Biggest Accomplishment

Grace and blessings! Biggest accomplishment today: I taught a kid how to pray to Papa Jesus.

This Pedia patient was rushed to the ER after being hit by a dos por dos on the head by a caretaker a week ago. He told me he was scared because his watcher was almost always absent.

He was a six year old boy but he acted like he was three. He kept on chewing the lock on his IV line, dislodging the needle out of his vein which prompted us to insert more IV cannulas. He needed a medicine that should be given directly into his vein so his brain wouldn’t swell because of the injury.

“Nasaan na si Ate?” (Where’s my sister?) he asked me worriedly. I told him his sister just went out to buy food for them. I honestly did not know where his sister was. She was gone for two hours already.

I asked him if he knows he has angel. He said yes.

If he knows Papa Jesus? He said yes.

If he knows how to pray? He was silent. He kept on looking at me until he shrugged his shoulders.

“Okay, baby, tuturuan ka ni Ate Gela paano magpray para hindi ka na matakot,” I replied. “Parang nagrarap ka lang, sinasabi mo yung gusto mo iparating kay Papa Jesus.” (Okay, Ate Gela will teach you how to pray so you wouldn’t be scared anymore. It’s just like rap, you tell God what you want Him to hear.)

Angel of God

The patient joins rap contests in his local barangay at a tender age. He is good at it, according to his sister. A “nanay-nanayan” (non-relative motherly adult) spotted him during a contest and offered to take care of him. That “nanay-nanayan” is responsible for hitting him on the head, and other unspeakable acts that prompted the patient to tell his sister, “Ang dami kong problema. Ang daming problema sa mundo.” (I have many problems. There are so many problems in this world.)

After a short prayer thanking God for his life, asking for protection against danger and money for his food, medicine and lab tests in PGH, I asked him if he was still scared. He said no. And I tucked him to bed (that cold metal stretcher bed) with his sarong as makeshift blanket. He proceeded to stare at the ceiling with his wide, beautiful eyes. The innocence of those eyes betrayed and smeared by the (insert unkind word here) adult who allegedly hit him on the head with a dos por dos.

“Kapag natatakot ka, tandaan mo lagi mo kasama si Papa Jesus,” I reassured him. (If you feel scared again, remember that Papa Jesus is always with you.) He nodded and smiled.

At that moment, I could have given the same advice to myself.

This incoming week is one of the biggest, if not the most important, weeks of my 2014. The Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations Area Finals contest, adjustment with duty in Pediatrics (one of the big four departments!), transferring to another apartment, CYA Anniversary… I am tempted to feel scared and overwhelmed and doubtful when I think about it. Plus the fact that I feel like I haven’t allotted much time preparing for it as I would’ve wanted to.

But God is so good. He is so good. He blessed me with
– Phi sorority sisters who are determined and willing to help me out
– not one but TWO scholarships to cover my expenses in Medicine
– Code Red for my NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) duty so I wouldn’t be admitting so many neonates this week
– a Pedia ER neonate patient whose parents I interviewed for the importance of breast milk
– nurses, fellows and consultants who go out of their way to inspire us in Milk Matters
– brothers and sisters in Christ’s Youth in Action whose encouragement and timely prayer meetings always reassure me that God is in control (HHHH!)
– parents who are so supportive in everything I do
– my brother graduated from college

All of these are blessings. Grace. Everything is grace.

So when I taught that kid how to pray, I felt like it was just a small thing to give back to the Lord.

God is so amazing and kind and good, that teaching a child to pray is only a meager way to thank Him as His instrument. I can do more, be more for You, Lord. Bless me with that chance. You know my heart. My prayers. I entrust all to you, Father.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” -Isaiah 43:1-3

PS. I encourage you to pray to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. 🙂 A mass in PGH Chapel will be celebrated for her on Nov. 25-27. My first personal blessed time with Our Lady is during the CYA Sisters’ Summer Household 2014 in Paranaque. The Parish of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is only a few blocks away from our Household.

*neonate- a baby whose age is 28 days and below

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Student In Charge

The SIC. One can always read it in the doctors’ order sheet, like some monotonous voice of an unseen robot giving out instructions.

“SIC to complete database for patient information.”

“SIC to refer patient to SAPOD, IDS, TB DOTS. Inform service once with labs.”

“Highly appreciate SIC efforts!”

In the world of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, SIC means student in charge. He/ she is either a clerk or an intern. Each one is assigned a number of patients to be monitored for any progress in health management. It goes without saying that the doctors’ orders must be followed and carried out. Without fail, or else.

So when the textpass came that all classes in Manila were cancelled due to inclement weather, Clerk Villa shrugged it off. Class suspensions did not really apply to us anymore. We were waterproof. The dedicated mermen and mermaids of UP-PGH. I continued with my battle gear preparation for perfect storms such as this one: the boots my Daddy bought for me, a functional jacket, a sturdy umbrella and my indispensable, ever-reliable duty bag. Off I wade into the high waters of Taft Avenue!

Oh it was such fun wading the waters with my boots on! I crossed the then ankle-deep muddy water of Taft Avenue with the strong winds slapping against me. Without fear. Without hesitation. I felt so privileged, confident that my feet would always be dry and my white pants unstained. This must be a semblance of what the Israelites felt when the Red Sea parted for them and they walked on dry land right through it. Amazing.

I arrived in the Orthopedics ward (unscathed) to see my patients and check up on the latest doctors’ orders.

I have four patients so far. Two of them have undergone below-the-elbow amputation on the right forearm because of a cancerous mass or a complicated extrapulmonary tuberculosis lesion. They are happy and relieved to be going home on Sunday, partly because they have no money to spend anymore. One is a 15 year old kid who has bilateral clubfeet that makes it hard for him to walk and relate because of the seeming disfigurement of appearance. My last patient has gone home already. He’s my age, and his fracture on the left leg necessitated that an external fixator (Ilizarov) be put on for proper bone healing. It looks like this one:

Ilizarov

Why am I writing this?

Because upon arriving in Ward 8, I am not surprised to see my blockmates, even those who are not on duty, doing their SIC work. I am not surprised to see my classmates in UP College of Medicine Class 2016 walking along the dark and cold hallways of PGH, entering their designated wards to do what they are tasked to do. Getting the latest lab results for their patients. Endorsing needed requirements to facilitate patient healing with fellow clerks. Bad weather or good. Even if they feel like doing it or not.

I am not surprised, but I am amazed all the same.

I honor the clerks, the interns, the doctors, the nurses, the utility workers, the lab technicians, the medical technicians. Being a health professional is a sacrifice. It is not easy and at times it is most inconvenient.

But the joy of serving the patients. No one can take that from us. I would like to quote my fellow clerk, Doi Infante, on his beautiful insight after a tiring duty:

“Did my rounds early this morning after a toxic 24-hour duty, and found out that one of my patients will be discharged today. All the exhaustion seemed to fade away when Lola said, “ma-mimiss ko kayo, doc!”

It may not seem much, but it made me smile.”

Doing my rounds despite the weather may not seem much, but the Lord designed my heart to bask in the joy of seeing my patients heal and get better.

A simple thank you from a worried mother, a smile of acceptance from a sick old man, even seeing the healing wound of a quiet child. These incidental forms of appreciation make us feel more human after executing the must-be-done-without-fail orders churning out from that unseen mechanized robot voice.

Class suspensions don’t really apply to us SICs anymore. Bad weather or good, we go to the hospital, do our thing, and hope that at the end of the day, our patients get better. That at the end of the day, the things we do for our patients eventually teach us to become good doctors with kind hearts, willing to cross Taft (or Pedro Gil) even if it morphs into a monster of a river.

Clerk 157

Each medical student has his or her own class number corresponding to the surnames’ alphabetical arrangement. I am 157 out of the 162. I am one of the people who belong to the last block, occupy the farthest of the locker spaces, and can be at peace when it comes to graded recitations because my surname’s a kind of a charm for starting with the letter V. Teachers call us last, and the questions are not so difficult by then.

“V as in Victory po,” I tell the lady who writes “Billa” on my health record.

“B as in Bictory?” she asks. I make the peace sign and she gets it.

Being the 157th clerk in our batch in UP College of Medicine Class 2016, however, affords no perks or points whatsoever. All of us have to be trained under the rigors and pressures of UP-PGH so we can be the best doctors of and for the country. No way out but through, unless one quits.

And by God’s grace, I finished my first month of clerkship and am currently on my third department rotation assignment in Orthopedics (specialty for bone diseases). Such happiness! After assessing numerous distressed patients, extracting bright red blood for tests, coaxing shy veins to appear for intravenous lining, writing on dozens of patient charts for disease management, presenting different cases of diseases to consultants and residents, toxic 24 hour duties, busy nights at the Emergency Room, sleeping on the ER bench to catch up some needed rest, doctors’ rounds at 12 in the morning, bloodied uniforms while taking care of vehicular crash patients, studying medical books despite the tiredness and hunger and lack of sleep because in the morning a patient’s case will be presented to a senior doctor, etc.

Busy life. And I only have Ophthalmology (Eye), Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) and Orthopedics (Bones) under my list of clerkship experience.

No, I am not ranting. I write this to try to make sense of everything, as a thanksgiving, because despite the sacrifices I choose to make while living my doctor dreams, I can honestly say I love what I do. I love where I am now, and I cannot see myself as anything except as a doctor, to be working anywhere except in a hospital. I love the action and challenge of learning about my patients’ lives and their diseases, of being inspired by the excellence my mentors, senior residents and consultants display, of being an instrument of God to care for and heal His people.

Sacrifices are part and parcel of this profession. I am home from my 24 hour duty to find the apartment empty. I see my younger brother a lot less now. With my schedule intertwined with the hospital, there are family parties I cannot attend, CYA and Phi activities I cannot join, sleep that should have its maximum to three hours only. My free time has become a prized leisure time: first for the Lord, for catching up with my family, for studying, for eating, for taking care of myself when I don’t take care of patients. My dinner tonight is my first meal of the day. I am tired from duty and I opted to sleep rather than eat.

Everyday, I still choose to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to pray. I’d be insane if I don’t have God to be with me as He molds me to be His image of a best doctor. Like clay in a potter’s hand, I pray that God bless me with the grace to strengthen my faith in Him. That amid the tiring, sacrificial and sometimes frustrating life of a clerk, I can find in Him the peace of mind, the satisfaction of heart and the grace to deny myself, to take up the big and small crosses and follow Him. He is always there for me to be my number one mentor. He is, after all, the greatest physician of the whole wide universe.

Nine months to go. Lord, reveal Yourself. Open the eyes of my heart. I offer my clerkship year for Your Glory.