compassion · doctor · doctor dreams · empathy · faith · Global Health · God · life · Milk Matters · Phi Lambda Delta Sorority · sacrifices · Service · sisterhood · UP-PGH

One Seed Grows

MM WDC

This is the photo of my sorority sister, Ja Verceles, as she represents Milk Matters in an annual convention in Washington, DC. Milk Matters has been selected to participate through poster presentation and in the conference for global health.

I am so proud. I cannot help but thank the Lord for the grace to actually see this happen. I am thankful, that as I look at the photo I see two blessed things: 1. To see what Milk Matters has become, that I treasure it like a child borne out of my heart, and though I have become detached from it, my love for it has been stable, steady; 2. To see that my sorority sisters are growing out of themselves and becoming a better version of themselves through service.

Six years of intensely immersing myself in service taught me to focus on the latter blessing. To invest on people. To add value to their growth by helping them maximize their strengths and work on their core passion. That, in fervent hope, as they work tirelessly and relentlessly, a change of heart happens.

That is how I show my love– through service. Amazing how it gels together, when before the Milk Matters team only set our sights on just one milk drive and see how it goes from there. The Lord makes me see His work bloom right in front of my very eyes three years after its conception. I am but His servant.

It is great to see women with such big potentials who dedicate their efforts to help the poor and the sick Filipinos.

*This is the second international conference participated in by Milk Matters. The other one is an international award and representation in China. That is aside from the many accolades it has received in University of the Philippines College of Medicine and at regional and national levels.

compassion · CYA Staffer · doctor · doctor dreams · empathy · faith · God · life · love · Milk Matters · personal · Phi Lambda Delta Sorority · prayer · Service · UP-PGH

Seeds of Service

Featured image above is a photo of one of my baby patients when I was intern. He was my inspiration when I wrote my speech entitled “Ang Bagong EDSA.” He just slept soundly on my chest. Little did he know he was instrumental in rekindling my fire for service, which was the EDSA speech’s spirit.

From my stint in the sorority up until staff work in a Catholic movement called Christ’s Youth in Action, seeds of service has been the prominent battle cry.

I was called for the planting. Look at my photos years before I was called as a staffer/youth missionary volunteer. How eerily prophetic it sounded.

God really moves in mysterious ways. These were my sentiments during my leadership years in Phi Lambda Delta that I can relate to staff work:

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“Sometimes, you really cannot sit under the shade of the tree whose seed you just planted. You plant the seed, and trust in God that He will put it under the care of the people whose good hearts become the roots, water and air for this worthy seed to grow and flourish. Mabuti talaga ang Panginoon.”

Prophetic. The worthy seed (at that time I was talking about Milk Matters) reminds me of the mustard seed talking about the kingdom of God. Look at where I am now. Instrument being used to be one of the builders.

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Meet the OG. Original gangster of Milk Matters. This was the first meeting of the team, when MM was still an abstract yet inspiring concept.

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“Ultimately, we serve because God called us to… Nagkamali ako along the way, but I am sure hindi ako nagkulang (sa effort).” I really gave it my best shot as the service arm leader for Phi. #noregrets One of my favorite jobs in the world.

And this is my nephew, cotton ball. Meet my fluffy cotton ball.

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child abuse · clerkship · compassion · doctor · doctor dreams · empathy · faith · God · hating violence against women and children · Milk Matters · prayer

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

clerkship · doctor · doctor dreams · empathy · faith · friendship · God · life · sacrifices

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.

child abuse · compassion · doctor · empathy · faith · God · hating violence against women and children · life · post against child abuse

Silence

He does not know his surname.

Robert* is an eight year old boy who has a body of a five year old: short in stature and very thin his bones seem to stick out from the sockets. He is very quiet.

“Ako, Villa ang apelyido ko. Sa’yo, ano?” I urged him on. He wouldn’t even look at me in the eye. The only answer I got was a shrug, telling me he didn’t know.

Interviewing Pediatric patients can be very difficult, especially if the child does not want to talk. Trust for a child is a big issue, and establishing good rapport with Robert is my priority above anything else.

I proceeded with measuring his oxygen saturation and pulse rate through my pulse oximeter in his finger. His interest was piqued when he saw bright green numbers coming to life in the little black monitor of the gadget. When I removed the gadget, he drifted off in his own world again as he looked at me warily from time to time.

Since this was a dermatological mission, I asked Robert if it was okay for him if I lifted his T-shirt to inspect his skin. He nodded. My worst fear was confirmed.

There, spread all over his tummy, were numerous circular scars the size of cigarette butts. Some were even overlapping. His back also harbored a few of these scars. Several of the lesions could be seen on his extremities, the shape of which I couldn’t imagine what the cause was.

I inspected his ears closely, wondering if he couldn’t hear me because he didn’t answer most of my questions. From the outside, solidified ear wax could be easily seen clumped in both his ear canals.

Then a caregiver from the institution went to me and explained Robert’s case. He was found abandoned outside Quiapo Church last year. A concerned citizen brought him to a local hospital because he was so weak he was drifting in and out of consciousness. He couldn’t even stand on his own. He was referred for adoption in the institution where he was now in on the eve of Christ’s birthday, December 24.

The caregiver told me they wanted a specialist to examine Robert’s head. They were afraid his hearing might be affected by a possible head injury.

In one week’s time I have seen two Pediatric patients who suffered from the hands of their own parents. The other one was a nine month old baby hit by a bottle of gin on the face.

It was heartbreaking. I had to take a moment or two to steady myself, prevent the tears from spilling out and take deep breaths before facing Robert again.

As a medical student, I have a lot to learn in this profession. There are many things I still do not know and understand yet, even in the aid of Harrison’s, William’s, Katzung, Nelson’s, Schwartz, etc.

But the kind of human behavior that inflicts violence on innocent children escapes my understanding. Incomprehensible. Unacceptable.

Seeing Robert and the children who have borne the brunt of their parents’ weaknesses makes me realize that there are a lot of them who have no voice. No voice to protest against the violence that threatens their very lives.

*Name changed for protection