Potassium and My Precious Life


FOUR years ago, I was hospitalized for what I thought a stroke, but the real thing was that, it’s not.

I was in the Philippines for vacation when my father succumbed to his sickness.


All of us will die, how, why, and when, no one could predict. Doctors sometimes gave predictions to terminally sick person but actually none of us knew, when will we be gone.


My father died at the age of eighty-six. Many said a beautiful age to go. I am not sure what was a beautiful age to go, for really behalf for some few, who ended their lives by suicide or euthanasia, no one really wanted to die. Life is so precious and adorable that we all cling to it as long as we could. To the family, departing of a loved one, they may young or old were all the same, painful and sorrowful.


My father was long sick of Alzheimer/Dementia. It was a torture to see him suffering cause of the sickness. An intelligent man, I see him as GOD when I was a young girl. I was proud of him especially when my classmates in high school gave compliments like, ‘your father is tall, dark and handsome.’ Even in his burial, one commented seeing my father’s photo, a recent photo on top on his coffin. The comment was, ‘your father look liked a senator, he looks as a prominent someone.’


I loved my father, but I’ll admit I am not always there for him. I lived far away, and he with my mother were under the care of my younger sister. Every month, I sent support money and would only hear stories about how they were.


My father like to drink Coca-Cola and to eat grapes. My sister would tell me a story about every time, when family visited him, and brought him grapes, my father would ask, ‘so you harvested grapes from our plantation?’ He thought that he owns a vineyard. In his mind when he became sick with Alzheimer, all the dreams he dreamed did come true, and having a vineyard was one of them.


I see how my father cling to life and it hurts. It hurts more when he was gone. My mother was gone five years earlier, so I have no parents anymore.


I am telling about this departure of my father because it has something to do with what happened to me.


My best friend, a teacher was so enthusiastic about one of her students. She was a teacher in the elementary school. One day she asked her students a question. The question was, what is the most precious thing in the world?


She received different answers. From expensive cars, to real properties, to jewelries, to gems, but the answer of one of the students, surprised her.


“Life, Ma’am,” was the answer of the student.


“Life? Why you think life is the most precious thing in the World?” my friend asked her student.


“Because Ma’am, how could you know other things were precious, when you’re dead already? A dead living thing had appreciated many expensive precious things, but the most precious thing she or he own was his life,” the young student answered.


Life, yes, I totally agree with the young student. My mother died, when she falls down and sad to say, she was not brought to the hospital only after she asked for it; but then it was too late, the clotting of blood was the cause of her death according to the doctor. I have to come home for her burial, hurt and disappointed when I heard, what happened to her. There’s a kind of negligence but who was to be blamed?


The bind, that bond us eleven siblings were no more, and the spreading happened. Scattered far away from each other, communications among us siblings were seldom, and so, the seeing with each other.


I am on vacation in the Philippines with Albert. Albert went back to the Netherlands for reasons I understood. Months of staying in the Philippines with financial problems, he wanted to return immediately to Rotterdam but he said to me that I could stay if I like to spend more times with my family. I chose the last. I wanted to be with the family for more few months.


Almost one month that Albert was back to Rotterdam, when my father was confined in the hospital and three weeks later, he died.


Albert wanted very much to attend the burial of my father but circumstances won’t allow it. We really have financial problems, and he could not afford to buy a flight ticket. We both retired earlier before the maturity of our pension, and our monthly income was almost down. We lost both more than half of our monthly income, and to think, that we also have a loan in the bank that must be paid every month.


In Rotterdam, Albert took parttime jobs to boost our financial income. From working in the Post Office as sorter, to figurant actor on a television serial production. He would send money for my expenses until I would decide to come home to Rotterdam.


The death of my father also brought a lot of expenses, and Albert have to borrow from friends to send more extra money to me.  


After the burial of my father, I prepared to comeback to Rotterdam. Albert was again looking for money for my flight ticket; but then I noticed something strange is happening in my body. I am always tired, and that my heart would beat fast, especially, when I go to sleep. I tried to ignore the irregularities of my heart beatings, and also the crazy dog that almost every night would go to the gate of our house and kept howling.


Filipino ancestors have traditions, and beliefs that were passed from generation to generations. It could be superstitions that’s what I thought by myself, but when things they were talking about manifested, you could have your doubt.


When a dog faces a house, and just kept howling it means, in that house someone will die. My ancestors especially my mother strongly believe on it. Another belief was that if one family member died, another family member would also die within three months.


If these beliefs were true, after my father’s burial someone in the family will soon die and that will happen within three months. I remember about my younger brother who died young at the age of twenty-two. After he was buried, I’d dream about him. In my dream I saw him sitting on a bank at the office where I am working.


I was surprised upon seeing him because I knew he’s dead.


“Why you’re here? ” I asked my brother.


“I am waiting for you and Mother,” my brother answered me.


“Waiting for me and Mother? Why? You can travel alone by yourself. You don’t have to wait for me and Mama. Don’t worry about us, we will follow you later,” that’s what I answered to my brother in my dream. I saw then, his face became sad but later, he stood-up and said to me.


“Okay, I will go alone. I love you all, please tell the family,” When my brother said it to me, I wake-up. The dream was so real and our conversation too. I felt sad but it did not occur to me that it was an invitation of death, frankly until now I am still doubting. My father was just buried, then the howling dog, and me, not feeling well? Am I warned?


Besides of the irregular palpitation of my heart, I am coughing as always when I am in the Philippines, of which I’d taken as an allergy from dust. It would disappear in few days, so I am not so concerned, although I am already coughing for months. Then I noticed my hands. One finger in my hand won’t move anymore. I cannot bend it; it just stays as it is. It’s not painful or numb or what, it just won’t move.


Everyday day, Albert chatted with me. While chatting I let him see my finger.


“Look, my finger does strange, I cannot move it,” I said to my husband.


“Why, what happened with it?” Albert asked.


“I don’t know. It happened just suddenly,” I answered Albert and laughed.


“Why are you laughing? That is a serious thing, go to the doctor!”


My husband said it’s a serious thing, and I must go to the doctor. I only shrugged my shoulder and did not go.

But then this stray dog, always, almost every day at about six o’clock in the evening will face our house, and cry-howling. Of superstitious thing that stay hanging in my mind, I became nervous, but then still, I did not go to the doctor.


In the three weeks, the dog did not miss an evening with his cry-howling facing our house, but one evening after eating supper, I suddenly felt pain in my left arm and a numb sensation in half of my body. While I am very concerned about the sensation of my body, this cry-howling dog stayed and just kept howling that I told my grandchild Babeth to bring me to the Hospital. I thought I’m having a heart attacked or a stroke, I am very afraid.


I am fast losing my strength. I cannot move my arms or my legs. Many questions were asked and lucky for me I could still answers them all; the questions were from what I felt, if I have a doctor, and about my health history.


ECG was performed on me. My blood was tapped for the laboratory. A brain scan was done. Diagnose from the attending doctor; arrythmia, hypokalemia, no heart attacked or heart failure, no stroke.


I was admitted for confinement in the hospital. My doctor, an internist and at the same time a hematologist was on another city and she cannot attend to me for the meantime. A neurologist and a cardiologist plus the residence physician helped me. I am immediately given a dextrose with potassium.


The next day, the neurologist visited me and asked how I feel. I answered her, I am liked a lame duck, I have no strength even to move my legs.


“You know, you are lucky you decided last evening to come here in the hospital; for if you did not, maybe you will not wake-up from your sleep,” she said to me, then explained to me what is arrythmia and hypokalemia.


Arrythmia, a heart malfunction or irregularity that it would stop beating for seconds or minutes. I am not surprised. Our family have this hereditary heart illness.


Hypokalemia, too low potassium in the body. Potassium nutrients the muscles and if not properly attended, one will be paralyzed, collapsed into coma, eventually will die, if not given a quickly proper medical help.


I am happy that I did not have a stroke but I became uncertain about my health. My heart was weak and so my whole body. I even could not manage to sit on my bed alone by myself.


Because my heart was so weak, the cardiologist suggested that I must have a pacemaker but I refused. I am going back to Rotterdam and I will see when I am home.


Albert travelled to fetch me back to Rotterdam. For almost three weeks in the Hospital, I lost weight, twenty kilos exactly. Albert was shocked upon seeing me, very skinny and still looked sick. I assured him I am okay nothing to worry about.


Indeed, I survived at the last minute and that because of traditions, beliefs or superstitions, combined with all the symptoms I have. That howling dog was just giving me a warning for almost three weeks that I just ignored, I always have numbed on the left-side of my body and pain with my left-arm for months if not for years. But that day, when that howling dog won’t go away but kept cry-howling facing our house I became afraid that I decided to go to the Hospital.


Fear, belief or superstition helped save my precious life. Although I’d taken the howling of the dog was a warning, it left me this kind of fear every time I heard a dog howling, and relief when I am sure the dog is not facing our house.


With this experience of mine, I would like to advise everyone to listen to their body and be particularly aware of vitamins and minerals  that our body needed. ***The End***Remedios Dorio