Real Talk

Chi Atienza Valdepenas Shares Her Daughter’s Life-Changing Surgery

Mom, businesswoman, and TV host, Chi Atienza Valdepenas, opens up about her daughter’s eye and nose surgery that changed her perspective.

Chi Atienza Valdepenas’ heartfelt story below tells busy parents to always savor each moment with their children.

Testing Positive for COVID

During the first week of January, our whole family and household tested positive for COVID. Everyone seemed to have had a mild case at home and after ten days, everyone tested negative. COVID was not that bad, I thought. Until a week after when my daughter who had a cold that seemed like a simple case started exhibiting a headache.

As a naturalist parent who only uses Western medicines when truly needed, I opted to have her do the simple nose clearing. We used a nasal syringe and the usual nasal sprays. I thought the headache was because of sinusitis that could be remedied with an antibiotic. Our pediatrician prescribed one the day after she complained half of her face was painful.

A few hours after she took her first dose of antibiotic, her right eye started to swell. I thought it was just because of the pressure that the sinusitis was giving her. Although that same night, her vision blurred. This prompted us to take her to the ER for an ophthalmologist and an ENT doctor to check her swollen eye, eyesight, and sinus.

In these times, especially in the middle of a pandemic, it’s horrifying to think of bringing our children to the hospital—especially the ER. What transpired that night left us with no choice but to do all that we could to have her checked in the ER.

Chi Atienza Valdepenas on Finding Out Her Daughter Needed Surgery

Initial findings came out. She had pre-septal cellulitis that needed to be treated using an IV antibiotic. So that same night, our daughter was admitted. The day after, though her eye seemed to be getting better, her nose was still heavily clogged. And so our pediatrician got an ENT specialist on board. She had to undergo a CT scan as requested by our infectious disease doctor. A day after, to our surprise, she had orbital cellulitis—which would only fully resolve if she had an eye and nose surgery.

The doctors informed me about the procedure and the risks involved. For a moment, my heart died. I was at a loss. For a while, I realized that I had to expose my daughter to blindness or whatever complications may arise from such procedures. I stormed the heavens and asked for another scan. Maybe just maybe it was resolving on its own with the IV medications being given to her round the clock.  But after the second scan, surgery was the only option.

Staying Strong for Her Daughter

The hospital had strict rules given the pandemic. And so only one person could stay in the room to care for the patient. In my case, I was the only one there with her. Finding out that our only daughter needed to undergo surgery in the eye and the nose broke me to pieces. The pain was intense but the only way I could release my emotion was to hide in the bathroom and cry quietly. She needed to think that the surgery was just a simple procedure and that she should not be afraid.

Behind the laughter and smiles that I showed her was a mother’s heart desperately longing for a miracle. But it seems like the miracle of recovery without the surgery would never happen. Therefore, we ended up just trusting that the Lord had great plans for our daughter. Despite the fear and pain, we had to submit ourselves to the process and trust the doctors on board.

The night before the operation, I remember wanting to prolong the night so that I could hug my daughter tightly and just wish for the evening to never end. I slept beside her and cried without her knowing.

Wishing It Happened to Her Instead of Her Daughter

The following morning, my husband and I had to bring her to the operating room with cheerful smiles and encouraging stories. We even went to the extent of talking about her favorite YouTubers. The final hour came. She was sent to sleep while we were asked to wait. 

I never knew that pain like this would even exist. You try to be strong. But the truth is you are broken to pieces. It’s every parent’s wish to always protect their kids from getting hurt. But in this instance, she had to risk her eyesight just to get better. And mommy could not do anything but allow the process to happen.

It’s in these instances that we hope it happened to us instead of our own children. It’s these moments wherein you look at your child and encourage them to overlook the pain they feel. But in reality, you are silently hurting more. I have never cried so much in my life. In times like these, you realize that you are truly helpless and all you have is God.

Chi Atienza Valdepenas on Having Faith and Trusting God

The hours of waiting for the surgery to end pushed me to have a conversation with God. Growing up, I have always seen him as a caring father who only allowed pain in my life when I truly needed to go through it. I did not hate him for what happened to my daughter. But I wanted to understand why he wanted to make us go through this challenge. I asked why this had to occur.

Did I need to change? Was I starting to drift off in my faith that he had me feel this helpless to see that he was supposedly my only source of strength? Did I have a mission to fulfill that I had to undergo such a traumatic experience? Did I not care enough as a mother that he had to show me he could take my children anytime?

A Successful Surgery

All possible thoughts entered my head. And my heart felt like it was imploding. I called my dad and he assured me that what my husband and I were going through is just a part of having a family and a part of being a parent. Perhaps I have busied myself too much that I forgot how my children truly needed a present mother. I was there all the time physically for them, but my heart and my mind were mostly somewhere else. Perhaps that was the main reason why the Lord allowed me to go through this ordeal. It was the hardest ordeal I have encountered alone given that no one could be there with me physically because of the hospital’s policy.

After four hours, the two doctors who operated on our daughter informed us that the surgery was a success and that our daughter was on the road to recovery. I have the doctors to thank. Their caring personas allowed me to cry at my moments of weakness. And they were patient with me when I doubted them. They were my daughter’s angels and we are forever grateful.

Chi Atienza Valdepenas: “Nothing matters to me anymore except my family and my children.”

These days, a role of a mother is no longer as simple. In my case, I am a businesswoman, producer, content creator, and TV host/newscaster. I am also a hands-on mother. But there is a difference between being a hands-on mother and being a present one. The greatest realization I have had in this whole ordeal was that my children should always be my priority over anything I do in my life. The pain in failing in a career is nothing compared to seeing my child suffer and go through so much pain. After experiencing what I went through, in a heartbeat I would let go of all that I hold on to dear just to remove my child’s suffering.

Nothing matters to me anymore except my family and my children. Perhaps the Lord allowed this suffering for me to realize that all these times, I was wasting time. My children are growing up too fast and if I do not take time to stop, see, and immerse myself in their lives, one day they will all be grown-ups. And all I will have are regrets that I should have savored them more when I had the time to do so.

For every busy parent reading this, may you find time to see your children, savor each moment, and realize that they are your true treasure in life. They are God’s gift to us that no amount of worldly treasure can ever encompass. Now I understand why the Lord allowed me to cry and why he broke my heart for a little while. I am forever changed because of this.

Read more heartfelt stories on Modern Parenting:

Tricia Chiongbian Concepcion Shares Raising Her Son with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Awareness: The Love and Compassion of Two Sisters

The Silent Grief of an Early Miscarriage

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