Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Living With Disability - My Mother's Sister

All my life I have known how it is to have a family member with special needs.  My aunt (my mom's younger sister) was born normal but when she was three years old she had measles together with the rest of her siblings.  She was the first to "recover" only to develop seizures about 3 days later.  This was in 1940 and there was no measles vaccine then, nor was measles a well understood disease.  She was brought to the best doctors but at that time the complications from measles were not yet completely known so they thought she developed poliomyelitis and treated her as such. My grandparents placed her on therapy to treat her flaccid paralysis but, she did not improve.  Her condition was aggravated by the onset of WWII when accessibility to health services was not readily available.  From then on, my aunt needed full-time caregiving in order to feed, bathe and clothed.  Although she can walk wobbly, she cannot use her hands and eventually learned to feed herself with her feet.  My grandmother also got sick by war's end and left for the United States for treatment leaving her family behind.  My mom at age 14-15 became surrogate mother to her brothers and only sister.  A little less than a year later, my grandmother came home healthier but by this time, the doctors also gave up on my aunt.  They told my grandparents that she will not have long to live, at most only till her early twenties.  Well, my Tita Mimi will be 75 years old  this May and she is as healthy as a horse. She has outlived her parents and 2 younger brothers. It was only when I was studying to be a doctor that her condition was given a name, Spastic/Athetoid type of Palsy secondary to Post-Measles Encephalitis. And because of this, my mother was so afraid of measles, she had all of us immunized when the vaccine was made available in the Philippines in the very early '60's.  When my grandmother died of cancer in October 1990 and 3 months later, my father also died of a massive heart attack, it was decided that my aunt will move in with us together with her foster child who was then 12 years old. It was not a difficult transition since my house was designed to be user-friendly for persons with disability.  Today, she is wheelchair bound which I believe is something she is quite happy with since walking used to tire her a lot. She has actually "overused" three wheelchairs since she started using one in the mid-90's.  She used to paint and write using her feet, but these too have been stopped due to her vision and posture problems. She spends her days cleaning the insides of her cabinets over and over again, which I presume makes her happy.  Her speech has always been guttural but recently it has worsened, perhaps because she does not talk so much anymore and this frustrates my mother no end because she just can't understand my aunt.  I am more patient in this regard and eventually I would be able to get what my aunt means to say.  Her foster daughter is now married and no longer lives with us, so she has her room all to herself and enjoys watching all her favorite TV programs from noon till night. My aunt's presence in our life and home has taught us patience, kindness and the meaning of suffering. Looking at her, I marvel at how she has been able to bear all her trials with nary a complaint. Oh yes, she did have many "I wish" moments but all in all, she seems to be finally at peace with herself as she faces her twilight years.


  1. I salute you Doc, for being so patient, loving and kind! I'm sure, God will bless you a hundred fold!

  2. I used to be involved in the disabled "community" until I became busy with work. I myself am disabled (paralysis acquired due to vehicular accident - I have spinal card injury level T12 and L1) and still in constant communication with my disabled friends. There is a group here in the Philippines for individuals with Cerebral Palsy. I can refer you to them so she'd be able to meet others with the same disability and in so doing gather strength from each others experience. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. I'd like to meet your Aunt too :D

    1. Thank you Farida for the thought and suggestion. Actually, my aunt is now here with us in Negros. When she was in Manila, I tried to introduce her to artists who paint using their feet or mouth, but she wasn't too keen to join for fear of getting stressed to submit regular work. She is now retired from painting. I will try to get pictures of her work and blog about it. My brother is also handicapped with right sided hemiparesis and a paralyzed left hand, an artificial left eye and a legally blind right eye. He got his disabilities when he was 12 and accidentally shot himself with an air rifle. He is now 47...will blog about him too one of these days :) Thanks again!

  3. You are most welcome Doc Maritel :) I thought you live somewhere in Metro Manila and never realized that you're from Negros. Thank God for kind-hearted individuals like you. Your Aunt must be very lucky to have you around and like what you posted in this entry, that you find her a blessing too in your life! Happy Sunday :)

  4. A very inspiring story for us all. I salute you.

  5. inspiring story. :-) i can just imagine how having a family member living with you with a disability can change a lot of things in your everyday and most likely how you view life...

    am a new follower... hope you could follow me back doc.:-)


  6. kids are lucky nowadays... having all these vaccines. glad your aunt still lives her life to the fullest... kahit na me kapansanan sya. Yahweh bless.

  7. kudos doc. this is a inspiring story for everyone.
    Sa photo, your aunt looks happy and I believe with you and your family's support, she's in a better place now. :)

  8. you have a very inspiring story about patience and kindness. it's not really easy to take care and live with someone with a disability. it's beautiful to know that there are still people who can really take care of people who really need them.

  9. very inspiring story, and we feel your unconditional love

  10. inspiring story indeed.. it's great to hear that your aunt will turn 75 this may. Hope that she'll continue to live a healthy and happy life with you and your family :)

  11. Wow.. very inspiring story...
    Kahanga-hanga po ang pasencya nyo..

  12. I feel you. I've also an aunt ( the sister of my father)
    who had disability, though she already passed away.
    I hope that all of us would realize the importance of them.

  13. A very inspiring story you got! :,)

  14. Beautiful story! thank you so much for the inspiration. :)

  15. That's the essence of becoming a physician. It is wholistic from prevention, cure and rehabilitation and you have just made a job well done!

    Hugs to Tita on the photo :)

  16. An inspiring story of courage and determination.
    Courage, to continue life despite the disability.
    Determination, to live life and accomplish her mission.
    Your aunt set a good example and I salute her for that.
    THUMBS UP for you and your family by taking care of her.

  17. Thank you, Maritel for sharing Manang Mimi's story and the journey you took with her as you cared for her. You have just shown to the world how your Christ-like love bore you the fruits of the Spirit as you took care of her, Ted, family, and community. God bless you always. Love.


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I am a member of the working class, a daughter, a sister, a mom, a physician, a caregiver, the family driver and troubleshooter, house princess aka seƱorita, nurturer, meddler, Blogger etc. I am Roman Catholic and have great faith and trust in God and His Divine providence and intervention.

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