Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Journey to Dialysis

   In the winter of 2009, I began to have agonizing leg cramps in the evenings.  I thought it was caused by the high heeled shoes I wore to work.  I was working as Executive Assistant for a bank and the lady executive I was assisting insisted that I wear suits daily except on casual Fridays.  Suits don’t match with flats.  Other than the cramps, I felt great.

   In April of the same year, I got excruciating stomach pain.  I thought it was cancer.  I went to a doctor to confirm.  It was my first time to get sick in America so the doctor I went to, Dr. Russell T. May, was a perfect stranger.  He prescribed antibiotics.  I was back to work in a week.

   Then, I received a letter from Dr. May.  The letter was hand written.  That means the content was so confidential that he didn’t have his assistant type it.  It says, he’s referring me to a kidney specialist.  He wrote, “We do not know the cause”, underlined for emphasis because I didn't have any other medical condition that could lead to CKD.  An appointment has already been set for me to see Dr. Nizar M. Attallah.  

   The diagnosis form dated May 7, 2009, says “Stage V” Chronic Kidney Disease.  I was already at Stage V!!!  What happened to Stage I – IV?  That means, as a Filipino saying goes, “I had one foot in my grave.”  If Dr. May had not sent me to Dr. Attallah I would have died in probably less than a year.  I owe my life to those doctors and to my God Jehovah, who made sure I live to continue my journey of a hundred lives.

   I was referred by Dr. Attallah to dialysis education.  I was placed in a room to watch a video presentation of different kinds of dialysis so I can make an informed decision which one would suit my lifestyle.  I, right up, rejected peritoneal dialysis or any kind of home dialysis.  

   What followed was a series of medical procedures.  My vascular surgeon, Dr. Lambert, first installed a fistula on my upper arm.  The scar went all the way down to my elbow.  That fistula was abandoned.  The vein refused to grow wide enough for dialysis. He installed a graft.  On August 26, 2010, fifteen months from the time I was diagnosed, I started hemodialysis at the University of Louisville Kidney Disease Program, Louisville, Kentucky.  I am now with DaVita, in California.

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Blog’s 4th Anniversary 
Paperback Writer - REBEL 
Paperback Writer

Monday, December 10, 2018

The History of Santa Claus

   The name Old Nick originated from Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Myra.  For several hundred years, circa 1200 to 1500, St. Nicholas' legend took on some aspects of pagan deities, like the Roman Saturn or the Norse Odin, who appeared as white-bearded man and had magical powers like flight.  Does that sound familiar?  

   After the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, some saints including Nicholas were disenfranchised.  Later, the Germans created figures based on Nicholas, not as a saint but as a threatening Ru-klaus (Rough Nicholas), Aschenklas (Ashy Nicholas), and Pelznickel (Furry Nicholas) who expected good behavior from children or suffer consequences like whippings or kidnappings.  Does that sound familiar?

   In Catholicism, St. Nicholas was assigned to be the patron saint of children.  However, his alter-ego punished bad children by whacking, stuffing them in a sack to take them away.  Parts of Germany and Austria called that alter-ego Krampus who carried whips to beat children.  Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat wicked children, stuff them in a sack, and take them away to his lair.

   Krampus is said to come from Norse mythology, the son of Hel, legendary beast who shares characteristics with other demonic creatures in Greek mythology.  Later, the Catholic Church forbade celebrating Krampus, not because it was pagan or devilish, but because the World War II fascists an ally of the Catholic Church “found Krampus despicable…creation of the Social Democrats.”  

   In 1821 an anonymous poet shaped the modern Santa, associating him with Christmas by adding the magical gift-bringing of St. Nicholas.  That figure brought gifts to good girls and boys, but also had a birch rod for corporal punishment typically used on the child’s buttocks, back and/or shoulders.  Santa's wagon, back then was pulled by a single reindeer.  In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote published anonymously the next year, describer the “jolly Santa … rides a sleigh driven by eight familiar reindeer.”

   In the late 19th century, the image of Santa became dressed in red with white fur trim, venturing out from the North Pole in a reindeer-driven sleigh but still keeping an eye on children's behavior.  “The jolly, chubby, grandfatherly face of this Santa was largely created by Thomas Nast, the great political cartoonist.”

   Saint Nicholas does not appear in the Bible.  Krampus is a pagan creature.  Clement Clarke Moore is not a writer in the Bible.  Thomas Nast is a cartoonist not religious.  Thus, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Old Nick as a name of the devil, synonyms are archfiend, Beelzebub, devil, fiend, Lucifer, Satan, serpent. 

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Monday, November 19, 2018

The Philippines' Mandatory Kidney Donation Bill

   In 2008, The New York Times published:

   “MANILA — The Philippines is banning kidney transplants for foreigners, as part of a government crackdown on a growing but illicit trade in human organs bought from the poor, officials said Tuesday.

The ban is expected to take effect next month. Foreigners who violate it, as well as middlemen in the transaction, can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined as much as two million pesos, or about $48,000, the health secretary, Francisco T. Duque III, said at a news conference…

   …Given the risks involved in undergoing nephrectomy and the lack of benefits arising from the procedure to donors, the dead should be the first to put their kidneys on the line.” 

   In the Philippines, living donors are rare precisely because of the risk to donors.  The kidney patients refuse to pass on to their ‘family donor’ a future kidney failure or surgery complications and infection.  It does make sense that kidneys should come from the deceased. 

   However, religious superstition prevents the family of the deceased to approve the organ donation from their dead.  Centuries of non-Biblical doctrines spread by false preachers claimed that the dead can feel offense after death.  While the Bible indisputably states “the dead know nothing at all… their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)

   In 2013, Miriam Defensor Santiago filed the “Deceased Organ Donor Act” to promote the “deceased donor program in providing valuable treatment to those with kidney failure as well as in protecting the vulnerable sectors of society from the potential for abuse of living organ donors”.  Her bill was to provide organs from deceased donors to potential transplant recipients in order to eradicate the exploitative underground business of organ buying and selling.

   This year, Sen. Gordon’s filed a bill that one ups that with imprisonment for 20 years to anyone “selling and buying organs or performing organ removal and/or transplantation of an unauthorized person”.  His bill seeks to amend Republic Act 7170 or the Organ Donation of 1991, also called the voluntary organ donation system.  Gordon’s bill would authorize “the removal of any part of the body of a person who has died in the hospital or center for transplant to the body of a living person” unless in life the deceased registered an objection to any organ donation, below 18 years old, not a Filipino citizen or mentally ill and can’t give a valid consent.

   As a kidney patient on the transplant list here in San Francisco, US, I would like to offer my ten cents worth opinion on this issue.  I, too, never considered getting a kidney from a living donor because I do not want to be responsible for whatever adverse effect the donor might suffer.

   If I had the money, would I buy a kidney from the illegal trade, knowing that the middleman and the doctors will benefit, while the poor donor will eventually need the kidney back, then there’s no way to return it?  The selling donor would get a small fraction of the sale money.  That donor would spend all that he received and not see a notch of improvement in quality of life.  Mostly men, their hopes in a better finances for their family are raised only to be quashed when their health goes into downward spin.  They will then realize their children need money and they got no more kidney to sell.

   A cadaver kidney is fine with me, otherwise, I leave my longevity to Jehovah.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

The Songs in A Star is Born Did It

   I wrote an article about my reaction to watching Lady Gaga’s version of A Star is Born.  I had seen Barbra Streisand’s version of the same movie in the 70’s.  That one didn’t make me cry.  I can’t figure out why Lady Gaga’s version got me holding my tears from the get go.  I was sobbing in my car on my way home.  “After I was all cried out, I sat and wondered why the movie moved me to tears.”

   For weeks I watched the soundtrack YouTube videos over and over.  I realized the lyrics of the songs triggered my crying fit.  Here’s why:

I'll Never Love Again

Wish I could, I could've said goodbye
I would've said what I wanted to
Maybe even cried for you
If I knew it would be the last time…

When we first met
I never thought that I would fall
I never thought that I'd find myself
Lying in your arms
And I want to pretend that it's not true
Oh baby, that you're gone
‘Cause my world keeps turning, and turning, and turning
And I’m not moving on

The character named Sugar in the book The Email Ordered Wife left me and his daughter without saying goodbye.  That morning was the last time we saw him.

My unexpected crying fit told me “I’m not moving on”
Always Remember Us This Way

You’re where I wanna go
The part of me that’s you will never die

Every time we say goodbye
Baby, it hurts

When you look at me
And the whole world fades
I'll always remember us this way

Sugar died in Dallas. I immigrated from the Philippines

That wasn’t the first time he left us but I didn’t think it would be the last.

When he looked at me, I literally didn’t see anything else.  I did not even my see my husband standing a foot in front of us.

 I'll Never Love Again 

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Similarity to Jews?
   As of September 14, 2018, Russian authorities’ attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses had placed 25 Witnesses in detention and 9 under house arrest, as “extremist”. In July, the first female Witness was placed in detention, setting a precedent beyond the holocaust.  If convicted, some of those who have been arrested face prison terms of up to ten years.

   Heavily armed police forcibly enter Witnesses’ homes, pointing guns at the heads of children and the elderly.  While the government search and confiscate valuable belongings reminiscent of Hitler’s treatment of Jews in WWII, this is where the similarities with the Jews end. 

   On Saturday, October 27, 2018, shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue killed eleven people and a number of others were injured.  Paris darkened the Eiffel Tower to show solidarity.  In Boston, religious, political, and civic leaders offered support.  In Seattle, communities came together to support and stand in solidarity with the victims of the tragedy.

   Now, may I ask, where’s the support of countries for the Jehovah’s Witnesses being persecuted in Russia?  Where is the outrage at the injustice in Jehovah’s Witnesses being prosecuted for peaceful worship?  Where is the American governments sanction against the blatant human rights violations?  Where is the Amnesty International that fights for the release of subversives?  Im just saying...

   For this is what Jehovah of armies says, who after being glorified has sent me to the nations that were plundering you ‘Whoever touches you touches the pupil of my eye.” (Zechariah 2:8)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Star is Born Made Me Cry

By Source, Fair use,
   I don’t particularly fancy musicals but I saw Barbra Streisand’s version of A Star is Born in the 70’s.  I felt I owe it to myself to see Lady Gaga’s version.  It’s Rated R for alcohol and drug abuse, and very little physical violence.

   Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from watching anything other than rated Rated G for General Audiences or Rated PG or Parental Guidance Suggested.  However, unless specified in the Bible, I let my conscience be the guide.  As an adult who has lived a hundred lives, I figured scenes with alcohol, drug abuse and physical violence isn’t going to move me.  After all, I grew up in Pasay City, Philippines, where as a child, I ran to the streets to watch brawls, I drank from my teens to my 30’s, until I became a Jehovah’s Witness.  Now, drug abuse was rampant in Pasay City, as anywhere else these days.  That I never touched.  Liquor kills the liver.  Drugs kill the brain cells.  There’s no transplant for brain.

   I went in the theater without a clue of how this movie will touch me.  Lady Gaga’s first song is a magnificent rendition of La Vie en rose.  I’ve seen her in YouTube.  I knew she’s good, but this performance stunned me to the verge of tears.  It’s not easy to make me cry, ask any of my ex-husbands.  The entire movie is superb!  Bradley Cooper is revealed like you have not seen him before!

   I watched the movie holding my tears until the credits rolled.  Then I let it out.  When the lights went on, I composed myself and walked out of the mall to the parking into my car.  As soon I got in, I was sobbing.  After I was all cried out, I sat and wondered why the movie moved me to tears.
   My father died in August, last year.  I haven’t cried for that.  I don’t know when and if it’s going to come.  I lost an ex-husband to addiction in 2009.  I have not cried over that and probably never will.  I can show sympathy and anger openly, readily sometimes instantly.  I have lost a lot of people in my life, but love and grief seems to be buried so deep in my core.  They come to the surface, as once in a while it does, then I can no longer tell for whom.

   “mere man sees what appears to the eyes, but Jehovah sees into the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Importance of Education to Filipinos

EB Scholars - photo by GMA 
   Eat Bulaga, a noon time television show in the Philippines, launched in 2009, “Eat, Bulaga! Excellent Student Awards or EBest Awards”, a scholarship aimed to help less fortunate elementary and high school students from different regions to continue on to their secondary and tertiary education.  The program provided full scholarship, monthly allowances and cash assistance.

   One of the students awarded worked in building construction so he can finish high school.  It is not legal to hire child labor, worst of all, in construction.  That boy graduated with honors and moved forward to a college education courtesy of Eat Bulaga.

   Another student walked kilometers to get to school each day.  Another one did home work by candlelight.  At least one worked as a housemaid to finance her high school education.  These are students who accumulated medals and awards for academic excellence despite the poor living condition and no clear hope of getting to college.

   The scholars of Eat Bulaga, have earned their top grades without the best of school supplies, without owning a computer and not enough books but they make do by using the public library or borrowing books from better situated classmates.  They managed their time between house chores, earning a living and school work.

   In America, students are given cash incentives to finish high school.  Otherwise they can get a GED, the General Educational Development tests when passed, provide certification of high school-level academic skills.  Then, they can get a college loan, if they qualify, and pay the loan for decades after graduation.
President Duterte
   Meanwhile, in the third world, a most maligned president, President Rodrigo Duterte, signed into a law in August 3, 2017, a bill granting free tuition and other fees for students in state universities and colleges, as well as local universities and colleges and technical-vocational institutions.  “The president believed the benefits of the law outweighed the potential short-term budgetary challenges.. (

   President Duterte's free college tuition investment will earn the country a return in all sorts of currencies.  In 2013, an estimated 10.2 million people of Filipinos worked abroad.  It is one of the largest number of migrant workers, scattered over 100 countries.  They are called Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).  Those workers will remit their pay back to the Philippines by official and unofficial, including illegal channels.  In 2011, remittances reached US$20.117 billion.  Imagine what the numbers will be in four years or so, when all the current college students graduate and join the OFWs.  Another positive effect of migrant workers is they bring home skills gained abroad and pave the way for the coming generations of Filipinos. 

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Sunday, October 14, 2018


   Dysmorphia is a word seldom heard or read.  It’s a character disorder that obsessively perceive severe flaws in one’s own face, body or general appearance.  This warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix the flaw.  Exceptional measures range from over the counter cosmetic to cosmetic surgery.  It usually starts during adolescence when both boys and girls are preoccupied with their looks.  

   Even if factual, the significance of the flaw may be severely exaggerated.  The nose for example differ according to race although it serves the same purpose for all.  It could either be too flat, too big, or too small.  Rhinoplasty is the first and most elected cosmetic surgery for non-Caucasians.  Who made the Caucasian nose the standard of perfection?  The world can’t remember.

   We all believe mirrors can’t lie, so we believe what we see.  The sad thing is that flaw could be imagined.  A dysmorphic person might actually be good looking but see ugly when in front of the mirror.  At the very least, the person sees a different face in the mirror from what other people see.  The dysmorphic view is so distorted that compliments don’t help.  It sounds like that nobody else is telling the truth about it.

   When I attended a photography training with Kodak, Philippines, it was said that cameras don’t lie.  So, I thought, just like a mirror.  Then, people found discrepancy between the photo and the mirror image.  The word photogenic was invented.  It meant that faces not generally pretty or may be even unattractive when photographed can produce an attractive image. 

   In one of our conversations, my daughter called me “dysmorphic”.  I never heard the word before.  I had to look it up.  I looked at my photos, then looked in the mirror.  That settled it, I’m photogenic.  My daughter loves to play psychiatrist.  She said no one could convince me that I look good.

   I remembered Reb, the hero in REBEL, in a conversation with his comrades, said about me, in my presence, “She doesn’t know she’s beautiful.”  He said it not like flattery, but like an observation.

   Ten years later, I met the love of my life.  He once said to me “Do you know, you’re foxy?”

   “Oh, I look like a fox?” I made a pun about his compliment.  

   When I got home that night, I looked at myself in the mirror.  I didn’t see foxy, didn’t see beautiful either.  

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Fighting the Signs of Aging

   In the Philippines, it’s easy to cheat on one’s age.  Trust me, I applied for a job as twenty five when I was nineteen.  Then, decades later I got a job as 36 years old when I was 46.  I’m a workaholic and planned on working till I’m 80+.  I won’t mind dropping dead in my workstation.

   In my late twenties, I read in a women’s magazine an article about the signs of aging and that it could be prevented.  Aging cannot be prevented.  It’s the nature of all beings, men or animals but the signs that makes aging noticeable can be put off.  I bought the idea because I knew that employers worldwide discriminate against the aged.  If I looked 35 at 80 I will be hired.  If I looked 60 at 40 I will have a hard time getting a job.  

Here are the body parts that show aging.

My veneers at 66 years old
1. Teeth – brushing, flossing, dental cleaning are not enough.  Gums recede with age.  Receding gums will make the teeth recede with it so that they look smaller than they were some decades back.  Dental porcelain veneers or dental laminates are called ‘jacket’ in the Philippines.  They are custom-made to cover the surface of teeth not only to improve appearance but also to protect the natural teeth from bacteria that form cavities. These are bonded to the teeth to maintain color, improve shape, size, or length.  In my case I had it made longer than my natural teeth so that should the gum recede they will still look the same previous size.  Veneer is expensive but I figured I work, I am the means of production.  I deserve to be maintained.  I invested in myself.

My neck at 66 years old
2. Neck – the face and the rest of the body can be hidden or enhanced with makeup and clothes.  The neck, however, will be hard to hide, unless you’re a Catholic nun.  Thus, it needs continuous, dutiful care.  It has been said, heard and maybe believed or not that inadvertent pulling the skin down will create wrinkles.  So, since I read that article, to this day, I apply cosmetics going towards the side instead of up and down.  And here’s the result.  Does that neck look 66 years old to you?  A mere 4 years to 70?!

3. Eye lids – eye lids have a tendency to droop with age.  There’s no way to go around it.  I had monolid eyes.  When I developed eye bags in my 40’s I went to a plastic surgeon to remove the eye bags.  He suggested that I have the lids folded surgically as well.  He said that the lids will droop as I age so if I get it folded I may get away with it. 

My eyelids at 66 years old
   So here’s my folded eyelids, instead of drooping down the aging skin goes inside the fold.  And putting on eye makeup got easier.  Eye liners hide under the monolid.  Ask any Asian.

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