“One day I’ll be missing this place”
I read these words from a former staff nurse as a comment to a picture of the hospital where I am both a visiting consultant and a volunteer doctor. And I can’t blame them really, with the economic turmoil and the harsh reality of the nursing profession. Sometimes I myself am asked why I continue to stay despite the difficulties of medical practice and I tell them the story of one patient in particular who helped me place things in perspective.
I went to see this particular patient because she was referred to me for cardiopulmonary risk evaluation prior to a planned open cholecystectomy procedure, nothing out of the ordinary at first but when I looked briefly at her chart, I noted that she came from a far off town, at least two to three hours away. I confirmed this with the patient when I did my rounds and she told me that they even had to take a boat as part of the commute. I recall being to that town before on a medical mission at a friend’s invitation, so I know that it’s really a long way. When I asked how come they happened to be admitted at this particular hospital, she told me, and this would not be the first time, that her National Health Insurance Program (PhilHealth) payments were not up to date and hence, were not eligible for the program.
But the patient continued with her story and told me that she was not looking for a free accommodation and hospital services but rather, where the rates were lower, at least in more affordable compared to the private hospital where she first sought consult and later upon knowing the amount she had to pay, just opted to go back home despite the pain and discomfort she was feeling at that time, simply because she could not afford it. She tells me she has some money with her, but not enough she reckons for the expenses after the surgery; so that is why she will be asking for financial aid from the local politicians, a common practice I observed. She does not want to be begging for alms, but what can she do? She really wants to get well, to be relieved of the pain and suffering she told me. I finished my examination and promised her to help her in the best way that I could medically. I excused myself to make notes and place my written evaluation. The medical assessment would be the easy part; it’s all based on objective and sound scientific and medical data that’s readily available. It’s the human aspect of the healing process that’s a little tricky. The part where our mentors would say the art of medicine comes in, making that human connection and not just treating the patient as a compilation of lab results and imaging studies. In a way I’m thankful that she chose to go to this quaint hospital where it may be a little out of the way, not have the most advanced equipment, and sometimes where things just don’t go the way we plan them to be; but its doors are always open to those who seek medical aid, regardless of creed, race or stature in life. Likewise, the doctors who choose to serve here are more than willing to help out, despite the hurdles and insurmountable odds they have to face. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I choose to stay, because more than just a job, it’s a calling if you may, where I can practice my profession and give back something in return. Besides, here I can be an agent of change and there will always be something new to learn; mostly in the practice of medicine and sometimes, life in general.
In the words of the Blessed Mother Teresa: “Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are – in your own home and in your own families, in your work places and in your schools.. You can find Calcutta all over the world if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society – completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
This article uploaded in response to today’s daily prompt