partially handicapped, and a fighter all the way.By Ieth Tatoy Inolino
COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE, PHILIPPINES AUGUST 2006
Fun Fearless Female
The leg brace attached to her right ankle drags her feet as she walks. Clutched towards her body is her right arm, hardly swinging as she moves. The religious pendant she wears rests by the scar caused by the tube that went through her trachea. Even after countless physical, speech, and psychological therapy, Bettina shows neither a trace of remorse nor distress.
Seven years ago, Bettina A. del Rosario found herself pregnant. She was still in college and had just ended a three-year relationship with the man whom she thought of marrying.
Apart from stress and anxiety she was going through with her pregnancy and her relationship, there was also trouble at home. “So many things were happening at the same time, I didn’t know what to do,” Bettina admits. It came to a point where she felt like giving up and just leaving everything behind. “I tried to kill myself, hoping that it would make things easier,” she confesses.
Ticking Time Bomb
It was on her eighth month of pregnancy when Bettina experienced a terrible headache. She couldn’t remember anything after being brought to the hospital. “I passed out after giving birth,” she recalls. Little did she know that her seizure was caused by Arterio-Venous Malformation or AVM, a condition wherein the blood does not go to the tissues but is pumped through the shunt and back to the heart, leaving tissues without its needed nutrients.
Most patients do not know that they have AVM, and its cause is still unknown. People are born with AVMs although it does not appear to be hereditary. There are neither signs and symptoms nor are there preventive measures. Since Bettina was adopted, her parents had no knowledge of her medical history. She was in a coma for 10 days. The doctors gave her the same number of days to live. They took one cup of brain mass in the operation but she had a lot more.
Scars and Souvenirs
For three months, the hospital became Bettina’s second home. It was the paralysis of the right side of her body that led to a brain process malformation. She had to relearn everything from numbers to letters and how to write them was another lesson on its own. “I was right handed so I needed to learn how to write with my left,” says Bettina. Even her speech was affected. Whenever she tried to say something another word would come out.
For someone as outgoing and dependent as she was, the most challenging part was how to get back on her feet. “I had to relearn walking up and down the stairs and riding the escalator,” she reveals. She never gave up. Whenever she felt the gravity of a difficult situation, she would think of her son. “I can’t give up, no one will take care of my son,” Bettina feared.
Getting Her Life Back
She’s become a local celebrity at the hospital where she goes to therapy
twice a week. Bettina’s story of survival continues to inspire many patients. Her strength and perseverance encourages them to try harder. “I’m glad that I am able to help other people by sharing what I’ve been through,” she warmly says.
Being an equestrian has helped her condition as well. Hippotherapy, a rehabilitation program through horsebackriding , allows Bettina to improve her condition while enjoying what she likes most. During her spare time, she volunteers for the Riding for the Disabled where she helps young children affected by autism and cerebral palsy. In 2004, Bettina received an invitation to compete in the Riding for the Disabled International Competition in Detroit, Michigan. With the support and pledges of friends and family, Bettina flew to the States, making her dream to compete abroad come true.
An Able Disabled
Bettina did everything at her own pace, in her own time. She tries to live her life as normally as she can. She takes care of her son, Luis, and gets him ready for school he also brings him to his soccer games.
Her son is her reason for living. “If not for him, I can’t imagine living at all,” says Bettina. They enjoy making pizzas and pasta dishes together and share them with their neighbors. Before bedtime, she and Luis tell each other stories about their day. Luis tells her of his classes and friends, she tells him how her therapy sessions went. “A lot of times I forget I’m disabled,” she laughs. “When I go down the stairs, Ill suddenly realize that I have a procedure to follow otherwise I’d fall”, she adds.
After the Storm
At 29, Bettina has fought for her life and has managed to survive. With all that she’s been through, she’s learned not to take things seriously. She now takes pleasure in the small things she ignored before. “Give me a pack of M&Ms and I’d be happy. It’ll make my day na”, she says.
Because of her love for cooking, Bettina plans to put up her own restaurant in the future. It will take some time but she is in no rush. “Nothing is certain. You can be the healthiest person and die the next day,” she says. Despite her positive outlook, there are still times when she feels low. Her survival secret: a stash or Hot Fudge Sundaes.
HOW TO DEAL – Bettina shares the sanity-saving strategies that helped her get through the worst:
Cut Your Losses: In her case, it was Luis’ father, whose lack of moral and child support left her constantly disappointed. “When I put my foot down and removed him from my life, I was able to breathe again”
Do Something You Love: “I started to ride (horses) and cook again,” she says, setting up a small food-order business business. ” I just became happier.”
Socialize: Dinners out, live band gigs, and videoke nights top Bettina’s list. She also started making mommy friends in the village. “It took six years to ‘mend’ my broken heart.”
Fall In Love Again: “Though short-lived, my time with one guy I was recently with cannot compare to all the years of serious relationships I’ve had.”