 3 of the double antibiotic. She even felt well enough to go ON and OFF her lapay/KKtea. I was hopeful, prayed it was not too late.
But 3 days later, an unexplainable waist pain!! Prescribed pain killers did not help any although chewed-on KK quarters afforded relief. But the pain progressively got worse: she could not even sit up to empty her bowels. It was April 30 when barely eating, weak, and confined to her hammock, that ASI stopped communicating, and just stared.
Then on May 2, she pressed her lips together, refused food and water. I enjoined ASI’s husband to respect his wife’s decision. She had fought hard and long, gone through so much already, and also knew what her family had gone through because of her illness.
When I visited on May 3, her pulse was racing, her breathing came fast and shallow. She gripped my arm and clutched my hand as I sat beside her hammock. I would like to think that she did still recognize me.
I advised they send for a priest before I Ieft.
ASI passed away on May 4.
May God rest her soul.