arly in the morning, I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I felt uncomfortable. My stomach felt queasy. After trying to deny it for awhile, I realized that I was about to experience a bout of diarrhea. Emelda had woken up at some point and I told her that I needed to use the C.R. (shorthand for 'comfort room'). She pulled the mosquito netting back and I followed her as she led me downstairs. When we got close to the C.R., I suddenly got that unmistakable feeling that says, "You're about to throw up!" I rushed past Emelda and dove for the toilet. I barely made it in time to hit the target. I vomited relentlessly. Emelda asked if I was okay and I shut the door to obscure her view as more material 'surfaced.'

After the vomit adventure ended, the diarrhea extravaganza began. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that all of my assets were liquid that morning and I had to perform several encores as the sun rose and my spirits sank. Eventually, my body gave me a break from the little party it was throwing (no pun intended) and I was able to bathe and to try to relax. Vomiting had cleared out my stomach, so when breakfast was offered, I sat down at the dining room table, trying to forget the morning's events. I began eating, but my heart (and my stomach) just wasn't in it.

After forcing down a small amount of food, I got that old feeling again. I raced for the C.R. and started vomiting again. This reminded my colon that recess was over and the diarrhea made a return engagement. Is that too much information?

That morning, Emelda and I were scheduled to attend the first of the two Catholic seminars. As we headed toward the paved road, I felt fairly certain that the diarrhea was over (I didn't see how any more could...uh...Is that too much information?). We hopped on a motor (okay, there was no hopping) and headed toward the church's satellite office (directly above the public meat market).

The lady who gave the seminar was the host of a local religious radio program (Emelda had turned her program on one night). She was friendly and had an air of nurturing about her. The seminar was not what I had expected. It was not a stodgy lecture about Catholicism. It was more of a long conversation about marriage and how God figures into the equation. I knew a lot more about the Catholic religion than I had expected. The three hour seminar went by quickly for me. Emelda on the other hand didn't seem to enjoy it at all. After a closing prayer, we were reminded to return on the following morning at 9 a.m.

After we ran a few errands, my stomach began hurting again. I asked Emelda if we could go see her doctor. She agreed and we went to his office. After sitting across from his desk for a few minutes and listening to Emelda explain my problems in Visayan, I began to feel dizzy. He took my blood pressure and I got dizzier. He said that I should go to the hospital. I told him that I thought I was going to vomit and I expected him to get me something to throw up into, but he didn't move. I held my stomach and sucked the pain inside, not wanting to soil his floor as the dizziness worsened.

Luckily, the Medina Hospital was nearby. As we entered the emergency room, all eyes were on us. I stood for a few moments while Emelda recounted the morning's events to the nurses who listened intently and tried not to stare at me. One of them brought me a chair and I gladly sat down as the dizziness continued. My blood pressure was taken. More nurses gathered. My dizziness got worse. I laid my head down on a nearby table. I felt like I was going to pass out, but I was struggling not to.

One of the nurses fetched an intravenous solution bag while another tried to find a vein to insert the I.V. needle into. It took them awhile, but they finally inserted the needle and the solution coursed through my veins. Right after that, a doctor arrived and my blood pressure was taken again. It was an extremely low 80 over 50. My dizziness reached a fever pitch and I thought than unconsciousness would soon be upon me. Another nurse wheeled an oxygen tank over. I looked up at Emelda whose concern was quite apparent. She asked me if I wanted some oxygen. As she spoke, I felt like I was in a bad episode of some 70's medical program. Emelda's voice was distant and seemed to echo and the light coming through the windows behind her shot at me in long, thin streaks. I thought to myself how cliché this would look on a movie screen then gathered the energy to answer her.

I didn't know if I wanted oxygen or not. I was delirious. I was fighting to stay conscious. I was confused and afraid. I mumbled something like, "Uh...I guess so...yeah." With that, the oxygen tube apparatus was placed on my head and I rested my head back down on the table while Emelda and the doctor spoke.
Marilyn takes Emelda's mother for a ride (like she did with my stomach)!

After what seemed like an hour but was probably four or five minutes, the dizziness subsided dramatically and my energy level increased. My brain seemed to tune back in to the situation. I could hear everyone clearly again and I suddenly sat up. I was alert again and glad to be so. I smiled at Emelda who seemed relieved and then directed my attention to the doctor who proceeded to ask me questions about my symptoms and medical history. After a few minutes, she determined that the green banana I had eaten at Marilyn's house was the quintessential devil in this matter. I had forced Emelda to eat everything except for the banana and she was fine. I suddenly swore off bananas (at least the green ones) for the next century.

After determining what drugs I would be given, the doctor said that I should be admitted for at least one night. She arranged for me to have a private room (which I would gladly pay extra for). With that, she summoned a few orderlies to escort me to my room. The orderlies brought over a wheelchair and I transferred myself into it. The orderlies wheeled me toward a stairway which was bordered on one side by a narrow flat surface which was used as a ramp. Since there was no elevator, the orderlies would have to push all 220 (okay, 250) pounds of me up a long ramp to the second floor.

As the orderlies eyed the daunting task in front of them (they wouldn't allow me to walk and I wasn't sure that I could), they sent for reinforcements. After a deep breath and with coordinated semi-precision, two orderlies pushed me up the ramp while another person pushed the oxygen tank up behind me and another person carried my I.V. As we ascended, the wheelchair scraped the wall several times and I enjoyed a wild ride up to the second floor. After reaching the top of the ramp, they all seemed to share a sense of great accomplishment as they caught their breath.

The corner room I was ushered into was large. A small refrigerator sat against the far wall. A few couches lined the walls near the door. The bed sat in the center and was quite crooked. I wondered if I would roll off of the thing during my sleep. The bathroom had no shower and the toilet, like most toilets in Ozamiz, had no seat. I was displeased to see that I would have to squat over the porcelain throne in order to make a deposit. "Oh well," I thought, "When in Rome..."

The orderlies and nurses set the oxygen tank and I.V. up on opposing sides of the bed and I laid down to recover from the morning's events. Emelda remained by my side after the medical people exited. She was concerned about my status but seemed quite pleased that I appeared to be on the road to recovery. She shared with me how scared she had been in the emergency room and I held her in my arms for a bit (until my stomach began hurting again).

Between trips to the restroom, Emelda and I laid there and talked for a few hours. Every time I had to visit the toilet, Emelda helped me lug the I.V. holder (which was taller than the restroom's door frame), in and out of the tiny comfort room. Actually, I came to think of it as the 'discomfort room' due to the fact that every time I had to squat over the toilet, my dizziness returned and my legs cramped up. I tried to speed up the process every time before I passed out. My 'aim' tended to be a bit off target (if you know what I'm saying) and the restroom soon smelled pretty bad. Since the door to the restroom was a flimsy one with wooden, diagonally-placed boards which were about a quarter of an inch apart (allowing for ventilation), the hospital room soon smelled like the discomfort room (poor Emelda). Also, upon each post-squatting fun-fest, it took me about fifteen minutes for the dizziness to subside. There were numerous such trips to and from the restroom, so I alternated between resting calmly next to Emelda and fighting light-headed nausea. It was a thrilling afternoon. I was just glad that the woman I loved was there to help me.

Later, after I received approximately seven pills (some of them large) to swallow, Emelda reminded me that no one else knew where we were and that her family was probably getting worried. Since the hospital (where I had been diagnosed as being dehydrated) could not provide me with any water, I asked Emelda to buy me some before she left. I gave her some money and she returned shortly with a large bottle of H2O. She poured some of the bottle into a glass which I emptied quickly (and repeatedly). In a short while, she was off to inform her family.

A few minutes after she left, there was a knock on the door. Since the nurses had been coming in and out of my room all afternoon to check and recheck my vital signs, I assumed it was one of them. I was surprised when one of Emelda's cousins (along with a friend) entered the room. Since I had been on my way to the discomfort room, they waited while I made beautiful music in there. As I exited, trying to navigate the doorway while lugging the I.V. holder, the friend jumped up to help me and once again illustrated how generous Filipinos can be.

I soon learned that Emelda's cousin had been in the hospital for a few days and would be staying at least one more night. It seems that she was experiencing some kidney problems. I couldn't really get more specific information due to the fact that she didn't speak much English. When I asked the friend to get my water bottle out of the refrigerator (so I wouldn't have to haul the I.V. holder across the room), she hopped up and assisted me with a smile. I was glad to be around such warm people. After some chit-chat, the duo left me alone to rest.

The basic pattern continued for awhile; rest, lug the I.V. to the C.R., get dizzy trying to hit the porcelain target, lug the I.V. back to the bed, rest, get my vital signs taken, lug the I.V. to the C.R., etc. It was tiring and after awhile, quite annoying. The squatting would send my blood pressure skyrocketing, so when they took my blood pressure readings, it was always high (at one point, it went up to 170 over 110). Alone in the strange place, I felt rather depressed.

My spirits lifted when dinner was brought in. I was very hungry and had only eaten some chocolates since the morning vomiting session. I hoped for some lovely Filipino cuisine. Instead, the nurses tried to deliver an American meal (bless their hearts for trying). What they called 'hot-dogs,' consisted of four pieces of white bread and two Vienna sausages. The effort was appreciated, but the sausages tasted like bad Spam and to top it off, there was a small plate on which sat my nemesis; a ripe banana. These factors took my appetite away after I forced one-half of a sausage down along with a few pieces of the bland bread. I drank some more water and took a nap.

Later, during one of my many visits to the discomfort room, Emelda arrived along with her parents, brothers and a few cousins. Emelda's mother carried enough food for an entire barangay and brandished it proudly as I returned to the bed. I refused to eat anything, but when I saw that she had purchased some 'barbecue sticks' (little wooden sticks with barbecued meat and vegetables on them), I agreed to try them. They were delectable and I ate every one that she had brought along. There were plenty of other things to eat, but I was worried about vomiting again, so I declined and Emelda finally got something to eat for herself. We all visited for awhile as the evening progressed. I was feeling much better both physically and mentally.

As midnight approached, I became tired and asked Emelda how long her family planned on staying. She told me that they wanted to be my 'watchers.' As she explained, in The Philippines, when someone is seriously ill, 'watchers' will simply watch the sick party while he or she rests. This meant that I would have several people in my hospital room for the entire night. My surprise must have been obvious. I didn't like the idea of having a crowd while I slept and I frowned before I realized what a wonderful gesture this custom would be. I tried to assure Emelda that it was okay, but before I knew it, everyone except brother Ernie and cousin Edwin had left (thankfully, no one seemed offended).

Throughout the night, I had to return to the discomfort room to take care of business a few times. When I did, Ernie, Edwin and Emelda always jumped from their resting places and helped me with the I.V. holder and the door. I was glad that they were there. At around 2 a.m., I was awoken from a deep sleep by a group of people who were standing over me. As I looked up drowsily at them, one of them said that they were residents on their 'rounds.' They then turned and left quietly. It gave me a weird feeling, but I was used to being the object of curiosity (especially in that hospital), so I let it roll off of my back and went back to sleep.

In the morning, the sun shining though the curtains woke me up early. Shortly thereafter, Emelda awakened as well. Our second Catholic seminar was scheduled for that morning at 9 a.m. I had no intention of missing the seminar (since it was a requirement for us to get married in the church) and I let Emelda know that. Since we had been given homework to do for the seminar, Emelda and I opened our Bibles (Emelda had fetched them from her house when she informed her family of my whereabouts) and we got to work. It was around 6 a.m. when we finished our work. When the nurses' shift change occurred, several of the outgoing nurses and several of the incoming nurses made an excuse to visit me. They said that they just wanted me to meet the new nurses, but I knew that they all just wanted a last/first look at the American on the second floor.

I took another dose of antibiotics and visited the discomfort room again. The dizziness had steadily been decreasing with each visit and I felt pretty good in the morning. I felt refreshed after the long rest and the lovely I.V. After a nurse determined that my blood pressure had settled at a near-perfect 110 over 80, I told Emelda that we needed to get me checked out so that we would make our 9 a.m. seminar. She exited the room (around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m.) and returned shortly thereafter to tell me that the doctor would be in at 10:00 a.m. and that after she examined me, I might be able to leave. I told Emelda that there was no way that I would let us miss our seminar and asked her to make it clear to the nurses that I needed to leave right away.

Emelda returned, looking haggard and told me that we would 'have to wait.' I had heard this phrase many times in The Philippines. Translated; this means, 'no one knows anything pertinent to the situation so you'll have to wait for an indeterminate amount of time while we figure out what to do.' This phrase had begun to annoy me and I bristled at the thought of missing our seminar and the havoc that would be wreaked if we were not able to be married in the church as expected. I calmed myself (I was now wide awake and full of energy) for about 30 to 45 minutes, hoping for the best. When my patience threshold had been exceeded, I asked Emelda to stress to the nurses that I absolutely had to leave by 8:45 a.m. It was about 8:15 a.m. Filipino time was starting to anger me.

Since I still had the I.V. stuck into my wrist, I couldn't change my clothes and I couldn't just walk out. Earlier, I had accidentally knocked the tube connecting the needle to the I.V. tube out and blood had started spurting out as the pressure in the tube reversed. We had called for a nurse who reconnected the apparatus and stopped the bleeding. As a result, I did not feel comfortable trying to remove the I.V. myself, so I sat on a couch, trying to hold my frustration inside.

At 8:45, two nurses entered the room with some pills, some paperwork, a bottle of alcohol and some cotton balls. I asked them to remove the I.V., but they wouldn't until they had finished calculating my bill and received my payment. They figured out that the entire cost of the adventure would be 2,406 pesos ($92.54). After I handed one of them five 500 peso notes, the other one used the alcohol and cotton balls to remove the tape which bonded the I.V. tubing to my extremely hairy hands. Guess what? Removing tape from hairy hands does not feel exceptionally pleasant. The removal process took a good ten minutes.

After receiving my change and putting on the fresh clothes that Emelda had retrieved from her house the night before, we exited the room at about 9 a.m. As we passed by the nurses station, the nurses all smiled and waved like schoolgirls and I thanked them and smiled back as we hurried toward the stairs (no wheelchair exit like in American hospitals; not that I wanted to go down that ramp in a wheelchair). We caught a motor at about 9:10 a.m. and headed toward the satellite office where the seminar was to be held.

At 9:25 a.m., we arrived at the office out of breath from rushing up a large flight of stairs in the Philippine heat. The lady who conducted the seminars was waiting for us and I detected a note of dismay on her face. She asked us to be seated and then joined us a few minutes later. As she sat down, I could tell from the look on her face that she was not happy about our tardiness. Emelda began to tell the lady about my medical adventure and her facial expression changed completely. She looked over at me with concern and asked if I would be able to continue with the seminar. I assured her that I was okay and Emelda proceeded to tell her about the fact that I had gotten Emelda to fetch our Bibles so that we could do our homework in the hospital room. The lady said, "You're very conscientious." At that point, I knew that we had redeemed ourselves in her eyes. As she asked us to join her in an opening prayer, Emelda and I smiled at each other and bowed our heads; happy to have made it there.

The public meat market which sits under the Catholic seminar office
The seminar went well. Emelda and I learned a lot and I felt that the seminars would strengthen our marriage. Emelda was glad that they were over. After the closing prayer, the lady told me that it was customary (although not mandatory) for a donation to be made at that point. She retrieved a certificate attesting that we had passed the seminars and stressed that I did not have to give any money unless I wanted to. While she was across the room getting the certificate, I asked Emelda how much I should give. She said that 100 or 200 pesos would be plenty. When the lady returned with the paper, she also handed me a donation envelope in which I placed a 500 peso note. After she congratulated us and we thanked her, we exited the office; happy to have gotten over another hurdle.

It was noon as we descended the long staircase which led down into the public meat market. We held hands as we navigated the throng of people around the market and headed for the street. When we reached the street, we smiled and laughed; glad to be one step closer to being husband and wife. We couldn't hug each other (Emelda would be looked upon with disfavor if I did so in public), but we both shared the happy moment together. I was thrilled that I hadn't suffered a relapse during the seminar.