21 July 2008

My Unsung Hero

Mr. Sencio is 62 years old. He is my trusted and favorite newspaper vendor. He is originally from Ilocos, but moved to Manila more than forty years ago, expecting to have a better life here. He is also my unsung hero, which is the topic of the coming medical blog rounds.

Mr. Sencio suffers from diabetes and hypertension. Currently, his hypertension is poorly-controlled. His diabetes? He said he does not know his blood sugar levels because he has not consulted his doctor for more than two years now. He has maintenance medications but he takes them only when he feels bad. He takes them when he feels a headache (suspecting his BP is shooting up) or when he's dizzy (suspecting his blood sugar is elevated). He has not refrained from avoiding food items high in fats, salt, and sugar. He says he loves to eat and eating is the only time when he feels he is really happy. Unlike other newspaper vendors who roam around the city streets, Mr. Sencio sells newspapers sitting down. He waits for customers (like me) to approach him. As such, he does not really have a regular form of effective physical activity.

Two years ago, he had suffered from a mild stroke and was confined in a hospital for a week. That was when he was told he had diabetes and hypertension. This was also the time his right eye went blind. It is still blind up to now, and he said his doctor said it has no remedy anymore. I suspect it is due to diabetic retinopathy.

In spite his serious ailments, he takes his medications on an "as-needed-basis," with the "need" defined by him, depending on how he feels. He said he is not consulting any doctor anymore because he knows already what the doctors will tell him.

"Take medications regularly? That is a total drain on the pocket," he says.

In the face of rising fuel and food costs, Mr. Sencio takes financial budgeting very seriously. He has five children, all of whom are beyond legal age, and are married, and are STILL depending on him in part, or in full, for daily expenses.

I do not know if he truly appreciates the gravity of his condition, but I know he is an unsung hero. His children may not know that they can lose him anytime because of the way he tries to manage his health, and the way he has decided to set his priorities.

Mr. Sencio is only one of thousands of other Filipino hypertensive-diabetics --- all unsung heroes --- who have decided there are other things more important than caring for one's self. Isn't that what a hero is all about? Placing the welfare of others first before oneself?

"Aren't you afraid of dying?" I once asked him.

"Death will come when it is my time. I don't worry about it," he answered.
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