Jun 13

First and Only

“Sir, pababa na po kami sa OR.”

“OK. Nasa office lang ako. 10 minutes,” I said, then quickly hung up on the junior resident. I would be operating on a 70-year-old male with a chronic subdural hematoma overlying the right half of his brain. Resulting from a vehicular crash two months earlier, the blood clot had gradually accumulated, causing progressive weakness of the left side of his body. During the last 24 hours, he became increasingly difficult to awaken, indicating that the brain swelling and compression from the blood clot were worsening. He needed emergency surgery. Continue reading →

May 13

Incomprehensible Losses

“Sir, regarding patient Ofelia Reyes, inform ko lang po kayo na nag-mortality na. Mother was firm with her DNR status.” I was sleeping on the couch in the Neurosurgery office when my message alert tone woke me up. It was 1:42 in the morning. Our resident mosquitoes were feasting on my ankles, where I had forgotten to put my insect repellent lotion out of stupidity and exhaustion. Though the news was not unexpected, it took a full minute to register in my head: my patient had just died. Continue reading →

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 →

Nov 12

You Can Only Take So Much Grief

It is hardest to talk to somebody mourning the sudden loss of a loved one. You are faced with questions that demand exact answers, but no explanation is ever enough, no course of action justified. Grief takes away all reason, leaving only an impenetrable wall of shock and anger. You are not even sure if it is appropriate to say sorry; you know that you did the best you could, and still failed. Continue reading →

Oct 12


Let me make it clear that when I saw the patient six hours after his surgery, I recognized right away that he was not fully awake. That was why when I noticed you and your co-intern sitting behind the desk just beside the patient’s bed, my first question was, “Gising ba siya kanina?” Continue reading →

Aug 12

Being the Happy Resident

Earlier today, as I was walking past the guard who checks employee IDs at the hospital entrance, my attention was called by a colon cancer patient whom I took I care of as a general surgery resident a couple of years back. “Doktor Baticulon!” he called out. I sat beside him and asked how he was. I was glad to find out his cancer has been in remission since his surgery and chemoradiation. Continue reading →

Jul 12

Alternate Realities

I have just spent 12 hours teaching two classes, on a post-duty Sunday. The schedule was insane: allotting only an hour to take a bath, have a quick breakfast, and travel from the hospital to the classroom; and another hour to rest, eat lunch/dinner, and travel from one teaching venue to the next. My emergency room duty yesterday was no respite either; I have had to admit seven patients, two of whom eventually died because of the severity of their brain hemorrhages. I have been awake for almost 40 hours, but I do not feel tired. Not at all.

Instead, I am filled with a great sense of accomplishment. Amidst the hectic schedule of a neurosurgery resident, I had been at the right place, at the right time, doing something that felt right in every way. Somehow, I always knew, I was meant to be a teacher. Continue reading →

Jun 12

Sampung Payo para sa mga Bagong Medical Clerk

  1. Magbaon ng maraming Micropore tape. Pang-wound dressing. Pang-label. Panggawa ng collar at splint. Pang-secure ng IV line, foley catheter, at NGT. Pandikit ng natanggal na suwelas at napunit na pantalon kakalakad kung saan-saan. Matutuklasan mong guguho ang ospital kapag nagsara ang pabrika ng Micropore tape.

Continue reading →