Friends, meet Gabby. This beautiful, adorable, energetic boy is the son of a friend and UP batch mate, Dr. Eileen Alvarez-Flameño. In an effort to share and spread God’s message of hope and the immense power of collective prayers, she asked me to write this incredible story about this incredible fighter.
I’m sure, I already wrote this before but, obviously, a reminder needs to be made.
One small act, or one seemingly harmless word, or one innocent mistake on our part as parents, has the potential to either make or break our child.
Sadly, it takes a tragedy for some of us to realize this—a little too late, sometimes, for the damage has already been done.
It’s Gabby’s first school year and, for weeks now, he’s been excited every single day to see his teacher and his classmates for his daily dose of fun activities—as excited as his parents are for their son’s incessant stories for when they get home.
June 22, Wednesday, a day that is about to irrevocably change the family’s life, is one of such days.
It starts out innocently enough. Gabby has to be in school at 7:45 in the morning, so the Flameños’ household is abuzz early. As an only child, Gab is the proverbial apple of his parents’ eyes. Eileen was already 40 when she gave birth to Gab, so she and her husband, Allen, consider their baby God’s most precious blessing. Their worlds naturally revolve around him.
At 9:45 a.m. on that fateful day, just two hours after he brought his son to the playschool, Allen is back to fetch Gab. They are already cruising along the Balagtas highway when he realizes that he forgot to strap Gab in, who is settled at the front passenger seat, just beside him. Without bothering to pull over, he reaches for the seatbelt, and that, in that infinitesimal moment, is when everything happens in a flash.
The next thing he knows, their vehicle has rammed into a delivery truck parked at the side of the road, with the right side taking the full brunt of the impact. When he sees the still, bloodied, helpless body of his baby lying beside him, he is gripped with a terror so intense and palpable that it is almost paralyzing. He wants to weep, he wants to throw up, he wants to surrender to the sweet temptation of oblivion, he wants to pinch himself awake from that nightmare, but no, his mind and instinct would not let his emotions take over.
He tries to lift Gab, but the boy wouldn’t budge. His son’s right leg is sandwiched between his seat and the door, and the door couldn’t be opened because it is jammed against the other vehicle.
With the help of some bystanders and another truck, they are able to pull open the door and pull Gab out of the car. The boy is then transported to the ER of the nearest polymedic hospital.
That is where Eileen first laid her eyes on the pitiful state of her little boy.
Gab is only three years old, his three-year-old body frail and fragile, and he is lying there — unconscious, bloodied, helpless. Eileen weeps like she has never wept before, and with her husband, she prays profusely and in earnest. Yes, they can draw strength from each other, but at that moment, what they need more is assurance — assurance that their son would not be taken away from them so soon. And only the Almighty Father can provide them that.
They decide to bring Gab to the Pacific Global Medical Center, the nearest tertiary hospital from Bulacan. The initial diagnosis is grim: brain injury secondary to trauma. But the CT Scan findings are even grimmer: total fracture of the right leg, and hydroma (accumulation of fluid) on the left subdural side of the brain.
For the next crucial days, Gab has to stay at the ICU. His operation (draining of fluid for his brain and open reduction for his right leg) has been scheduled in two days.
Eileen comes from an extremely religious family, and in this tragedy that befalls their beloved “bunso” (Gab is the youngest of all the Alvarez grandchildren), it is their faith that they cling tightly to. They ask all the priests, nuns, seminarians and church people they know to hold novenas and to ask special petitions during mass for Gab. They relentlessly ask family and friends—in person, through phone, or via social media—to continue joining them in knocking at Heaven’s doors for the improvement of Gab’s condition. They religiously pray the rosary and even visit various churches to humbly offer their plea.
Three hours before Gab’s scheduled surgery, a miracle happens.
The surgeon wants to defer the operation because, based on the result of the latest CT Scan, there appears to be a misalignment of bones in Gab’s neck area. He wants an MRI done on Gab first for more conclusive findings. But since the hospital does not have an MRI machine, and because the family also wants to seek a second opinion, they decide to transfer Gab to another hospital. They end up in St. Luke’s Medical Center (Global City), where Gab is immediately intubated and hooked to a ventilator. The MRI result reveals that Gab has not sustained any cervical and spinal injuries, and while the Arterial Blood Gas test shows that there is indeed a retention of carbon dioxide in the boy’s blood, the orthopaedic surgeon maintains that an operation is not necessary at this point. That happens on June 25, the same day that Gab opens his eyes and moves his left foot and left hand for the first time. See, miracles happen indeed!
He stays at the ICU for three more days until he is transferred to a regular room on June 29.
Each new day brings with it small but steady improvements in Gab’s condition. On July 05, with both his eyes open and clear, he gives his very first smile! That is definitely a sight to behold, and for his parents and the other relatives who stayed with the family all throughout the ordeal, a well-deserved reward for the many sleepless nights that they have had to endure.
Gab is now back in the familiar and reassuring surroundings of their home. Yes, a lot still needs to be done to bring him back to his old, jolly, playful and bubbly self, but his family is optimistic that they are already past the worst of the storm; all the trials that are yet to come their way are mere drizzles compared to what they have already gone through.
Finally, in spite of everything, Eileen and her family still consider themselves blessed beyond measure.
God has remained faithful to them by sending His love through the people who have been part of their struggle — Gab’s indefatigable prayer warriors, the doctors who rendered their professional services free of charge, the people who magnanimously extended financial assistance, and the bystanders who unhesitatingly helped in pulling Gab out of the car right after the accident.
They are also grateful for the valuable lessons they learned along the way.
They recognize that negative thoughts and emotions should not be entertained during crises. Instead of finger-pointing, doubting God’s plan, and wallowing in guilt, anxiety and depression, the Alvarezes and the Flameños quietly draw strength and inspiration from each other and from their unwavering faith in God’s perfect love. They are assured that when they lift all their troubles to the Lord, they, in turn, would be lifted.
They also realize how fragile and precarious and unpredictable life could be, that they should value every precious moment spent with loved ones.
They learn the depth of the love parents could have for their child—the great lengths they are willing to go to—to shelter him from further pain and harm. It’s the kind of love that sends them to their knees to beg that they instead be allowed to carry all of Gab’s pains for him, because no parent deserves to witness the suffering of his child. It is an experience one will never wish even to his most hated enemy.