MANILA, Philippines--The last time I saw PBA legend Abet Guidaben, he was robust and healthy and had enough energy to enable a man of his age to play basketball.
That was two years ago in March 2008 when I joined a big group of PBA Legends based here in the Philippines on a tour of California. The legends from Manila and those now based in various parts of the United States all converged in San Francisco for the first leg of the tour which was set in Union City.
Abet was one of three Legends who flew in from New Jersey, where he now resides with wife Maridol and children. The former Crispa Redmanizer had always been one of my favorites and I was happy to hear that his business was doing OK in his new environment.
I was therefore surprised when a few days ago, I received an e-mail from Ruffy Ignacio, secretary general of PBA Legends Foundation USA, which bore the disturbing news that Abet was “in dire straits.”
The PBA’s two-time MVP, Ruffy said, was afflicted with a serious ailment called Myasthenia Gravis.
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Immediately, I pulled out my medical encyclopedia from the bookshelf, leafing through the pages that defined and described this strange malady.
Myasthenia Gravis, I learned, is a chronic disease of the nervous system affecting the voluntary muscles and rendering them exceedingly weak and exhausted when they are used.
The muscles of the eyes, face, neck, throat, tongue and lips are especially involved, but others, like arm and leg muscles, may be affected later.
According to the book, in many cases, the person with myasthenia is so fatigued he cannot hold anything in his hands, keep his eyes open, or even feed himself.
I was horrified to find out that the disease could be fatal, even “rapidly fatal,” and before the new treatments were developed, was almost always fatal.
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“Abet manifested symptoms of the disease when he showed up in Chicago last June 15. It was the Foundation’s benefit game to raise funds for scholarships for poor children in the Philippines. He came with tapes above his eyelids to prevent them from covering his eyes,” Ruffy related in his letter.
“Abet said he had to come because he could not turn his back on the youth in the Philippines. To make matters worse, Abet dislocated the index finger of his left hand.”
“Actually Abet had just been discharged from the ICU of a New Jersey hospital where he had been confined for more than a week. He was suffering from difficulty in speaking, swallowing and double vision. His speech has become nasal-sounding and his breathing short,” said Abe King, the Foundation’s chair.
According to Abe, Abet is being treated with steroids to arrest the spread of the disease.
“Abet’s dutiful wife Maridol has applied for government assistance for the continued hospitalization of Abet because they do not have sufficient insurance to cover the medical expenses,” Abe said.
Among Abet’s colleagues who played with him in the Chicago game were Billy Ray Bates, Francis Arnaiz, Yoyoy Villamin, Elmer Lago, Ponky Alolor, Peter Aguilar, Etok Lobo, Manny Victorino, Django Rivera, Bryant Punzalan, Topex Robinson, Ricky Relosa, Tim Coloso, Boy Valera, Pastor Eddie Boy Mendoza and Abe.
“We are preparing the groundwork for a benefit basketball game in Los Angeles to be held as soon as possible. This time it will be a fund raiser for Abet,” said the PBA’s chair of the board Abraham Columbus King of the American Cherokee Indian tribe.