Ten years into their marriage, Wilfredo and Lolita Ramos decide to adopt a child. Still, they hope to have at least one child by blood.
They saw their chance in 2004, 18 years into their marriage, when Lolita became pregnant with what would’ve been their first. Then along came a string of unfortunate events. With a splitting headache, high blood pressure, and a 6½-month-old baby in her womb, Lolita was rushed to the hospital. She eventually recovered and was allowed to return home.
Then, a week later, a miscarriage ended the short life of their child.
In 2005, Lolita became pregnant with another biological child. But it, too, suffered the same fate. One can only imagine the heart-wrenching feeling of being unable to parent a child of their own flesh and blood. Worse, she only learned of the child killer too late: hypokalemia, low potassium in the body.
“I sometimes experience difficulty in breathing. I would also feel tired right after getting out of bed. I couldn’t do anything but to sit down and do nothing. If I kept working, I would grow more tired and make breathing more difficult, even to the point of inhaling [medical] oxygen,” Lolita narrates.
Potassium is one of the many essential nutrients of the human body. Its role ranges from aiding digestion to ensuring smooth mobility of muscles and bones. A medium banana, a well-known source of potassium, contains at least 200mg per half cup. However, there are other fruits and vegetables that are richer in potassium.
But the family can’t afford to eat fruits and vegetables, at least every day. With Wilfredo working as a tricycle driver and their only son studying in college, Lolita has barely enough to meet her potassium needs. Her Php5,000 worth of medication and Php5,000 in laboratory testing adds to the expenses.
At the urging of a neighbor, Lolita went to Tzu Chi for help. Since February 2017, she has been receiving meds like K-Lyte, perhaps the most important in regulating her potassium levels. The expenses were cut in half with compassionate hearts.
“Back then, the total cost would reach Php10,000. Now, it’s only Php5,000, all thanks to the medicine [from Tzu Chi],” says Lolita.
Less sickness, more charity
Destiny seems to have found the right person to offer words of wisdom to Lolita. At one point in her life, Tzu Chi volunteer Lugena Macaraeg suffered from hypokalemia. The description Lolita gives regarding her life of relentless body aches matches the volunteer’s suffering in the past. Both are under their respective medication to this day.
A beneficiary back then, Lugena soon began listening to the teachings of Master Cheng Yen. For some reason, she completely forgets about her condition as she thinks about the valuable lessons on charity and humanity.
“When I began listening to Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, I applied them to my daily life and felt stronger as a result. Since learning about her teachings, I no longer think about my sickness. All I think about after that is to help others suffering,” Lugena says.
Today, still under medication, the volunteer from Barangay Manresa, Quezon City serves with compassion alongside her colleagues. The pack of medicine she carries in her pocket reminds her of the beginning, not to pull her down but help her move forward.
“We don’t always have to think of our sickness. If we do, we’ll only grow more ill and weaken. Not thinking about our condition strengthens us to do good for other people,” she adds.
And do good Lolita did. With her fellow beneficiaries, she spared what change she could for the benefit of the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, USA. Even as the victims begin their long road to recovery, Tzu Chi Philippines continues to send aid alongside other chapters. By the end of Nueva Ecija’s monthly relief distribution in Cabanatuan City, volunteers collected over Php600 in donations from around 30 beneficiaries.
A few pesos are a small price to pay for the second chance at life Lolita received.
“I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for helping me overcome my condition. I sincerely hope that they don’t grow tired of helping us,” she ends.
Bags of groceries are lined up before waiting beneficiaries. Items include cooking oil, powdered beverage, and biscuits. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Around 30 beneficiaries gathered at a barangay councilor’s house in Barangay Sumacab Norte, Cabanatuan City on September 16. Despite a small community, Tzu Chi continues to support the impoverished hundreds of miles from Manila. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Before receiving their assistance, beneficiaries pray for peace of mind, social harmony, and a disaster-free world. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Encouraged by the suffering of Hurricane Harvey victims, the small community of beneficiaries in Cabanatuan City spare what change they can for the victims’ benefit. Tzu Chi Philippines continues the donation drives as opportunity allows all over the country. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Showing her pack of medicine, Lolita Ramos (right) realizes that she and Tzu Chi volunteer Lugena Macaraeg (left) have something in common. Lugena also began as a beneficiary, receiving medicine for hypokalemia, as well. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila and Cabanatuan City lend an ear to Lolita’s story. For years, her hypokalemia has brought her untold suffering, even killing two of what may have been her children by blood. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The Ramos residence in Barangay Polilio, Cabanatuan City. From the distribution venue at Barangay Sumacab Norte, the trip takes a minimum of ten minutes. Lolita once resided at Sumacab Norte but moved after Typhoon Lando (Koppu). 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】