09 Apr Medical Mission Event Day
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9590.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-616″ title=”IMG_9590″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9590-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>It was 4:30am. The roosters were crowing outside, the cool ocean breeze was blowing through the curtains in our room, and I was wide-awake. Anticipation coursed through my body like adrenaline but I willed my eyes to close for even a few more moments of restful sleep. I tried not to move much on the air mattress as I didn’t want to disturb Ervin’s sleep, but I was restless, ready but yet so unprepared for the day that lie ahead of us. Finally, after what seemed like hours, the sun began to rise gloriously over the mountains, spreading the beauty of its light and casting deliberate shadows with the most magnificent rays.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9950.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-618″ title=”IMG_9950″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9950-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>The day was here, no longer just a figment of our imagination, a dream in the far off distance or a topic of long discussions. Today would mark a day of learning, a day of giving, a day where time seemed to stand still and yet move faster than it ever had before. As we rounded the corner to the square that sat in front of the ten bed clinic of the *New Taugtog Resettlement Area, our eyes opened wide as we tried to take in the scene before us, then blinked rapidly to remove any threat of tears falling down our faces. The anticipation we had felt turned into excitement, the excitement into disbelief, and the disbelief into awe as we realized that over 1,000 people stood in and around the square waiting patiently to be served.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9963.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-619″ title=”IMG_9963″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_9963-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>The crowd of people milled between the tents that had been set up in an effort to provide shelter from the beating sun. Street vendors followed the crowd and set up shop, looking to cash in on what looked like it could be a lucrative event. It was organized chaos to say the least. The Philippine National police had been summoned by the mayor, standing guard in imposing uniforms, automatic rifles slung carelessly over their shoulders. They worked triple duty that day, acting as security, pulling teeth in the dental area, and giving the young boys free military-style haircuts. The clinic quickly became too small to contain the pressing crowds, so strategic “waiting” areas were set up behind the clinic as parents anxiously waited for their children to finish.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0396.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-621″ title=”IMG_0396″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0396-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>Chairs lined the hallways of the clinic, and hundreds of young boys sat solemnly with their hands under their legs, grim looks on their faces as they watched their peers leave the operating room before them. The clinic and operating rooms were humid and it was as if the breeze had been forbidden to reach into the corners that needed it most. Each operating room was packed with doctors, nurses and patients alike. There were two boys on each table, four boys in operation at any given time, and the doctors working tirelessly as they performed more than 300 circumcisions between 8am and 6:30pm on boys ranging in age from 2 to 15 years old. Stepping out of the operating room, the boys would gingerly walk to their parents, hand them their prescriptions and bravely walk outside to the pharmacy area gently holding their shorts away from their bodies. Blood drops fell to the floor of the clinic, leaving an indelible impression on my memory.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0407.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-623″ title=”IMG_0407″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0407-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>Around 2pm, the sky turned a dark gray and the earth trembled with deep thundering. Rain began to fall, and a welcome cool filled the air, a relief from the sweltering and humid 90-degree day. The makeshift pharmacy became even more haphazard as we had to pull boxes of pediatric medicine onto tables so they wouldn’t get wet, but still keep them out of reach of the hands that so anxiously waited for them. Our cleverly located adult pharmacy was safe, sheltered from the elements in the back of our rented minivan. People crowded under the tents, under the eaves of the clinic’s roof and into the clinic to find shelter from the pouring rain; meanwhile, brave little children jumped up and down gleefully in the large puddles that were forming and were drenched to the skin in seconds. They smiled proudly as they jumped and sent giant splashes in the direction of the crowds trying to escape the rain, leaving grandparents laughing at their antics and parents scowling in disapproval. I couldn’t help but smile. The rain was like the light at the end of the tunnel, that moment where one realizes that the hardest part is over, bringing a refreshing energy to our entire volunteer staff.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0175.jpg”><img class=”size-thumbnail wp-image-631 alignleft” title=”IMG_0175″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0175-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>The crowds were getting smaller now, and we had already passed out over 700 prescriptions from the pharmacy. The rain stopped, but the sun mercifully stayed behind the dark clouds that still hung ominously above us. Ervin and I left the pharmacy in the capable hands of the volunteer staff and grabbed our cameras. Even as we walked around the clinic, it was difficult to fathom all that had taken place in a matter of 7 hours. The sheer number of surgeries that were completed and medications that were passed out was unbelievable, more than we had ever even imagined it could be. Tears stung my eyes again as the realization of what the volunteers had accomplished began to fully hit me. I closed my eyes for a moment and allowed myself to be captured by the sounds of voices speaking in a language that I still do not fully understand and I slowly breathed in the clean air that was already tinged with the smell of a freshly started fire. My shoulders relaxed as my ears tuned in to the sound of birds chirping and my eyes opened once again to take in the magnificent scene before me.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0478.jpg”><img class=”size-thumbnail wp-image-633 alignleft” title=”IMG_0478″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0478-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>Darkness fell quickly, unexpectedly enveloping us as we rushed to count supplies, consolidating what we could as we went. Garbage was picked up, banners were put away, chairs were stacked, and the courtyard was swept. The vendors that had arrived early that morning to sell juice and snacks packed up and left. Slowly but surely, the courtyard that had been swarming with people only 8 hours earlier was empty save for a few volunteers walking around. Our “end” time came and went as the doctors were more determined now than ever to care for every last patient that had come. We ran out of one medication 30 minutes prior to the last surgery, but knew we would just have to make do with what we had. The volunteers trickled out of the clinic one by one, smiling but exhausted from the heat and long hours. Finally, almost victoriously, the last of our doctors emerged from the clinic. We were done. It was finished.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0193.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-635″ title=”IMG_0193″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0193-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>Even as we pulled away from the clinic, my mind raced with all of the things that are still left to do. We spoke about coming back in 2014 to do a longer 3-day medical mission, giving us more time to raise funds and organize. But I knew we could not wait that long, for the need is far too great. We will be back in 2013, maybe not for such a large event, but we will be back. The sense of urgency weighs heavily on our minds and not a day has passed where we haven’t passionately discussed the many needs that must be met. All in all, the first medical mission was more than a great success.
<a href=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0282.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-636″ title=”IMG_0282″ src=”http://sumofone.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IMG_0282-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>*The New Taugtog Resettlement Area was built in late 2009 as a resettlement area for those that lost their homes to Tropical Storm Ondoy, which hit the Philippines with brute force and caused an estimated $1 billion dollars worth of damage.