SURVIVOR: Disability Does Not Mean Inability


GOT PROBLEMS: Your Emotional Surviving Kit

Learn how three women how to cope – and come out even stronger.
p.58 to p.62


At 22, Bettina del Rosario found herself in what must have been like an avalanche of trials. Though adopted, she has always felt lucky to be with a great family. Unfortunately, her parents were having marital problems that caused them to later separate. Her own relationship was going awry; her boyfriend of three years broke up with her. She says this took its toll on her self-esteem. Another blow: She soon found out that she was pregnant.

Her ex-boyfriend initially doubted her condition. A second checkup convinced him, enough to propose marriage. Bettina declined. “I wanted to get married but I knew that it wouldn’t be the right decision”. When she told her parents, they were supportive of her decision to remain single.

Bettina had high-risk pregnancy. In her first trimester, she found herself bleeding and was told by doctors to get two months of bed rest. Then she got ill and was unable to carry her baby to full term.

On the evening of July 6, 1999, Bettina’s head started to throb painfully. She refused medication; afraid it would harm her child. When her mom insisted that Bettina have her blood pressure taken, they found it at a dangerous 240/120. Her folks rushed her to the hospital, where her doctor decided to perform an emergency Caesarian section. Her astoundingly high blood pressure was causing fetal distress. Bettina remembers how it was: “The last thing I remembered was hearing my baby cry. Then all I wanted to do was fall asleep”

Her ordeal was not yet over. Apparently, her high blood pressure caused a vein in her brain to pop, which in turn led to internal bleeding and blood clotting. The diagnosis: congenital condition called arteriovenous malformation. Bettina was undergoing brain surgery the day after she gave birth. The doctors, who had extracted one cup of brain mass from her, didn’t think she would make it. “They all thought I’d either die or be a vegetable,” says Bettina. She was in a coma for 10 days after brain surgery.

“When I woke up from my daze, I remembered giving birth. I was wondering were my baby was,” Bettina says. “I couldn’t recall much except flashes of my dad shouting at me and slapping my leg to wake me up. It all felt like a dream.”

When she fully came to, Bettina was not a vegetable , but the entire right side of her body was paralyzed. She had to stay in the hospital for three more months to recuperate; her baby leaving two months earlier.

Bettina shares how it was like: “I had to undergo speech, physical, and occupational therapy. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t even eat. I had to be fed intravenously. I couldn’t even remember what I cell phone was.”

“If there was something I wanted, I had to point. Sometimes I blinked, I shook my head, or make a fist just to send my message. I couldn’t recognize numbers and letters. I had to learn to do everything again. I had to go through all these diagnostic tests. I could remember everything that happened to me before the operation; after that, my memory was mostly selective.”

She eventually got well enough to leave the hospital in a wheelchair. At home, she had to endure being bathed in bed. For a long time her food had to be mashed so she could ingest it through a hole in her throat. “There were times when I fell into despair and succumbed to self-pity,” Bettina says. “I realized that things were not the same anymore.”

Fortunately, in a few months her memory and skills started to slowly return, although up to now she has yet to get everything back.

Bettina is determined not to be handicapped forever. She religiously attends all her therapy sessions. “I just try to look at all the physical work I have to do as like going to the gym. I’m really stubborn.” She isn’t one to dwell or mope either. “I just kept in mind that I have to move on – that mine is not a really big problem and that it will all pass. I know my son needs me.”

“I named him Luis Xavier, which means renowned fighter. When he was born I couldn’t fight, so I made him a fighter.” That’s how the boy, four years old now, motivates his mother to keep getting better.

And there there’s her spiritual inspiration. “God knows who I am,” says Bettina. “I trust that He won’t give me something I cannot handle. People always say that I am a miracle. I guess I am.”

Today, the woman is a picture of faith, hope, and strength: She can raise her right hand, although still not fully. She has complete feeling throughout her body. She can walk with a cane. She’s even gotten back
into one of her passions—horseback riding (equestrian). “I’m really feeling good,” she is thrilled to share. “In fact I was invited to join the World Dressage Championships for the Disabled. I’m also back in my small business of cooking specialty food.”

After all that has happened to her, Bettina and her family remain confident – even as they face yet another hardship, “My father has stage four cancer of the lungs and kidneys, yet we are unfazed,” declares Bettina. “After what happened to me, we are just too strong”


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