One of the most courageous moments of my life was when I donated a kidney to my papa when I was 18.
He woke me around 11 pm. I was still in my school uniform – I was graduating college the following semester and was in the midst of my dreaded thesis preparation.
He'd been diagnosed with kidney failure right after I finished high school, and he decided to go home after he'd been away from us since I was in third grade.
His melancholic voice woke me in the middle of my deep sleep. "Inday, pwede ba naku pangayuon imung kidney? (May I ask for your other kidney?)"
Papa handed me a letter he wrote to the company to finance his plans for a kidney transplant. I could feel his anxiety, but I also saw sincerity in his eyes. (READ: #InspireCourage: Stories that inspire courage and resilience)
I didn't hesitate and said yes. No questions asked. I was clueless of the challenges ahead of me. I had yet to be hospitalized then, so I would not have been able to figure out what was in store for me.
It was a sunny afternoon when I received a call from their company nurse in Manila. I was with my thesis-mates, finalizing the plans for our documentary.
“Candice, nag match ang kidney mo sa papa mo (your kidney matched with your father's).”
It did not sink in. It seems that the world had stopped. Fear, worries, anxieties enveloped me as tears slowly trickled down my cheeks.
The transplant was scheduled a month after. I had to deal with all school-related tasks before I left for Manila. Cebu did not offer kidney transplants back then.
I juggled thesis writing between series of tests which required me to fly to Manila almost every month. I kept a notebook with me, listing down all the laboratory procedures that I needed to go through. I had to do them on my own since Mama needed to stay home to arrange important matters as well.
Everything was scary, from the needle injections to other tests that were bizarre to me since it was my first time to undergo them.
A few weeks before the transplant, Papa was advised to fly to Manila in preparation for the operation. Unfortunately, he acquired pneumonia then, which needed immediate attention as this could cause complications.
So in between accomplishing my series of tests, I also needed to attend to his needs while he was admitted.
There were nights when I felt so tired and crying became my solace. I had no one to talk to, so I used prayer as my armor.
But while I felt alone, I was never broken. I was resolved that I was there for a purpose.
The night before the operation was quite normal. Mama and my Papa’s sister arrived. We exchanged jokes and meaningful conversations. It was probably their way of comforting me.
December 16, 2003. I heard Christmas songs as I slowly opened my eyes, the anesthesia wearing out after leaving me motionless for hours.
On the right side of my body, I saw a long bandage. It felt weird that I couldn't stand up straight, until it dawned on me that my other kidney was gone.
“You gave your Papa 15 more years to live,” said one of the doctors who visited me.
After a month of isolation, I saw Papa for the first time. He first showed me his hands, pink and light, very different from the dehydrated skin he used to have. The glow he had was priceless.
He silently said thank you with trembling lips. I could only smile back.
Last June 12, 2015, I lost Papa. 12 years after the kidney transplant, his other organs had failed.
Some relatives and friends questioned me. Why did I risk my young life for someone who was about to lose his own anyway?
They will never understand, and I don’t want to spend my entire life explaining why. There was never a day that I regretted doing what I did for him. He is my Papa and will be my only Papa in this lifetime.
And if I had the chance to go back in time, I would say yes to him again, no questions asked. – Rappler.com
Candice Grace Cabras Maque is a public-school teacher from Talisay City, Cebu. A mother of 3 and advocate for children with special needs, she is a member of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Cebu Chapter.