Huge trees lined up on one side of the thoroughfare with few small houses built a few yards away from each other; on the other side were tall slim coconut trees which gave a brief glimpse of the nearby beach. The highway was quiet and I was tempted to open the window but the wind was still humid as it was just after midday. Hence, I decided to turn up the car’s air con and volume of the radio. With the familiar OPM ballad blasting from the Toyota Corolla’s car stereo, I put my foot slightly harder on the accelerator to make the idyllic drive more interesting.
Speed limits were non existent at this part of the world. Except for occasional buses and jeepneys, I had the four lane expressway for myself. After driving speedily on a straight route for about half an hour, I felt the car started to shake as I missed the approaching bend. I was driving fast on an uneven road. Trying to get back on the pavement, I swerved swiftly. Then it was total darkness……
At first, it was only a buzz, slowly becoming louder and clearer. I heard people’s voices but I could not make out what they were saying. My head felt heavy and it was too painful to open my eyes. The bumpy ride was like being lulled in a hammock except that I was not under a coconut tree on a beach – I was being transported. As I regained consciousness, I tried to remember what happened. However, the last thing I could recall was humming along the OPM song as I was nearing that bend on the road.
Most of the time, I dozed off and woke up with the worst hungover. My head felt like a ton heavy and opening my eyes were like being rubbed by a million fine sands. A slight change in position would send me to a roller coaster ride. I was heavily sedated to prevent further swelling of my brain. During my lucid moments, talking to my colleagues and boss, I was able to piece together what happened. They said I banged my head badly on the window as the car went circles and I passed out. More details were revealed to me as I became more alert.
I stayed in the hospital for over a week, gradually recovering from the impact. My head felt less heavy and I generally felt lighter. I lost a lot of weight because I could not eat solid food. The fracture in my mandible made opening my mouth difficult and chewing food impossible. Thus, all I could manage was soup, tiny cuts of jelly and ice cream. My doctor recommended to tube feed me but my boss happened to know a specialist who was visiting Davao once or twice a month then doing surgery in Cebu a couple of days a week. Strong enough to travel, I flew to Cebu and underwent the surgery. It was a long and complex procedure; it took 6 – 8 hours. Titanium plates were used to fix the fractures in my mandible and dental braces kept my teeth aligned. After a week, I was able to tolerate soft foods and got heavier by the day.
Apart from the fractures, half of my face became paralysed and I had to undergo therapy for weeks after the operation. A couple of days each week, I went to a clinic where I had to lie down on a bench and multiple cables and sensors were attached to my face much like having an ECG. Facial nerves were stimulated through electrical pulses. It felt like being electrocuted a thousand times and each session lasted over an hour. I spent every night in front of a mirror, not to marvel at the handsome creation of God but to check for a minute movement of a facial muscle. The moment I saw that I was able to smile not looking like Mona Lisa was one of the happiest time of my life.