Today is Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mission trip to Tacloban City, Philippines

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By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.If you’re never slept next door to a machine shop you haven’t missed anything except lack of sleep. The last night before our work week ended we spent down town in the D. Angelo Hotel. It was apparently in the center of construction activities because metal grinding and hammering could be easily appreciated all night through our sixth floor window facing the street traffic noise. Horns are frequently used here since there are only about five traffic lights in the whole city of 200,000 people. I got up at 12:20 a.m. to look for my earplugs and eventually found them at the bottom of my small carry-on. They didn’t do much good since I could still hear hammering with them in my ears. This place was as foul as the last place was pretty. People were packed everywhere. Street vendors lined the thoroughfares and would stick their wares right on your nose hoping for a sale. This wasn’t too bad for the pleasant looking and smelling fruit on display but for the fish and seafood products it wasn’t so appetizing. Speaking of food, we had the opportunity to eat at Ocho’s last night. Its appeal was the ability to pick out while still on ice, the fish, crabs, or meats you wanted to eat and then tell them how you wanted it prepared. Some of the same fish I had swum with on the reef had made their way to the butcher shop and I just couldn’t eat them without feeling like a traitor so I had pork instead. There were at least a dozen types of whole fish looking at you from their bed in the crushed ice waiting to be consumed. We took a tricycle to the restaurant from our downtown hotel, about eight blocks. The motorcycle converted sidecar contraption could carry three people comfortably, that is if you didn’t mind the traffic noise and the exhaust fumes from the surrounding traffic. I had seen as many as eight people in one tricycle earlier that day. But the cost was right just setting me back 25 pesos or about 50 cents American.After the meal I wanted to walk back to the hotel not having had much exercise for the day, but one of our native friends didn’t recommend it as being a safe thing to do. I guess the street noise wasn’t all that bad. Waking me up in the middle of the night gave me the opportunity to write down my expenses.     Get out of jail cardThe last day of clinic was to be a divided effort with half of the group going to jail for a ministry to a suspected 150 people and the other half going to the Church of the Nazarene where Rubin preached. Rubin had been very helpful to us the entire time and it was his church members that had planned to take care of this day.But the morning of our intentional separation brought news of a change in plans, something very common in trips like this. Proper permission had not been obtained for our jail visit so I could have the day off if desired. Since I had come to work and be of help, that option didn’t quite seem right so I told them that I would help out with the church visit not knowing how many patients each of us would need to see but assuming that with the whole group putting forth our effort we would finish in half a day’s time. If the truth were known, I did not really want to go to the jail but had told several people that I would help out since Leslie, the wife of the general surgeon who had been helping her husband and I, was sure that she did not want to go to jail. My reluctance had been for several reasons beside the fact that I did not want to go. I couldn’t see that out of the 150 prisoners, there would be that much surgery needed. After breakfast we took tricycles over to the church to get the surgery and triage areas set up. I wound up getting all the children for circumcisions and did seven cases.Looking back over the medical work inside their church, things seem to be winding down, so I began folding up my tent in preparation for leaving, getting things together I anticipated giving to the donations department. However, after packing everything, Mae, the medical director, said that there would be more patients, but my patience had run out by that time—literally and figuratively. There were little boys coming in from the surrounding communities for circumcisions, and they weren’t even being screened by the church team. I finally decided not to do any more circumcisions. The room was terribly hot and my good help for the whole trip was as tired as I was. I took a tricycle back to the hotel and eagerly received the soft bed in the air conditioned room.Editor’s Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.
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