Soon after having dinner with my XTRM 1-11 teammate Gladys, the discomfort started. It has to be ruptured gallbladder, I thought. The timing couldn’t have come at a worse time. We were already arranging our flight details to Singapore.

As some of you may know, I received my recognition on stage one week ago as a new USANA Silver Director. The next recognition is at the Singapore Asia-Pacific convention in April.

Unknown to many, I had gallstones for several years. It was not until two months ago when I found out. As the discomfort worsened I knew I would not make it to Singapore. Ruptured gallbladder requires emergency surgery. The thought of getting cut was horrible.

Emergency Surgery to Remove Ruptured Gallbladder

Tricycle Ride to VRP Medical Center

It takes only seven minutes for me to walk home from Shangri-La Mall where I met Gladys. By the time I reached my unit, the discomfort worsened to intense pain. I grabbed the results of my CT scan and went down to the lobby.

By then, my gut had bloated and I couldn’t breathe well. So I asked a security guard to hail a tricycle for me. The one-minute ride to Victor R. Potenciano (VRP) Medical Center was torture.

For the uninitiated, a tricycle is a motorcycle with a cab. It doesn’t have shock absorbers so every crack and bumps on the road, you feel it. And feel I did, every movement caused more pain in my gut.

At the VRP Medical Center Emergency Room

I walked into the emergency room and said, “Hindi ako makahinga.” (I can’t breathe.) A nurse took me to an empty bed and made me lie down. I couldn’t speak much so I gave them my phone and the name of my sister for them to call.

A few weeks before, the doctor I consulted said I needed to have surgery after the results of a CT scan. I hesitated and dilly-dallied because of fear. But no matter how great the fear was, the pain was more intolerable.

“Nurse ruptured gallbladder. Kailangan na ninyo akong operahan.” (Nurse ruptured gallbladder. You need to perform a surgery now.) It’s not me being brave. It is the excruciating pain.

Torture at VRP Emergency Room

There were moments when I would see white spots. It has to be the lack of oxygen. The bile had spread all over my gut causing an inflammation and compressing my diaphragm. So breathing became an ordeal. Not only was it painful, but the air I was getting into my lungs were not enough.

An hour or so after I arrived at the hospital, pain caused me to shut down. In fact, I didn’t even realize my sister and friends had arrived to see me.

I remember once as a kid, I watched a Chinese Kung Fu movie where the lead character went to hell. In one scene, there were people condemned to hell burning in molten lava for eternity.

I spent almost 8 hours waiting for relief. “Nasaan na ang doctor? Biyakin na ninyo ang tiyan ko,” I asked the nurse several times. (Where is the doctor? Cut my stomach open.) The torture went on for several hours. I might as well had been one of the people condemned to eternal damnation.

VRP Operating Room

I felt the bed moving. Confused and in pain, I hear myself gasping for air and calling out my mom. Someone opened the lids of my eye and said my eyes were turning yellow.

I tried to clear my head and recall what I had learned about gallstone and complications. I tried to determine if the symptoms I feel was septicemia, or perhaps it progressed to sepsis. Ruptured gallbladder causes bile to cause infection and contamination of bloodstream.

Inside the operating room, I managed to tell the doctors to put me to sleep. They would but first, they have to move me from the bed to the operating table. I had been lying on my side that when they moved me, I cried out in pain.

You’d think after several hours of intense pain, I should have adapted. But no, when they laid me flat on my back, I screamed.

And then there was nothing.

At the VRP Ward

I opened my eyes and looked around. I remember screaming in pain. Where was I? Sitting beside the bed, I saw my sister. The pain was gone. The ordeal was over. Bless the anesthesiologist for putting me to sleep before the surgery.

My sister Jenny told me how the surgeon showed her my gallbladder. He was holding it in his hands and as he explained, he probed and stuck his finger inside the mass. The surgeon also explained to her how difficult the surgery was. Bile had spread inside my guts causing infection.

For most of the first two days, I drifted in and out of sleep. When I regained some of my strength, I started moving around.

And then I realized something so horrible that fear returned. First, there was a tube inserted inside my penis. Then there’s a tube sticking inside my gut. Finally, there’s another tube inserted inside my nose.

Towards the end of the second day, the doctor told me they will remove all the tubes. The fear of pain begins.

They started with the catheter. I bit my lips when the doctor started pulling. Fuck, that is my precious mini-me right there. Was it painful? It was tolerable.

Removing the tube from my nose (NGT) was not the same. The doctor told me there would be discomfort but it wouldn’t be painful. The fucking doctor was a liar. On a lighter note, my sister made the mistake of watching. It must have been as bad for her as it was for me.

Finally, there was only one tube left to remove. When the doctor started pulling, “Aray, putang-ina,” I blurted out. (Ouch, son of a whore.) The pain was agonizing. It felt like the doctor was pulling my whole internal organs.

My Neighbors at the VRP Ward

Filipinos have close family ties. It was an eye-opener for me to see how there could be a fiesta-like atmosphere inside the ward. Instead of getting upset, I found it intriguing that the family next to me could talk for hours. No kidding, the mom talked for hours.

Across the ward, I would learn later that the patient had been there for more than two weeks. He was unable to leave because he didn’t have the money to pay his bills.

Before the second day was over, there was a birthday party for another patient.

What can I say about the ward and VRP Medical Center?

The ward was clean and nurses did their job well. As a distributor of USANA Health Sciences, I had spoken with many nurses. It is a fact that most of them are underpaid.

As for my hospital bill, to say it was expensive is an understatement. That was when I understood why there had been complaints of overcharging. For example, VRP Medical Center charged me P64 for gauze bandage that I bought for P6 at Mercury Drug.

Going Home

I returned home on the third day. I suffered and had to borrow money to pay my hospital bills. After sharing my experience with you, what lessons have you learned?