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Dino asked me to reflect on this. The first day with the surgical mission team of UST staying at our barangay elementary school is disappointing. I planned to introduce myself but their number going out of their bus is overwhelming. Add to that the local nurse volunteers I need to mingle with. Hence I suddenly became a total stranger in my own barangay that I have even decided not to participate with the mission anymore. But then I realized that I would miss my first experience of being in a medical mission in my own barangay if I just give up. And so, that unnecessary fear did not deter me from doing my part. I was able to introduce myself and talk with one UST nursing student, then a lady doctor, then a medical student, and another. It took a lot of courage on my part to blend in with fellow health care providers. It took a lot of courage to get experiences that I surely would not forget in my medical career.

I had assisted in a minor operation of a lipoma and another with a sebaceous cyst. That was my first time and I was even taught of how to suture the incision. I just hope I can still recall it. I was able to circumcise boys, talking to them from time to time to ease their pain and fear. I was able to rotate in different rooms-turned-wards. I even had my first scrub in in a thyroidectomy. Such operation is supposedly a major one, but with a maverick surgeon as captain of the ship, it became a minor operation using xylocaine only. Just imagine our patient almost crying for her mother to stop the operation.

Converting a barangay school into a “hospital” is definitely a challenge. Doing such demonstrates how creative and resourceful the health care providers are. All of us cannot deny the fact that there is a problem with sterility. But for me, the more obvious problem is in manpower. There is a lack in the transporters of the patients. There is a lack in the doctors who need to screen pre-op patients and nurse volunteers to monitor the post-op patients. I also learned that UST is just concerned with the surgical patients. It was announced by the sponsoring organization that the whole mission is ophtha, medical, dental and surgical. Truth is, there were no internists around even from the locale. People were not also aware of the scheduling of the mission. I think these problems can be addressed with proper preparation and coordination of the sponsoring organization with other involved parties.

I thank my new acquaintances from UST. I gained a lot of experience from them and, of course, some thoughts to ponder.

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