Ronibats.PH

Stories of a Filipino neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer

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The Doctor Goes to Court

It was a cramped courtroom, filled with wooden tables and benches that appeared much older and heavier than me. I suppose the weight was intentional, to prevent any plaintiff or defendant from hurling any of the benches in a moment of outrage.
I had been served a subpoena to testify in a case of frustrated murder. The plaintiff was a patient I operated on three years earlier and it was my first time to perform my civic duty as expert witness. I picked a seat in the middle of the first row.

In Transit

This is the beginning of the end.
2014 is the year I expect to finish training as a neurosurgeon. Except for 2009, when I taught in medical school and practiced general medicine, I have spent most of my waking hours from June 2001 until today in this government-run university-hospital complex. That is 12 of the last 13 years.

After the Storm: Yolanda in the Eyes of Doctors to the Barrios

While I sat in front of the TV in the comfort of my apartment as Yolanda (Haiyan) unleashed her fury in Central Visayas, these doctors to the barrios (DTTBs) decided to stay at the forefront instead of going back home when the super typhoon hit their respective municipalities.
Rather than point fingers and waste time ranting on what should have and could have been done, allow me to share the first-hand stories of my colleagues, so that the Filipino medical community and the rest of the nation can focus all effort instead on what can be done right here and right now, to create meaningful impact on the people who have been hardest hit by this catastrophe.

How Do You Tell Your Patients That They are Dying?

Earlier today, I saw two of my brain tumor patients follow up in the Neurosurgery outpatient clinic. While both have made good recovery from their operations, their families’ worst fears had just been realized with the piece of paper that they brought with them, bearing the official pathology report stating that the tumor removed from the patient–as suspected from the start–was brain cancer.

Waiting, Wanting

The joy of seeing your post-operative patients follow up in the outpatient clinic, feeling much better than before you operated on them, could not outweigh the helplessness you feel whenever you tell the many others waiting in line for their surgery, “Pasensya na po, wala pa po kaming bakanteng kama. Hindi pa po namin kayo maooperahan. Bumalik na lang po kayo pagkatapos ng dalawang linggo kung hindi pa rin po namin kayo tinatawagan.” (I am sorry but we still do not have a hospital bed for you. We cannot schedule your operation yet. Please come back after two weeks if we have not called you by then.)

Excerpts (Where I Got Extra Money When I Was a Medical Student)

“Bats, tinawagan ako ng Student Affairs. Mag-submit lang daw ako ng requirements.”
“Ha? Bakit ako hindi tinawagan? Paano nangyari ‘yun?”
I was talking to A, my classmate in the INTARMED program. It was the first month of our first semester and we were on our way home. From UP Manila, we took the same bus, his stop 30 minutes before mine (or 60 minutes during Friday night rush hour). Also a class valedictorian and Oblation scholar, he would become my roommate and best friend in medical school.

A Letter to My Students

On December 2nd of 2009, after having spent the last six months being a part-time teacher in Anatomy and Histology lab, I served as exam proctor for the first year medical students of ASMPH one last time. In a month, I would begin my residency training in Neurosurgery.
It was my job to assign rest stations for the move-type exam. In one of the rest stations, I put a box containing sealed envelopes for each of my students. “Get one. Open after the exam,” the instructions on the station said. Inside each envelope were a copy of Gusto Kong Maging Doktor Dahil, and a letter, that I am posting in full below.

Ronibats.PH Stories of a Filipino neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer

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