Survival
9:51 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

Commentary: Letter From Honduras In Sickness And Celebration

I thought I was a goner. Even Chemo was crying, sobbing at my bedside as I prayed for God’s mercy. But I wasn’t quite dead yet. I had had a dizzy spell, so light-headed, so disoriented I could only stand up by clinging to the wall, the office door, the table, another door, till I collapsed in my bed, guided there by Chemo. It was only 8 in the morning, and I thought I was having a stroke.

We had returned the day before from a week in Tegucigalpa, and I had already eaten twice at Chemo’s grandma Natalia’s house, supper last night and breakfast this morning. After the dainties of the city, I thought I had gotten back to basics, yet the food maybe was a little ... funny. I suddenly shuddered. Grabbing the wastebasket and dumping its contents on the floor, I threw up. Man, I threw up to beat the band, till I thought I was done, and then threw up some more.

That’s when I asked Chemo to pray with me; that’s when he broke into those heart-rending sobs. Alerted by Chemo, Elvis and Dora were quickly on the case. Dora prepared me a potion; Elvis “massaged” me.

My stomach rejected her first attempt, but Dora then fixed a simple soup that tasted so good and stayed down. And Elvis kept everybody calm. Everyone was treating me with such loving kindness. We all had theories on what was wrong with me, dizziness, vomiting.... No one thought of the answer until Dr. Meme made a very welcome house call later in the afternoon and labeled it “vertigo.”

Dr. Bayardo Pagoada
Credit Michael Dulick

Still, I knew I had to get a more thorough diagnosis from my cardiologist in Tegucigalpa, Dr. Bayardo Pagoada. I had not seen him since 2007, when I brought Chemo to him. With only a stethoscope, he quickly diagnosed the precarious condition of Chemo’s heart and referred us to his colleague Dr. Karla Andino, a pediatric cardiologist. She hooked us up with the Brigada, and the rest is history.

Once I adopted Chemo, I didn’t go back to Dr. Bayardo because I couldn’t afford to. Well, my near-death experience convinced me, now was the time to return whether I could afford it or not.

The good doctor -- and he is very good, so kind and professional; and with a light dusting of gray hair, a fatherly figure -- welcomed me back. He was so pleased with Chemo, twice the size since he saw him last, including a stubbly mustache. 

After two days of tests -- chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, blood work, etc. -- he pronounced my heart “stable,” no different, really, from 2007, just a little larger due, no doubt, to my heavier weight; and my cholesterol was up. So I didn’t have a stroke, I probably won’t have one, it WAS the food, I was “normal,” and it only cost about $500 to find that out! He did give Chemo a check-up, too, at no additional cost and suggested an adjustment in his meds. As they say, some things money can’t buy.

As I said, we had just been in Tegucigalpa only a week before this emergency visit. That trip was full of “business”: renewing my residency visa for another year, renewing my driver’s license (now including a “psychological” test!), dental check-ups for me and Chemo (look, ma! no cavities!), Mema’s birthday (64), and, best of all, Mema and Elio’s daughter Felixsa pronouncing her final vows as a nun after 17 years of study and sacrifice, most of it in Spain.

Felixsa with Mema and Elio
Credit Michael Dulick

The vow ceremony would be in the Basilica of Suyapa, the biggest church in Honduras, one of the biggest in the world, in fact, at a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass, Jan. 12. As Elio joked, “We invited 1,500 of our closest friends!”) But the whole crowd got involved, so outgoing, that well-spoken and self-effacing Felixsa lit up, you might say, by the Holy Spirit. We sang, we applauded, we dropped to our knees to pray for Felixsa’s fidelity to her vocation.

Felixsa’s “missionary” work will be right here in Honduras, teaching, preaching, giving retreats, training other young sisters, tending to the needs of the poor. I’m already pestering Elio and Mema to get me into some of the events, a schedule they are more than happy to explore.

My recovery was promising enough that I turned to Chemo and asked if he was ready for yet another trip, this time to Morazan for our annual “vacation” with Fermin and his family.

We were a few days behind schedule, but still in time for the 87th birthday of Maria’s father, Antonio, and the 20th birthday of Maria and Fermin’s son Eduard, who has become Chemo’s best friend. Both celebrations were based on the principle: all you can eat!

In “Lone Survivor” and in religious life, you see the power of love to transform ordinary people into heroes who transcend their earthly roots. Of course, “Lone Survivor” makes my little episode look like a bubble-bath, and Felixsa’s enthusiasm had me in tears, but you do see how heroic, too, are the ones who wait hopefully to assist and support those who swear their lives to serving others.

Note: Miguel Dulick has lived in Las Vegas, Honduras since 2003. There he has no projects, no plans, no investments -- only to share the life of the poor.

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