For better or for worse

By: Gerriane Faith B. Rizon - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 13,2022 - 09:00 AM

We’d done everything we could for him—inserted a line of intravenous fluid, given him oxygen, placed the small round pill under his tongue to bring down his blood pressure. But the patient still wasn’t waking up. No matter how often or how loud the nurses called to him, no matter how much they tapped him and rubbed his sternum, all the response they’d get was an occasional opening of the eyes and then they’d close again.

I looked over at his girlfriend, looking small and unsure as the rain began tapping on the roof of the canvas tent that made up the emergency room in this small public city hospital. The doctor was telling her that they wouldn’t be able to cater to the patient if he needed to be admitted—that the fact he wouldn’t wake up meant he would have to be intubated. I watched the girlfriend—her uncertainty making her seem even more petite—and wondered if she understood what it meant for her boyfriend to need a tube down his throat to breathe.

They hadn’t been together for long. That was as much as the girlfriend had said when we’d asked her onsite what her boyfriend’s medical history was. “Wa ko kabalo, bag-o pa man gud mi nagkauyab.” (I don’t know. We’ve only just gotten together.) She’d invited him over for a good time, but while playing with his phone, her boyfriend had started complaining that his right hand felt weak. And then he’d gotten lethargic. By the time we arrived, the patient had to be urged to stand up and several people had to support him in his groggy state.

Watching the girlfriend clutch an overnight bag in the middle of the canvas tent as nurses scurried back and forth with medications and equipment, I couldn’t help thinking how fast life takes a turn in a different direction. She’d been expecting a fun night at home. But now she was standing in a makeshift ER with the rain pouring outside, wondering what would happen to her partner.

“For better or for worse, in sickness or in health.” Vows so easily said, so hard to keep when things take a turn for the worse. It made me wonder, as our ambulance pulled out of the hospital, what would happen if I were to get sick—really sick. Would my future partner choose to stick with me? Or would the stress of having to take care of someone too weak and helpless to do it wear them down until one day they’d just choose to let it all go and leave?

So many times we take good health for granted, and it’s so much easier to stick around when life is fun and easy and everything is going swimmingly. But when you’re lying on a hospital bed, something is so wrong with your body you need things stuck into you to help you get by, what happens then? Will the vows your partner made on one of the happiest days of both your lives still stand? When the money is running out and nothing seems to be happening and you hold hands in a death grip, hoping, wishing, praying that things will get better, will the both of you still be together when this is all over?

To be honest, I have no answers to any of the questions I’ve asked. I’ve only lived a quarter of a century in this world—what do I know, right? But from what I’ve seen, I think it’s times when you’re at your lowest that you see the people who love you come to your rescue. It’s more than just two people who have to shoulder the burden of caring for each other in sickness or in health—it’s an entire community that bands together to help the people they love in times of trouble. And that means that the vow to stick around “for better or for worse, in sickness or in health” applies to more than just your partner. It’s for your father, your mother, your siblings, your friends, your aunts and uncles, cousins, and neighbors. Saying you’ll stay for better or for worse means you’ll take turns holding hands in doctor’s offices, clinics, and beside hospital beds. It means you’ll stay.

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Gerriane Faith B. Rizon, 27, graduated with a degree in mass communication from UP Cebu. She loves listening to people’s stories and experiencing new things. She is currently aiming to get into medical school.

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