ICUToday I start the fourth week of my stay in the hospital to watch over my mom. That’s three straight weeks of playing Plants vs. Zombies as nurses and doctors, and student nurses and student doctors, and practically everyone in the hospital who wears a stupid white cap and a frown, take turns keeping in place all those tubes they have attached to the old woman’s body.

At one time, I counted a total of eight tubes in various colors and sizes, sucking out poison from my mom’s 78-year-old frame and replacing it with life-giving nutrients. With all those machines and scary-looking gadgets that ensured her breathing, my mother looked like one of those H. G. Wells characters she used to read to me aloud when I was six, only prettier.

It took me time to decide to write about this experience. You’re not supposed to write about extremely personal stuff in a column, especially about your mom, right? The paper pays you to write about matters of national security, like who’s the better noontime show host, Willie Revillame or Robin Padilla? Answer: Bentong.

But then I thought who doesn’t play Plants vs. Zombies? Everyone plays Plants vs. Zombies, all the staff in this hospital, the garbage collector, and the one with the food tray, and those blue guards outside who keep demanding for my gate pass even if they knew I live there already, they all play Plants vs. Zombies.

Even my mother – and I swear I heard her say this during one of those rare times she’s fully conscious – consoled me in my moment of Plants vs. Zombies sorrow, “Get plenty of sun flowers, you moron. Have eight cob cannons and fire them wisely. Spikerocks are your best defence against zombonis. And don’t cheat!”

And like an obedient youngest son that I’ve always been to her, I said, “Yes mom. But when you talk to me like that again, I swear I will have the zombies take you to the ICU for the third time!”

My mom has been to the hospital’s intensive care unit twice already, both times after she refused to wake up from mysteriously deep slumber that scared even me who loves to see her sleep like a baby.  Some mean gas called carbon dioxide refused to leave her body and it’s keeping her unconscious, the doctors said. This gas has to be released because if not, the trees will die.

Imagine all senior citizens 70-years-old and above refusing to emit carbon dioxide. That would have a catastrophic effect to the environment. So we said, yes, yes, please, take mama to the ICU quick!

The ICU is a different story. ICU is the hospital telling the patient’s relatives to back off because we’re getting in the way of the patient’s recovery. It’s the hospital taking complete control of the situation.  So by definition, the ICU treatment doesn’t provide a space for the watcher, who has to roam the hospital premises to look for a bench, a stairway landing, or an empty Dunkin Donut booth to spend the night.

This is stupid because we are a Filipino family. And as such, we never allow the hospital to completely take control of the situation. The Filipino children decide what medicine is best for their sick mom, the right time for her to receive visitors, or the best time to change her diapers.

But then this is not the executive suite of St. Luke’s we’re talking about, just your average, middle-class facility that allows us to stretch our budget a little. Which brings us back to Plant vs. Zombies. As gargantuars, catapults, diggers and the rest of the zombie army were destroying my gloom-shroom defence, and my dear mom was struggling to stay alive in front of me, I swear I heard her say, “Don’t pawn that laptop, moron!”

SUN.STAR CEBU, AUGUST 10, 2010