Today we are at the RSM’s medical mission in Santa Cruz, Laguna Philippines. It’s about 2 hours South of Manila. If you look on a map, there is a three-fingered lake on the south side of Manila called Laguna. Santa Cruz is on the Southeast side of the 3rd finger. The weather is hot, sunny and pleasant. It’s amazing at how fast I forgot about the snow back in Minnesota. The medical mission started on Monday and is mainly a group of Filipino doctors and nurses from Minnesota. When we arrived at the hospital there were hundreds of people lined up waiting to be seen. They are here for, minor surgery, eyeglasses, shots including rabies and pediatric care. Jerry and I visited with the Chief medical surgeon at the Santa Cruz public hospital. He was so thankful for the medical mission. He said that there are so many patients that the people have to wait for three years to get minor surgery’s performed. This is because more important surgeries always push the minor surgeries to the waiting list. The minor surgeries are for removing cysts and lumps etc. In one week our medical team was able to reduce the backlog by six months. The Chief surgeon explained that they have plenty of personal but they lack the proper medical equipment and basic supplies like gauze and medicines. Their hospital is authorized as a 150 bed hospital, but is over flowing with 300 people. Plus 1000 people a week come seeking medical attention. The people have little to no money, but a large amount of patience as there is a lot of waiting in line.
When we arrived yesterday,. we visited the children’s ward. We saw many malnourished children with severe medical conditions. The people don’t have any resources for medicines so they literally have to watch their children suffer and perhaps die. One child had a condition called hydrocephalus. His father was with him, but he did not have the 1400 pesos or $30 needed for the medicine. Nor did he have the $140 needed for the surgery to place a shunt in the child’s head to provide a drain. In the maternity ward four women and their four babies have to share one bed! How do you do that?
In the pediatric area where the RSM volunteer doctors were working, a six-year-old girl was being diagnosed. The mother explained that her daughter had recently been treated for worms. Parasites are a common problem in the Philippines because the eggs are in the soil. The children play in the dirt and then do not practice good hygiene before eating. The girl was dizzy and walking like she was drunk. The mother explained that her daughter earlier had worms coming out of her mouth and ears. The doctor thought this was probably a result of being malnourished and too strong a dose of the medicine. The hospital did not have the equipment to test for it. The RSM team paid a private clinic next door to do the blood test so that a proper method of treatment could be prescribed. For you medical professionals out there, you will appreciate that the public hospital did not even have a dependable centrifuge in their arsenal of medical equipment. The RSM medical team had brought one and will donate it to the hospital on their departure. Young volunteer nurses from the Philippines were also helping the doctors. They are working the medical mission as a school project and will soon be graduating from nursing school in the spring.
Eyeglasses were also being distributed. Young volunteer nurses in training would do an eye chart test in the hallway to see if glasses are needed. Then RSM volunteer Roddy would ask the patient, “What is more important to you, seeing people in the distance or reading the Bible?” Since bifocals are not available, it’s either corrective lenses or readers. It’s really a joke because Roddy would give both types of glasses to the person. The eyeglasses are recycled pairs donated through the Lions Club in Wisconsin. They test and label used eyeglasses to be shipped to 3rd world countries. Instead of an optometrist using a phoropter, it’s just a matter of trying on multiple pairs of glasses and either reading a wall chart or reading the print in the newspaper. There were many joyful people leaving the clinic. We would hear shouts of “I can read now!” One 60 year old woman was especially thrilled. She shouted “I can see! It is my first pair of glasses!” Many things taken for granted in America are great hardships for the Filipino people. A new pair of glasses would cost 5000 pesos. That is a month’s wages for these people, but would only cost $105 American dollars.
Today, Friday was the last day of the medical mission. The RSM team invited all the volunteer doctors and nurses to the villa for a party. We feasted on roast hog, listened to the nurses with incredible voices sing karaoke and then swing danced with a disco ball illuminating the floor. The Philippines – a land of extremes.