07
Jun 14

The Cost of a Life

I propped myself against her husband’s empty hospital bed as Ofelia Reyes remained seated on the plastic monobloc chair next to it, both hands kneading self-pity and frustration on her lap — repeatedly, pointlessly, helplessly — as she narrated the events that left her shaken, robbed of what little money and hope their family had had left. Her husband’s operation went well, I had just told her, but even with eyes averted, she could not keep herself from crying as we spoke. Continue reading →


04
May 14

On Operating with and Aspiring to be an Expert

In February of this year, I had the rare opportunity to assist a world-renowned neurosurgeon as he clipped three intracranial aneurysms in a patient on the same sitting. Dr. Michael T. Lawton led his medical team from Mission BRAIN Foundation on a three-day visit to Philippine General Hospital, to give lectures and workshops for Filipino neurosurgeons and nurses, and to demonstrate surgical techniques on different neurovascular cases.  Continue reading →


29
Mar 14

Ang Pinakamahalagang Tanong Tuwing Check-Up

“Anong kuwento mo sa akin ngayon?”

“Ga-graduate na po ako, Dok. Sa wakas.”

“Talaga? Anong course mo?”

“Marketing po.” Continue reading →


13
Jan 14

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.

Continue reading →


03
Nov 13

Morning Rituals

Every morning I would see Eric combing Ofelia’s hair with utmost diligence and meticulousness, it would put to shame shampoo commercial models who comb their tresses on national TV. His palms were coarse and the fingers stubby–toughened by years of manual labor in an automobile repair shop and occasional side jobs in construction projects here and there–but the hands moved deftly through the hair strands that reached his wife’s shoulder blades, one would think that the hands were made solely for this daily ritual. Continue reading →


04
Aug 13

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.)

Continue reading →


27
Jul 13

Reversing Repercussions

“Inubos na namin lahat ng naipon namin para makalabas ka nang maaga. Sana, magbago ka na,” she said.

I was doing rounds in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU or recovery room) when I overheard these words — a compelling request that was deliberately calm, in a tone with no vestige of anger, almost bordering on affectionate. I momentarily stopped writing doctor’s orders and looked up to see who was talking to my patient. Continue reading →


10
Feb 13

Lost Saturdays

“Inday, kakalbuhin ka muna ha?” Eric Reyes said to her 13-year-old daughter Ofelia as she lay restless on the operating table. I sat at the head end of the table, scissors in one hand while the other adjusted and focused the light on her shoulder-length black hair. Her hair was dry and full of tangles. Grit and oil clung to my fingertips as I parted and divided her hair into locks, making the strands more manageable to trim. But it was full and thick nonetheless. Continue reading →