Barely three days after my book — SURVIVING CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE: The Billy Esposo Kidney Diaries — was launched last August 17, Maritess Samonte Asuncion wrote me a private message on Facebook. Until then, Maritess was a total stranger to me although she mentioned in her Facebook message that her father, Rudy Samonte, was my contemporary in Ace-Compton, my very first ad agency. Her father and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are what united us.
Maritess wrote: “Hello Sir Billy. I am Maritess Asuncion, 45 yrs old, married to a seafarer, have 2 boys, 13 and 3, and suffering from CKD. I am presently reading your book “Surviving CKD”, and I find it very inspiring. I am experiencing, at present, the things you have been through and your book, somehow, gives me strength and courage to face my illness in a more positive way. I have to keep fighting for the sake of my husband and two young boys. Please include me in your prayers. I hope you wouldn’t mind if I send you messages every now and then, just to share my experiences with you.
I am currently on a thrice a week dialysis at the Manila Doctors Hospital. My nephrologist is Dr. Elizabeth Montemayor, the head of the Nephrology Department of Manila Doctors. I am also looking forward to a kidney transplant. My cardiologist, Dr. Anthony Leachon recommends an angiogram for me, to make sure my heart will be ok during the transplant. But, I have a bigger problem, I still haven’t got a donor. I am also on the big side, weighing 112kg at present. I only realized now that I have to at least look for a donor as big as my size, with healthy kidneys of course. I hope you will be able to help me, Sir. I believe I am still young and I would very much want to get my life back by having a transplant. And just like you, I believe God will make it happen in His own time. Be I would be needing help from people like you who has lots of influence being in the media. My father, Alfredo S. Samonte used to be with Ace Saatchi-Saatchi Advertising Inc, but is now already retired. He is an avid reader of your column at Philippine STAR.
My home number po is (deleted for privacy), cellphone (deleted), and I spend most of my time at Manila Doctors’ Hemodialysis Unit every Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.
I will be very delighted to hear from you Sir. I know you can enlighten me more on this illness you yourself have suffered from. My well wishes for you Sir. My prayers go with you and your pursuits. Be well Sir.
I have since been in correspondence with Maritess. To me, receiving her Facebook message was an affirmation that the Good Lord guided me to the writing of my very first book in order to help all those who are suffering from chronic kidney disease, otherwise known as end stage renal failure.
Of course, I do not delude myself to be competent in giving medical advice to CKD patients. I neither have the schooling nor training to be giving medical advice, especially for such terminal medical problems like CKD that require the attention of a specialist. I also do not have the medical license to be acting like a doctor.
What I can offer is a mirror to the CKD patient of their plight, based on my personal experiences. By sharing what I’ve gone through, the CKD patient’s burden is lessened because of the created empathy. By sharing what I’ve gone through, the CKD patient gets another source by which to understand the pains and rigors of CKD.
During my August 17 speech at the book launch, I did mention that I am hopeful that every person that will benefit from my book will decrease the demerit portion of my soul’s ledger with the Almighty. When you’re a senior citizen and ailing like me, the ledger of merits and demerits will have to form your top priority.
After receiving the message from Maritess, a good friend who was two years my senior in Ateneo High School, contacted me after buying and reading my book. He’s headed for dialysis treatment because he now only retains 19 percent kidney function. When your kidney function is only 15 percent or less, you’ll need to undergo dialysis and if you’re lucky — eventually go for a kidney transplant.
I have never recoiled from the call to serve my country when my services were needed. I believe that we serve God when we serve our people and our country. After all, how can we be credible in claiming that we love God, whom we cannot see, when we cannot love our neighbor whom we can see? Jesus Christ had defined our marching orders when He commanded: “Whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do unto Me.”
The potential for redeeming my demerits is immense. Around 10,000 Filipinos encounter the CKD problem annually. There are easily 100 million folks in the world who suffer from CKD. There are 240 million diabetics in the world and 40 percent of them will end up being CKD patients. There are over 1 billion hypertensive people in the world and hypertension is the biggest cause of CKD. By golly, I would earn an inside track to an entry ticket to Paradise if my book manages to help just .01 percent of them.
My book is not just suitable reading for those suffering from CKD. It should also be useful to those who are taking care of CKD patients. I refer to spouses, grandchildren, sons and daughters who might end up someday caring for their CKD afflicted parent, grandparent or sibling. Those who are caring for CKD patients should appreciate what the CKD afflicted person is undergoing and what are the protocols for coping with possible complications, the scariest of which is hypotension.
Hypotension is the opposite of hypertension. When your blood pressure drops to a dangerous level, you become prone to having a cardiac arrest. The lack of pressure causes the heart to stop.
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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”