20
Dec 14

On Graduating from Residency Training in Philippine General Hospital

Dr. Aida Salonga and other guests of honor, Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim and consultants of the Sections of Adult Neurology, Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery, alumni of the Department of Neurosciences, parents, co-residents, medical students, and guests, good evening.

What common experience binds all of us doctors here tonight? I thought about this and realized that aside from Emergency Medicine, no other specialty confronts the fragility of human life head on like the Neurosciences. Continue reading →


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 →


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 →


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 →


02
Oct 13

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. Continue reading →


14
Sep 13

Lost and Found

Teenager Ofelia Reyes was born with a protuberant, midline fleshy mass at the junction of her lower back and buttocks. When her parents sought consult in PGH during Ofelia’s first month of life, the mass was assessed to be a myelomeningocele.

In this condition, part of the spinal cord and some its nerves, which provide sensation to and move the lower limbs, are exposed on the skin surface because of failure of the bony spine to develop completely. The parents were advised surgery to prevent the mass from rupturing and causing recurrent meningitis, but because of financial constraints, the patient was—as government physicians are wont to write in patient charts—lost to follow up. Continue reading →


21
Aug 13

How I Got into Neurosurgery and Why You Should Forget About Pyruvate

In medical school, the pun I would hear most often when friends find out that I was interested in Neurosurgey was, “Vegetarian ka ba?” Used to the punch line that would come after (“Kasi lahat ng pasyente mo, gulay!” or any of its variations), I would just grin in response, without ever feeling the need to justify my career choice. 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 →