In my almost three months of clerkship, I’ve never been this moved until I met him. You see, I never left this blog nor the online life that I have. Time and again, I tried to squeeze in my busy schedule an entry or two to share my experiences as a doctor-in-training aka lowly medical clerk but halfway through an entry, I’d find myself losing interest with what I’ve been writing. There was something lacking in each draft that I had in the last two months. Yes, there were flowery words that paint a thousand images but they lacked life. But today I feel different.
How far can your 2,000 pesos go?
Two pairs of classic Havaianas slippers?
One authentic MAC blush?
A fashionable handbag?
Or perhaps, a sumptuous dinner at a fancy restaurant?
But to some, PHP 2,000 meant a second chance to life…
“Guys, housecall.” One of my groupmates announced.
It was a cold afternoon, perfect for a siesta nap. I looked around but not one of my groupmates seemed to want to move. The next thing I knew, I was riding with Ria in a yellow tricycle on our way to Brgy. Palasinan to attend to a housecall. We were told he had a mass in the abdomen; that he had barely eaten anything in the last couple of days and that he was too weak that he has been in bed for three days in a row. We brought along with us a liter of dextrose and a couple of apocatheters and infusion sets. We then arrived at our destination which, although was made of hollow blocks, was bare next to none. I wondered silently how many basins you’d have to use to collect the drips from the roof when it rains. Then we saw him. He was asleep, lying on this lowly bed made of wood without even a thin mattress to cushion his back. He was so thin that his bones were already jutting out. I thought he was dead – until he moved.
We learned his name was Dominador; that he had three children, all females and that his grandchildren numbered fifteen. We also learned he had a mass growing from his belly since a year ago and that he had been in and out of Gapan for consult. A series of tests were taken and it was decided he needed a colonoscopy. Off he went with one of his daughters to Gapan with 5,000 in their pocket thinking they’d finally be able to have him biopsied. But on that day, they went home emptyhanded. To their dismay, the colonoscopy costs 7,000. And the hospital needed cash. All they had was 5,000 for him.
Knowing they needed money to make him better, his children worked to complete his documents to seek help – any help – from PCSO to the DSWD to the mayor’s office, all to no avail. Soon, the pain would worsen that he needed painkillers to soothe the agony from it. Of course there was the issue of food for sustenance and then, there was the town albularyo whom they had sought out in desperation.
Along with the 5,000 vanishing into thin air was his hope to live for even a few more years.
Sensing the presence of strangers in the room, he woke up, greeted us with a weak, but yes, a genuinely glad smile as he tried to sit up from bed. We talked to him for a while before we proceeded with what we were supposed to do: insert an IV line. One hour, five tries, six more hands and 350 pesos after, we finally succeeded in putting him on fluids to keep him hydrated and alive. It was a combination of amateur skills and a very dehydrated patient. It was a struggle to find a vein patent enough for IV. I knew it was too much stress for his weak body yet he managed to smile through all five painful insertions we did on him that afternoon. He thanked us. They thanked us and off we left with a heavier-than-usual heart.
IV fluids can keep him alive for only as long as they can sustain his body. But all we are able to do at this moment is palliative care: make him feel better. Yet the problem of that painful mass remains to exist.
Is it ileocecal TB or is it a neoplastic mass?
This was the question that lingered in our heads before we had laid down to sleep that night; the same question that has bothered his family for almost a year. His family wondered when they’d finally know the nature and extent of his illness or if there is hope to a cure at all…
We wondered along with them.
Christianne and I on the 4th attempt with the IV line.
My groupmates and I have pledged a small donation for Mang Dominador’s colonoscopy which costs almost 7,000 for the procedure alone. We alone cannot raise this amount ourselves and so we are praying that you can extend your help in any amount that you can. A cent or two is wholeheartedly accepted in my Paypal Account (mnel_tumangday[at]yahoo.com) please include a note that the donation is for Mang Dominador. Thanks and God Bless!