If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time. ~Russell Hoban

With the year almost over, it is always good to look back at the year that was. To move forward, we need to look back and see what needs to be avoided, what needs to be improved and what needs to be done.

This year was both full of challenges and blessings. In the past months, we lost at least four patients including one emerging leader Percival “Rex” Retuya. While their deaths all brought sadness to their loved ones and all of us in the local hemophilia community, I ‘ve been mostly affected by the untimely demise of Rex. In the past two years that I’ve known Rex, I admired his resolve to help others despite his poverty. He had been among those actively pushing others to form a support group and visit those who were sick. He initiated a livelihood program for bleeders so that they would not have to be a burden on their families.

He was one of those patients who, despite their condition, tried to rise above the challenge no matter what. (Photo: Rex Retuya’s wife and daughter at his wake.)

In May, HAPLOS, the oldest hemophilia group in the Philippines, elected a new set of officers. The new officers promised to work harder. It’s never easy to run an organization with so much needs to address. And I pray for strength and wisdom for all the officers and members. My only wish is for more members to become active, for new volunteers to rise up, for everyone to work together for common good.

In June, a new group came into being – the Blood Brothers of the Philippines. Developments like this should be welcomed. There is just too much work to be done for a single organization to address all concerns.

Personally, I have so much aspirations for bleeders in the Philippines. Foremost of which is the institutionalization of hemophilia care in the country. If bleeders in other countries succeeded in getting government support, I do not see any reason why we cannot. But this can only be achieved if visions are put into action. A wise man once said, “People perish for lack of vision.” Vision guides us to where were are going. It is the light to our path. Without it, we cannot expect to get anywhere.

This year, I have chosen to be more of an outsider. This doesn’t mean though that my desire to help bleeders have dwindled. Not at all. But by being an outsider, I see things more objectively and it enabled me help more people. I’ve gained more friends this year as I reach out, in my own little way, to bleeders all over the Philippines.

Just last month, I met a young couple — Ian and Yuen — parents of cute baby boy Caleb who was diagnosed with hemophilia just shortly after his birth. It has not been easy for them and I pray that their bond will strengthen as they raise their angel Caleb together.

(Baby Caleb, photo courtesy of his cool granny Irene Alejandro.)

On a more personal note, the impact of von Willebrand disease has become more pronounced this year when I started to bleed more than ever. After some tests, doctors found that I have a thickened uterus and myoma. My OB-Gyn recommended a biopsy operation but because of my bleeding disorder, I could not undergo an invasive procedure. (My mother died while undergoing biopsy operation.) Based on my own research though, thickening of the uterus wall is usually associated with continued profuse bleeding. So top of my wish list is to see an expert on women with bleeding disorders, which I hope to be able to finally do in February 2010.

Thankfully, Star had lesser bleeding episodes this year. Though her monthly periods started last September, we are grateful to God that it has not been as profuse as we expected.

2009 had been an eventful year — both good and not so good, that is. But as the Good Book says, in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Despite the pains, hurts and disappointments we experienced this year, we have so much to thank God for — the lessons learned, new friends gained, little successes, better health, more strength, among so many other things to be thankful for. Sometimes, blessings come in little packages. But big or small, we must thank God for it all. As we face another year, I pray for everyone in the bleeders’ circle to have more strength, better health, better relationships and more blessings!

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About Andrea Echavez

I am an advocate for people with bleeding disorders. My daughter Star and I were diagnosed with von Willebrand's Disease Type 2M.