“Sakit?” I enquired. “Olak, olak….” She smiled and they rode off in the sunset.
This is just one scene out of many in my days in Sogod, Cebu. People streamed in and out of the tiny district hospital, seeking help as the doctors and nurses worked non-stop in few makeshift theatres. Some were sitting down as we removed the lumps while others were sedated or put under anaesthesia in 2 little rooms shared by 4 operating teams.
I consider it pure joy and absolute blessing to be able to work with the wonderful, selfless surgeons and surgical residents from CBUH (Cebu Doctors University Hospital) and the group of volunteers from Singapore various hospitals (namely 8 surgeons, registrars and MOs from NUH and 2 doctors from SGH and AH respectively)
When we arrived in Cebu City in the early, pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning, Dr A Yu and Dr H Chua from CBUH sacrificed their precious sleep in order to ‘deliver’ us safely to a pension house for some much-needed rest. When we woke up, we met a few other surgeons in Ayala Centre for an extremely sumptuous lunch at Laguna Beach Café.
A short sight-seeing tour around the heart of Cebu City marked the very good beginning to a wonderful trip. Each day, we were fed with delicious Cebuano delicacies and housed in the amazing Alegre Beach Resort, 5 minutes away from the Sogod Hospital.
This exceptional resort is the fine epitome of Filipino hospitality and grace..we don’t deserve of such a favour and yet we are here, housed in one of the most beautiful seaside resort in Cebu. Each classy room has soft beds, big couch and world-class bathroom.
Not only that, I was so fortunate to meet KLL, a beautiful young surgical trainee from Adelaide. This girl blessed with exquisite skin and a cheerful, humble disposition is a fellow KLite. The talented new roommate is also a photography enthusiast and loves God and His children. No wonder we clicked so well….
Anyway, the first day was quite eventful as I discovered that we could take out lumps with only 3 or 4 instruments…a blade (without blade holder), artery/clamp, needle holder and a pair of scissors (and when its not necessary sharp, we made do with the blade!). Giving the patients LA was actually breeze-free as the tough Cebuanos didn’t even bat their eyelids as we tackled large lumps with just 10 or 20cc of lignocaine. Amazing people! Working non-stop, we operated on 5-10 patients per session per surgeon in the minor OT.
At the same time, many other teams were working hard in removing big uterine or ovarian masses, thyroids and hernia in the major OT. I joined them when the minor OT became way too hot and unbearable in the late afternoon and discovered that the major OT was almost equally as hot.
Furthermore, this experience of a lifetime, my baptism of fire in mission marked a few first times for me. I did a herniotomy without any diathermy, 2 thyroidectomies (with guidance from the consultants) with minimal equipments and a few lumps in children without GA (just LA). Of course people might baulk at the lack of sterility and warm temperature, but I seriously applaud the mission organizer for organizing this wonderful experience. Bringing surgery to the underprivileged in Sogod involves marvelous logistics, impeccable skills and people with humble, willing spirit.
Most importantly, I am sure that this exchange of skills, cultural experience and knowledge between the surgeons from Singapore and Philippines will culminate in better ties and regional co-operation in the future. As I observed the wonderful, skillful hands of the surgeons I’ve met here, I realized that I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities given to me in Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines.
In each country, I’ve found precious, priceless ‘gems’ in my journey in surgery. For example in Cebu, I am truly amazed by the beautiful parotid operations, the precise anatomical hernia repairs, the exquisite cleft lip repair under LA. It was indeed medical textbook came alive.
Although the whole trip ended so quickly, I know that I will see Cebu again. For the warm, friendly souls I’ve met and the grateful patients have truly touched my heart. Even as I walked down the warm ward on the last day, checking on all the patients that we operated on, I knew that this is the first of many more surgical missionary work that I will do in the future. For much is given to us, much shall be released to the nations….
Therefore, a big thanks to all the people I've met the past 1 week. I look forward to many more wonderful missionary work in the future as my promise to God when I first entered medical school came into fruition...