El Mercurio, 33 years old
I met a friend who changed my life forever. His name is El Mercurio, a former colleague, a Computer Engineer and lives in a neighboring town in Iloilo. We worked together as production engineers in my previous company. He was kind to everyone, hardworking and determined. He loves mountaineering; he engaged in small businesses and supported his siblings in their studies. Everything seemed promising, a life well-lived until we bade each other goodbye when we both resigned from our jobs. I joined another company and he was left unemployed for quite a time.
I heard very rarely about my dear friend from then on. Not until February of 2008 when I got a text message from our common friend that took me by surprise, “El went back to Iloilo because he is suffering from dystonia”. It was devastating. We, his friends knew that it was the same disease that cost his father and his brother’s life, the same disease that his other brother is currently suffering as well.
Dystonia is a disease that causes involuntary muscle contraction. It is when a part of our brain that controls the muscle movement is not functional anymore. It is a hereditary disease that targets the male members of the family and the women become a carrier also. There are 3 kinds of dystonia, the one that manifests in the legs, one from the hands, and another in the jaw. El unfortunately acquired the last one, which is the worst kind.
When we heard the news, we immediately kept in touch with him. He would recall that every time he is awake, his jaw, mouth and eyes would constantly move causing him to salivate and stutter. He will only fall asleep after taking some pain reliever. He is in great pain and discomfort almost all the time he is awake. And it was crushing to know that no known cure exist during that time to ease his suffering.
The news spread rapidly to the rest of our friends and co-employees. Everyone was worried and all his friends extended all possible help that could at least re-energize El’s spirit. From prayers, to encouragement to the little and big contributions everybody chipped in, all were helpful that he will soon recover from the disease.
El tried to live a normal life as much as he could. He worked in a computer shop, did some buy and sell business and would go in Manila to watch variety TV shows as studio audience. He would always find time to visit his doctor about his condition. He was always hopeful that things will take a positive turn someday. And his prayers paid off. One day, his doctor told him the best news ever. Dystonia is no longer an incurable disease. Scientists developed a method known as The Deep Brain Simulation (DBS) and the cure is already available in the Philippines! There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel!
El called us to share the news still in his stuttering state. By the sound of his voice I can almost hear him cry with joy. And I couldn’t help but be very thankful that after all the things that have transpired, here is a man who happened to be my friend, braving the odds to survive and is not giving up on every hope possible. Here is a man who God made as an instrument to inspire us that life is about being hopeful, being courageous and being optimistic. It is defying even death.
He could have lost himself in depression 4 years ago knowing his condition. The thought of his father and brother dying could have flashed before him after discovering his illness. But El was different. He never gave up. He fought his way back to live.
Amidst the happy discovery of the cure, El relayed that his challenge now is on how to cover the expenses of the operation that would cost him 2 million pesos. It was a huge amount on his part. It may only be the equivalent to Jinky Pacquiao’s Hermes bag or a pair of diamond earrings of Mommy Dionisia but it was too enormous for a simple man like El. We, his friends, could not produce the said amount in a flash.
But don’t question El’s spirit. He used statistics combined with immense faith and hope to come up with a solution. According to his theory, if the Philippine population is at 100 million now, he can ask only one peso from 2 million people. Isn’t it doable? We burst in tears after hearing his words. I felt so little at the moment. I have no disease, I have work, I can buy mostly what I want, I can eat well, and I have no limits. Yet sometimes I am not contented, nothing is enough. But this man here aims nothing but to live his life a little longer with our one peso.
Friends, I don’t know how I can help my friend El for the 2 million pesos. I may not support him enough in terms of his financial needs, but I know part of me is always with El. And today I am his voice in spreading his cause. May you be part of the magic 2 million El wished for. Let your one peso make a difference to a person’s life. One Peso for El Mercurio!
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