My last church jeepney ride
Submitted by Phoebe Mendoza
On one sultry afternoon, my mom and I waited eagerly for the church-owned jeepney to pick us up. I was in my room combing my hair, and I can still remember how I smirked in front of the mirror and told myself that it would’ve been better if I were to be dropped off at my cousin’s place to hang out. Moments later, my mom told me to hurry up, and soon enough I could hear the jeep engine make noises outside of our house. I was only thirteen years old and the word “fun” didn't include this church event. I dragged myself out of my room and walked reluctantly towards the jeep.
It was the day that our church was bound for Laguna City, in the Philippines, to go camping. I didn’t want to be there, but my dad, who was the pastor of our church, insisted that I should come. I can still recall the lively exchange of banter between the youth church members that filled the jeep as I hopped on. I wasn’t really close to any of the youth members since I didn’t feel that we would get along like how my friends and I would, it was just different.
As soon as everybody was all set, we drove off to the steep hill that led to the entrance gate of our subdivision. Everybody was having fun and laughing at each other’s jokes. I was seated way at the back of the jeepney and had my own little world. My dad was seated on my left while my mom was on my right side. Once we reached the top of the hill, something that was unthinkable occurred. The brakes unexpectedly snapped, and no matter how hard the driver stepped on them, the vehicle wasn’t going to stop. The jeep was going down in a moderate speed and the driver was in a panic at this point. I looked at the driver’s face, and he looked at us at the back seat and said, “Wala tayong break! The brakes aren’t working!” Once the driver uttered these words, everybody trembled. Everything happened so fast and I could immediately see fear on their faces. The laughter everybody had only moments ago completely died down. And considering the fact that we were in this kind of situation, I knew as much as everybody else did. There was no guarantee we would all see each other laughing again once we reached the bottom of the hill. Somehow, the fact that we were in grave danger didn’t hit me so much. I was curious enough to look straight down the road to see what was going to happen. From that moment on, my dad placed his arm in front of my mom and me. He grabbed on the bar on my mom’s right side to provide a “seatbelt” for the both of us, and with his left arm, he grabbed on another bar to prepare for the impact. They later told me that our jeepney had flipped over and hit a telephone post, but I wasn’t conscious to witness any of it.
Even with all the hysteria around me, I knew deep down that I wasn’t scared. Because I loved watching movies with my cousins that focused on blood, gore and suspense, I developed this mindset of being able to handle situations and things that would usually scare people my age. When I woke up, I was in Unciano Hospital on a gurney next to the wall in a hallway. I lifted up my head and saw the youth church members seated quietly together. I could tell none of them were injured since they didn’t have any bandages. They stared at me with such serious faces like something didn’t look right with me. I hadn’t yet to see what I looked like and I didn’t feel any pain at all. I couldn’t tell if my eyes got damaged from the accident, but I saw everything in a gray color.
After I got wheeled in the emergency station, I shouted “Mom!” and “Dad!” intensely at the top of my lungs. Everything was a blur by then, but I knew that my parents were in the room next to me lying down on a gurney. My parents would reply, “I’m here, don’t be afraid,” from hearing my pitiful, spine-chilling shrieks. I was without a doubt, traumatized. The shock that I absorbed from the accident severely threw me off. My parents and I were badly injured. Unfortunately, we couldn’t provide the money that the hospital asked for so nobody gave us the necessary medical attention that we needed. In the Philippines, any patient who couldn’t pay was cast aside regardless of the state they were in. Once my mom told one of the youth members to send a text message to her niece about our situation, people who knew us started coming to the hospital in tears.
My mom’s friends who lived near by the hospital were the first ones to assist my family and the young people who were with us. Then, my cousin’s friend, who is a doctor, was also informed of our incident by my cousin, and immediately rushed to the hospital that we stayed in. Once he found out that nobody gave us any medical attention for almost an hour, he got angry and his outburst startled the nurses who were present. What we didn’t know at the time was that he is a renowned doctor and his name echoed numerous times in that hospital. Suddenly, the nurses gave their undivided attention to this doctor whose name is Dr. Dela Rosa. His presence gave us the assurance that we were going to be in good hands. The hospital we were in didn’t have the necessary medical apparatus, so he made the decision to transfer my father and me to Manila Medical City Hospital through ambulance for further medical treatment.
When Dr. Dela Rosa gave his quick and firm orders, he was also stitching up my mom’s forehead that was flapped down all the way through her nose. My mom wasn’t aware that it was her skin that was touching her nose, and she kept on holding it up while the blood gushed down her face. Dr. Dela Rosa told her to stay so he could monitor her stitches heal properly. Moments later, I was taken inside the ambulance. Two hours after, my dad’s ambulance also took off. My cousin, Ann, came with me in the ambulance and informed Lydia, another one of our cousins, that we were on our way to the hospital. My cousin Lydia was employed in Manila Medical City Hospital as a well-known medical laboratory technician. She took care of me when I got admitted in the hospital, and my first aid treatment was delivered in a breeze. When my dad’s ambulance arrived, he was wheeled in to the emergency room. Both of us had to do a CAT Scan to determine the damage we received in our bodies. My dad suffered from brain internal hemorrhage from a cracked skull, a fractured spinal column and a broken neck. On the other hand, I had a swollen, fractured eye socket that covered my whole right eye with blood. I also suffered from a broken neck. Initially, we thought that my mother was the one who was severely injured because of the amount of blood on her face. As time would tell, it was actually my dad who was in a critical condition. He couldn’t move his body and something so simple as to lie down became very painful to do.
We continued to receive treatment and our family and friends visited us each and every day. Some of my cousins stayed at the hospital and took turns taking care of us. A good friend of mine also stayed one time to take good care of me and keep me company. Then, when I was well enough to go for a stroll, I went to my dad’s room in a wheelchair. I still had a cast on my neck, but it didn’t compare to what my dad looked like on his hospital bed. For the first time after our accident, I saw my dad again and my tears just rolled down my cheeks. He had a cast on his neck and his whole head was covered with gauze. I stood up and hugged him in tears. He told me not to cry, but he couldn’t help crying either.
For one week, we were admitted in Manila Medical City Hospital and our bills skyrocketed endlessly. Our bills summed up to a total of 100,000 Pesos. We couldn’t even afford to give 1,000 Pesos at that time and it threw my dad in a distressed state. The question “How are we gonna pay this?” kept my dad awake every night, but God didn’t leave us with this problem for long. In a few days, all the churches that we were affiliated to gave monetary contributions and prayed continuously for our safety and recovery. God used His people to move and make plans to help us pay our hospital bills. An overwhelming miracle happened and at the end of our stay our bills were paid in full. After a long week in the hospital, I rejoined my mom at my cousin’s house and we couldn’t stop being emotional. She had a gauze on her forehead that covered the stitches she received from Dr. Dela Rosa. After a day or two, my dad was out of the hospital and was sent home.
We were still traumatized from what had happened, but we kept on receiving guests who prayed with us and cared for us every single day. Things were hard to forget and the scars we received became proof we survived because God loves us. The Korean pastors played a huge role in our lives that time and sent Korean doctors to our house who gave us free medication. Day by day, people would visit us to pray and provide for our medical needs. Missionaries all over the world prayed for our recovery and sent letters with inspirational Bible verses. Even church groups we weren’t familiar with came to our house and shook my dad’s hand. Without God in our lives, we wouldn’t be able to come out of this experience with appreciation. We saw God work in mysterious ways that man would never be able to understand. God kept his promise that He will never leave us, not forsake us.
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