Respite and thalassemia

October 1, 2021

Let us take a respite from the turbulence generated by the coronavirus pandemic and the political scraping of presidential wannabes.

While there are other concerns crying out for government intervention, prioritization of efforts and marshaling of resources to combat the pandemic are measures clearly appropriate and timely, given the virulence and disruptive impact of the coronavirus on the lives of people. Covid-19 and its variants have, in fact, become “life changers.”

“New normal” is how others call this altered lifestyle of ours. That said, allow me now to write some about a medical health problem closest to my heart: Thalassemia.

Thalassemia is a hereditary red blood cell disorder that causes anemia. It affects one’s hemoglobin which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body.

Symptoms of thalassemia include fatigue, growth failure, bone deformities in the face, jaundice, shortness of breath and abdominal distention where the stomach becomes overly large.

If untreated, thalassemia can lead to iron overload which, in turn, causes heart failure, liver problems and increased susceptibility to infections.

Sad to say, treatment is expensive and it eats a big chunk of the family budget. In most cases, parents live lives of deprivation to meet the medical needs of the sick child.

I became involved in a foundation that was organized by parents of thalassemics purposely to help themselves, seek support from the kind-hearted and find comfort and grit from among themselves.

Each time the members met, they never failed to make what I would euphemistically term, “roll call of survivorship.”

Calling it “roll call of death” would be too morbid and cruel. It was during the roll call that the members were informed about those who passed away since their last meeting. It was heart-wrenching.

Watching them in their sorrow and sadness, I was moved to write a poem which I read to them on one occasion hoping that the message contained therein would somehow assuage or soften their grief and deep sense of loss.

Allow me to share that poem with you.

Smile for Me
(From a Thalassemic)

I know I have but days to live
Grant me Lord, I pray, a little time,
A few more minutes

To see the sunrise, the fields in bloom, the stately trees
Bending, swaying gently in rhythm with the breeze
To hear the song of birds, the whistling of the wind
Before I take that journey to a world that has no end

Although my life on earth be brief
I’m lucky just the same
‘Cause I have known a love that overflows
I have not lived in vain

Be saddened not… smile
Don’t weep or grieve for me
For when the angels come
I shall, at last, be free

Thank you for the care
Thank you for the sacrifice
Thank you for the love
Thank you for my life.