Saving a Mate (A seafarer’s autobiography)

Author: Marco Del Valle

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Before I graduated from maritime school in 2001, I experienced the highs and lows of life.
My career life started after I graduated from maritime school in 2001. I was a volleyball player and it helped get my scholarship for 3 consecutive years. After graduating, I helped my mom at the government-owned quarry she was working at. I also worked at my father’s manning company for free. I stayed there for over a year before I fully decided to practice my profession. My dad used to be a seafarer himself before he decided to put up his business so basically I had his influence in the career path that I pursued. At the time that I worked for him, I met my girlfriend who eventually became my wife. But due to irreconcilable differences, we split up.

I was offered various kinds of jobs and training scholarships. I was about to accept a job offer from a Swedish company but I refused the offer. Instead, I worked at a petroleum company and I’d say it was the most difficult job I’ve ever had but I never complained.
When my term ended, I finally applied as an ordinary seaman in another company. At that time, I was just observing other crewmates who were working at the chemical tanker. They told me that it would be difficult for me to get that job since I was very young. I was only 23 at that time. So I just focused on shadowing another crewmate who was working as the pump man. I enjoyed my job and had fun with what I was doing. My petty officer even told me that I could take over his job since I was already doing good at it. I trained again in framo hydraulic which specializes in troubleshooting and hydraulic driven pump in chemical and oil tankers. I was also taught to manage and handle cargos, and load and discharge operations onboard.
When I had all the trainings and equipped myself with all these skills, I bravely demanded to my company that I would be promoted even though I was only 25 years old because I know I deserved the promotion. However, my request was not granted so I opted to transfer to another company that was willing to give me what I asked for.

Everything turned out well. I was doing good with my job and my employers and superiors were happy with my work and I had made friends with a lot of my crewmates. Until I experienced life’s worst mishap.
We sailed to Florida, USA to load a cargo filled with bulks of chemical liquid and sailed to Mexico to discharge that cargo. That was when the accident happened.
I saw my Indian crewmate lying on the floor not knowing that he inhaled nitrogen inside the empty tank. My instincts immediately pushed me to do what was needed— help my crewmate. I was quick on my feet but never thought of the danger that was awaiting me. You see, I only had 2 hours of sleep that night and I was not fast to react and think of my own safety first. My immediate reaction when I saw him was the riskiest reaction ever. I rushed and ran directly to his place and tried to recover him.

Unexpectedly, I also inhaled the nitrogen. And right there and then I collapsed not knowing what transpired.
When I woke up, I was already at the hospital. They said I that I accidentally fell inside the tank and I automatically lost consciousness. They said that I was in comma for the next six days. I didn’t even know that they operated on me. My spinal cord was severely fractured and they needed to put a titanium support.
After two months, I was brought back to the Philippines and immediately brought to St. Luke’s Hospital and had the five-million-peso bone marrow stem cell treatment which was paid for by my company. I stayed at St. Luke’s for the next six months but unfortunately, there were no improvements.

My company decided to give me my lump sum money in consolation to what happened to me. I knew that the money could not give me back the life, freedom and mobility I once enjoyed but there was nothing I can do but accept my reality and move on.
I used the money to build our house and start my water refilling business and quail farm. Things were good with our business and we were getting by just fine even after my accident. But it did not last long because everything started to fall apart. My wife and I had disagreements with money, managing our business and her work preferences which aggravated our marital problems. We would always fight and our two children were badly affected. I was disappointed with her and with how my life turned out. I experienced anxiety and depression to the point that I almost committed suicide. But I know I need to live for my children.

Then one day, one of my friends in Antipolo asked me if I wanted to train and try my luck in the digital industry. That was when I was introduced to Virtualahan.
There were a lot of applicants so I tried for months to get in until I was finally accepted. I joined the most recent batch, Team 26. I am really blessed with the opportunity and I sincerely appreciate the trainings they have provided. And most of all I feel blessed because they really care about people with disabilities.

MARCO DEL VALLE
Team 26

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