Clarissa in LA

1 Jul

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For about two weeks, my cousin, Mary Ann, was here with her baby girl, Clarissa. They left last Monday and I’ve been missing them… I hadn’t seen them since Clarissa was born last November at UCSF. She has grown so much. She has that mysteriously curly Jacinto hair and big eyes and the longest baby lashes I have ever seen…

I would look forward to seeing them every day after work. It was nice to just hang out and talk about all sorts of things — from the little things of the day and exchanging stories about our kids to the big things about how Mary Ann and her husband, Gordon, have been managing under the weight of having a baby in the hospital; how they had been balancing living out of UCSF faraway from home while maintaining their jobs and trying to be present for their 4-year-old daughter, Surina, at the same time.

Clarissa was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome which means that the right side of her heart needs to pump enough to compensate for the under-developed left side. She has already undergone 2 operations — the first of which she had within days of being born.

A few weeks ago, Mary Ann and Gordon decided to try to get a heart transplant for Clarissa based on the outcome of the last surgery and her cardiologist’s recommendation; hence, the sudden trip to UCLA Children’s Hospital where they typically take on higher risk cases. Unfortunately, the transplant team determined that she would not be a good candidate. So, Clarissa is now back up north.  This time she is at a hospital a few minutes from home where she is receiving palliative care to keep her comfortable. For the first time since November, Mary Ann, Gordon, Surina and Clarissa can be together every day.

Mary Ann and Gordon have been so inspirational to us.  They have been extremely positive, calm, collected and focused from the beginning. If ever you need a sobering reality check and a lesson on how not to behave like a victim, just pay them a visit.  They have a stressful and overwhelming situation on their hands, yet they manage to be thankful for what they have.  You won’t find them angry or resentful.  They’ve got their priorities in order.  They can’t afford to sweat the small stuff when they’re praying for a miracle for their baby girl.20130701-005731.jpgWhile I wish it were under better circumstances, we were able to enjoy some quality family time during their short stay in LA.  We would either convene at Ging and Danny’s place or at our place in the evenings.  Their stay was also a good opportunity for Mary Ann to meet Quincy, for Cedro to catch up with his Ate Surina (and of course, his Tita Kathy, Tita Abbey and Lola Baby — Mary Ann’s sisters and mom), and for us to get to know Gordon’s side of the family better.  I love the fact that Cedro sensed the family connection instantly even though we only see them a couple times a year.  Every morning, he would look for Tita Mary Ann or Ate Surina or Tita Kathy (whom he would call Ate Kathy instead).  He would eagerly take them by the hand to show his room and his train collection.

Mary Ann and her sisters grew up in the Philippines so we benefited from some Tagalog immersion. I can’t believe that I’m 41 years old and I have been pronouncing kumusta as “koo-musta” instead of “kah-musta” for my whole life!  Here I was thinking that Tagalog was essentially a phonetic language.  Poor Cedro. He’s doomed with me as his Tagalog teacher.  Thank goodness for the rest of my family.  “It takes a village” after all.

When Clarissa left, we were all relieved that our other cousin’s husband was able to fly with her!  Dan is Ate Rhea’s husband and he’s the Chief Flight Nurse for the Calstar 70 location.  He’s like a brother to us.  Not sure if he was originally assigned to Clarissa’s flight, but I’m sure he found a way to make sure of it.  We knew she was in good hands.

We have since been getting updates and pictures.  Mary Ann’s family seems to be settling in; back to their life in Roseville.  Clarissa looks alert and more like herself.  Surina is obviously happy to have the whole family all together again.

I hope that Cedro remembers this experience somehow and understands and appreciates the importance of family when he grows up — not just the importance of our nuclear family, but the importance of our extended family of cousins, titas, titos, lolas and lolos.

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” — Frederick Buechner

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