I was probably in second grade when one of our projects was a needlecraft sampler with the Phlippine flag stitched on it and the words "I love God and my country". Somehow, this childhood memory resurfaced in my mind when the topic for this week's TBR came up.

I can't deny the reality that our homeland has its share of problems, yet I can't imagine living and working anywhere else. Sure, in the future, I may have the chance to train further in my field somewhere else, but ever since, I knew deep in my heart that I would still go back and practice here, nevermind that probably half my med school classmates are setting their sights elsewhere around the world with a mind on permanently living there for good.

There is no where in the world where you find people who find humor in the most serious of situations and who would venture a smile at a camera or a friendly wave even if they are waiting to be rescued on a rooftop from rushing floodwaters brought by a raging typhoon. There's a different kind of optimism and faith there.

We have so many places of interest, both typical and atypical from beaches to waterfalls to trekking sites to caves. The natural wonders these islands have to order are amazing. There's a wide variety of food choices as well wherever you go.

I have spent most of my life in this country, and I'm sure that if I go away again, I will long be back with all my heart.

Dorothy is right: "There's no place like home." Even if it is this grey, dreary one called the Philippines.

rAdIoLoGy NoTeS 09 - Of Barium Enemas, Hairsticks and Guardian Angels 4/20/2008 04:00:00 PM

You'll get the point of my subtitle once you read through this post.

A funny, odd thing happened to me while doing one of the most common special radiographic procedure: a barium enema. This consists of introducing a liquid contrast through the rectum to visualize the large intestine upto at least the cecum and appendix, at most to the terminal ileum (the distal small intestine). We usually have the contrast up in a bucket with a rubber tubing at the bottom hanging from an IV stand. I already moved the IV stand a little behind me and was through with introducing the contrast, but was still visualizing the large bowel using fluoroscopy. Suddenly, I heard a clang, and the next thing I knew, the IV stand fell to the floor spilling the bucket of barium. I guess my hairstick (I usually get my curly locks out of the way when doing a special procedure with this, a clip or scrunchie) hit the bucket and sent the whole set-up crashing to the floor. The radiologic technologist thought I was soaking wet, but thankfully, the contrast only slightly splashed the sandals I was wearing and my exposed toes. Neither my patient, the fluoroscopy machine, the monitor nor I were hit by the contraption consisting of an IV stand and a bucket full of barium contrast. I had a laugh and got back to work after the housekeeper cleaned up.

Upon mentioning it to a friend, she commented that my guardian angel must have been at work. I believe that she's right. The whole thing could have crashed anywhere but the floor and yet to the floor it went. Nobody was hurt and no equipment was damaged. And the thing was, I didn't need anymore barium at that time because I was through with infusing contrast. Lesson learned though: No hairsticks for my curls at my next scheduled barium enema.

Thank you, Guardian Angel for keeping me, and those around me safe...Again!

"Angel of God,

My Guardian Dear

To Whom His Love

Commits me here

Ever this day

Beat my side

To light and guard

To rule and guide


So, Who's to Blame? 4/20/2008 06:37:00 AM

TBR 6, Here I come!

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It was my rotation at the local regional government hospital, and the first time I had a patient under my care die right before my eyes.

CC, single mom, early 20's, was one of the patients I inherited from the previous group of rotators at the department of medicine. Her mother, probably in her mid-forties, was quite frantic, not knowing where to get money for the labs and medications... To make a long story short, we called a code a few minutes before her case was presented by my resident for weekly ward rounds and then revived her. After the presentation, we called another code and the patient expired. A little girl lost her mother...a mother lost her daughter.

I felt awful afterwards as I talked to friends about it. But what could I do? And then I started to ask... Who's to Blame?

We can always say that it is the system, but behind the system, it all goes back persons. Graft and corruption is so rampant, one feels no need to raise eybrows when another anomaly comes to light. Values seem to get askewed along the way when millions of pesos are at stake.

Health is often times not a priority to people as well and since the cost of health care from trained professionals is astronomical to the everyday Filipino, people go to the oftentimes well-meaning local "mananambal" (translated-> healer) who can sometimes just complicate the matter before the case is finally brought before the doctor.

Then, there are the health care professionals who become so anesthesized to the human suffering around them... Overworked and underpayed, what incentives do they get to provide the best care to those entrusted to them? The call of greener pastures then comes and off they go to find more appreciation and fortune in foreign shores.

I could go on and on and on and on about all the other things that come into play.... In the end though, it starts with each one of us in the health care profession to find even small ways of bringing health care closer to everyone.

Rural Service Project- Last Summer's Memories 4/15/2008 05:08:00 AM

I'm re-posting here my blog originally titled "Doctor In the Kitchen" for TBR 5 since it's exactly what I was up to last summer!
I wasn't officially part of the recent Rural Service Project in Sitio Ibo, Brgy. Pondol, Balamban , Cebu until the penultimate minute.... When I was asked to make room in my schedule to be part of the Rurals, my first reaction was "Ok......" When I was asked to take care of the kitchen, my reaction was "Hey wait a minute!..." Then I was also asked to take charge of the finances so I said "This is the job I really hate!!!!" Yet, I still went to the rurals....Now what was I thinking? My first rural service project was in the summer of '98 in Kibawe, Bukidnon. I enjoyed the experienced immensely, never mind the inconveniences. It's not only work but there was also a lot of "laag" galore! Friendships were formed too! Since then, I have been helping out in the rurals as my schedule would permit. April 2007 in Balamban also marked my first as a licensed physician....and my first as being totally in-charge of the kitchen...Incidentally, this also happened to have the most number of shall we say...."incidences"... The van got bumped into, the faucet had to be replaced, allergy attacks, toad invasion of the sleeping quarters, visits from the "tuko"(gecko) ..... ....And here's generalized view of my kitchen woes: perennially changed schedules, stored smelly garbage, dogs on the prowl, lack of time management, spoiled meat, leaking water dispenser, no refrigerator!, late food deliveries, "delivery multicab" a no show, "delivery tricycle" going around in circles, surpluses and unexpected expenditures, undercooked rice, overpriced fruits..... ...But nothing, absolutely nothing can top the fire from the leaking rubber hose connecting the gas tank to the stove.... and getting 1st degree flash burns while I was supervising 3 high schoolers! Will I ever volunteer to take part of the rurals again? Of course! My catering service is BOOMING!!!! These are my realizations: Guardian angels exist! The damage to property and person from the fire could have been worse... We would have made headlines burning down the whole school! My profession is still much needed in so many out of the way places. The work of the home is something imbued with dignity...and inspite of all the difficulties that came my way during this rural service project, I have fallen in love with this work.... and perhaps in the not so far off future, i can dedicate my time and effort to it. "Omnia in bonum" -> "All for the good", as St. Josemaria would say. This eventful 6 days of work and fun, difficulties and successes surely proves this point!

A Different Kind of Love Story 4/14/2008 02:00:00 AM

I used to write love stories way back in high school and college. Those friends of mine from way back then can attest to the fact that they were pretty idealistic and full of the "kilig" factor rather than the substance of what true love really was. That's the sort of thing one can expect from a girl who had never been in a relationship before. I sort of expected that something of the sort would happen to me. Boy, was I in for a surprise when my own love story unfolded a little over seven years ago.
It started with mosquitoes. (Yes, I have a pest to thank for everything!) One summer break, after taking up an Entomology subject, a few classmates and I thought of volunteering to help out a faculty member at our university's biology department to do research on Aedes aegypti, those carriers of the dreaded Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever Virus. Turns out, she happened to be a numerary member of Opus Dei.
My friends and I got invited to attend the activities at the Center, and we felt right at home. The activities were fun as well as formative and we made a lot of new friends who were members of the Work as well as other young students our age who attended the activities. Eventually, we started attending the Circle given by the Center's director and someone else, who happened to be a doctor by profession, talked with me regularly to help me improve in my spiritual life. The Center's chaplain then was a very holy Spanish priest (who looks like Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame -> as initially described by the biologist!; may he rest in peace + ) who patiently listened to my difficulties and slowly helped me grow in my relationship with our Lord.
A few months short of graduating with a biology degree, I knew that I was called to be in Opus Dei as well. The decision was not coerced at all, as some detractors of the Work might think, with all that brainwash nonsense. It was a decision I made with the help of the lay person who helped me with my spiritual life. I did not want to join yet though until I could know for certain whether my circumstances allowed me to be a numerary member or a supernumerary member.
Then, everything became clear to me at an instance when I was asked by the lay person helping me out: "Do you see yourself as G., as M., or as D.?" (referring two three people in the Work then whom I knew who were supernumerary, numerary and associate respectively)
My immediate answer, which caught me by surpise as well, was : "I see myself like D."
I knew that I finally figured out the way I was to live as a member of Opus Dei when she said, "You know, we see the same thing."
Shortly afterwards, I talked to the local director, and things were explained to me. The thing I would never forget was when she said, "It's like getting married at twenty." I was definitely ready to get married at twenty. I started a novena to Blessed Josemaria Escriva (now a canonized saint) for me to be allowed to join, and on his 99th birth anniversary (2 or 3 days short of finishing my novena), I wrote the letter to the Prelate to petition for admission (that is, to "whistle") as an associate of Opus Dei (a celibate vocation who usually lives with family or elsewhere - not in a Center of Opus Dei - due to a difference in personal circumstances from a numerary).
I would be lying if I would say that it has been easy, with attending the different means of formation, and giving it as well to my friends while at the same time helping out in the apostolic initiatives while taking care of family obligations, going through medical school with a pioneering curriculum, and right now doing my residency. Commitment does entail sacrifice. But, I would also be lying if I would say that for a moment, I never felt God's love through the other members of the Work, my friends and family. Commitment also promises that you will have joy if you live it well.
This is my love story. Everyday of my life though, I hope that I continue to live it faithfully.

Note: This is my contribution to the May 2009 blog rounds edition hosted by Doc Harry

rAdIoLoGy NoTeS 08 - Lost in Translation 4/06/2008 08:12:00 PM

There are several doctors of a certain nationality who pay to train at our hospital for a month at a time at the different sections but are actually based the other affiliate hospitals. As much as possible, I try to be civil with them and teach them the little a current first year resident knows. On my last duty though, for some reason, one of them thought I wasn't being civil by not greeting him first and just nodding when he greeted me as I was attending to something else (turns out in their culture, he of a higher class is used to being greeted first... so does that mean I'm of a lower class? Maybe because I'm female?) And when I entered the control room, I politely asked for the chair he was sitting in (my favorite chair, the only one tha can be adjusted to the very different heights of the viewers of the two machines). Initially, he refused then gave in when I explained the need. Next thing I knew, he left the room, would not talk to me when I pointed out an interesting case and did not return for the rest of the day... As usual, the very observant techs had a field day coming up with all sorts of jokes and asides from the downright insane (the CT-scan will be bombed!) to the hilarious (should we now accompany you home everyday from now on for your protection?) because of the situation. They are usually the ones I grab that chair away from. I can just sigh... Maybe he has yet to learn the saying that goes "In Rome, do as the Romans do?"

The Philippines is extrinsically paternal but intrinsically maternal. As the eldest child, I have been used to having my say in things. People who know me are definitely sure that I never let anyone of the opposite gender get away with things just because they are male...

I did similarly ask for a chair form another person of the same nationality in somewhat similar circumstances, and he gladly gave it to me without any such adverse reaction... I guess it's just him them...

A Day at the Rural Service Project (Medical Mission) 4/06/2008 07:51:00 PM

Sunday last week, I couldn’t resist going to the medical mission of the rural service project, when I had the day off from Saturday duty, nevermind my sleepiness. I brought a friend along, one of the senior clerks rotating in our department that time.

We got lost again on the way, courtesy of memory lapses from another RSP regular and me… And the radiologist (husband of the pediatrician in charge of the medicals this year) of one of our affiliate hospitals was driving!… Anyway, when we finally got to the place, we were amazed at seeing that the chapel we built already had these yellow curtains. The kids were all over the placc again. The pharmacy in the chapel, the nursing students and nurses took care of the registration and BP taking. I took care of the adult patients with my. Later on, we made a house visit to a woman who had osteomyelitis and, since I happen to have a batchmate doing her residency in orthopedics at the regional government hospital, I gave her a referral note, and we convinced her to have herself checked and to have hope in getting financial means elsewhere.

We had delicious spaghetti for lunch c/o a nurse/aspiring doctor (I think she now has a contract to take care of administration on all rural service projects until further notice) and I got an aspiring lawyer to act out for us her very, very, very, very strict high school teacher so we could have a round of laughter at lunch. We said the Rosary with the kids then listened to other volunteers teach the kids about dental hygeine.

We then trekked to the cave later in the afternoon, crossing the small stream barefooted back and forth so as not to get our sneakers wet (and managing to avoid the leeches), but we didn’t go further than the entrance when I discovered that the cave floor was slippery from all the water dripping from the ceiling and called off the adventure. Oh, well… I did see an interesting spider but would have loved to check out the underground stream where there were some fishes as the children claimed (although they also said that snakes lurked there too!). We got home from the day trip afterwards as I and the other volunteers had work or other things to attend to the following day. I did bring home some bibingka (sweetened rice cakes cooked with coconut milk) as a treat for my parents and siblings.