DISCLOSURE: The author, like the subject of the story, is also a stroke survivor. He was described at the Philippine Heart Center, where he received critical care in June 2015, as a right CVA (Cerebro Vascular Accident, medical term for stroke), left hemiplegic.
In short, he had a blood clot on his brain’s right hemisphere that affected the left side of his body.
Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain.
To those who don’t know him, Ebenezer Machon’s Facebook profile, Bravo Echo November, is as cryptic as that line from Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Supremacy, the second installment on super spy Jason Bourne.
Not that he is like Jason Bourne who can race through rooftops in Morocco, maim multiple attackers in close quarter combat, shoot a pistol with accuracy or memorize 15 plate numbers.
No. Far from that.
Ben, as he is known to bankers in Bacolod, is a person with disability or PWD (what used to be known as a disabled) who had deficits after a stroke in the summer of 2014.
Ben admits he loves movies about America’s Navy SEALS, the Tier One operatives whose elite of the elite unit, Seal Team Six, killed al Qaeda’s Usama bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan.
And he did want to become a policeman.
Only that he did not become one.
“Instead I became a sort of one when I became a bank accountant,” Ben tells DNX in an online interview while on a lunch break from his new freelance job.
“It became an opportunity,” Ben says about his new part-time job that he found in the midst of a pandemic.
“I am doing systems audit and a walkthrough of internal control,” Ben tells DNX while the interview was being set up, a sense of pride apparent in his tone.
He says he sets up audit and systems review as a third party provider and gets paid on a per-contract basis.
“I now earn to at least buy my maintenance medicines,” Ben adds.
Things are looking up now.
It was not like this four years ago when Ben, a control specialist for a big nationwide bank had a stroke.
He was at the peak of his career, a professional who specialized in bank accounting and control
It was “critical” level in military lingo from the hospital’s intensive care unit where he thought he was going to die to battling depression post-stroke.
“I saw only black even when the ICU lights were so bright,” Ben recounts “but I told myself ‘you are not leaving yet, you still have a mission to accomplish,’ and I fought hard to not die.”
It was not an easy story, however.
After a month and a half in the hospital, Ben had a weak left side. “Very unstable,” he said.
It took nine months of rigorous therapy before Ben went back to work but it was simply too much for a recovering patient, forcing him to apply for early retirement and avail of disability benefits.
That was when depression struck, Ben says.
It was not for long.
“I came from the slums, I know how it is to be poor and how to facw hardships,” the former systems controller says.
He decided to snap out of it.
Ben decided to stop denying that he was no longer the man he used to be, that he could no longer be the” Ben Miller” known then in the Bankers Club for his three-point shooting skills.
“You have to accept who you are and modify your actions,” Ben explains.
That was the beginning of his “focusing” which involved praying and talking to his wife.
“I didn’t want to waste time and feel like an inutile, I told my wife I wanted to go into business.”
Ben continued to pray and found another place of zen, a place he calls Area 31, a lot near his home where he grew bonsai trees.
It was there, he says, that he found some small measure of peace, a oneness with things that, like him, grow under the elements.
“I talk to the plants,” he says without a trace of humor in his voice, “and they seem to listen to me.
In a short period of time, Ben had grown quite a number of bonsais, from ficus to gumamela to coconuts, some of which had fetched several thousands of pesos when he sold them recently.
Ben admits he still has physical deficits left by the stroke like numbness on his body’s left lateral that he feels all the time.
And he continues to limp, a reminder that he has entered a different chapter of his life, a “new mission” as he calls it.
Amid the pandemic, Ben continues to adapt to changes in the face of increased risks of being killed by the virus.
He is, after all, an immunocompromised person or one who had a stroke.
“We must be resilent in this situation,” Ben says and hastens to add that he had taken up another hobby, line fishing, that not only makes him relax but sometimes brings food to their table.
Ben is happy now that he had survived what is by far the bleakest moment in his life and had settled his debts.
He also takes pride in his children, all frontliners, two health workers, another working in finance like him.
“I raised them with military discipline,” he shares “since I believe, as I told them, that the more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in real life.”