By Arantxa Sison (WSF Support Staff Volunteer)
All volunteers of the World Surgical Foundation were transported from their accommodations at Roadhaus Hotel to General Santos City Hospital (GSCH) the morning of 16 February 2014 by 10 AM. Just outside the entrance of the hospital, large tents were positioned as a waiting area for prospective patients. The tents were filled to capacity. According to Asma Akmad, Special Project Officer from Govenor Solon’s office, prior to WSF’s arrival potential patients and/or caregivers were asked to give a voluntary donation of blood to the Filipino Red Cross. This gesture fostered ownership among the beneficiaries of free surgical care and a sense that they, too, contributed to a necessary and worthy cause.
In the words of Dr. Ofelia Kaguyutan, “Surgical camps always promote and encourage ingenuity and improvisation.” Those words rang true from Day 1. The first day at GSCH began with support staff unpacking and organizing medical equipment, medicines and supplies that would be utilized during the six-day surgical camp. WSF volunteer surgeons screened and assessed patients in two large rooms prepared by GSCH staff. Each surgical specialty had a designated intake station. The majority of the day was spent screening and assessing patients and preparing the operating rooms for the following day.
Hernias, bowel issues, anorectal repairs, penile malformations, cleft lips and palates, goiters (non-toxic), thyroids, bladder repairs, TURPS (prostate/ kidney), hydroceles (prostate), tumors, cysts, and hysterectomies were the types of procedures that were slated to be completed during the six-day surgical camp. After screenings and assessments, it soon became clear that the World Surgical Foundation’s humanitarian campaign at GSCH would have to be limited to “critical cases,” cases which are complicated in nature, taking hours to complete in some instances and that would put to best use the surgical specialists’ expertise and time. Unfortunately, only several “lumps and bumps” (less complicated cases) would be attended to during this year’s surgical camp.
WSF team members left GSCH on the first day with a sense of anticipation of what the next five days would hold. The first day at the hospital also gave all members of the surgical camp, local and foreign, the opportunity to get to know one another, coordinate care, and begin to collaborate as one unit toward a specific goal — that of improving the lives of patients and in some cases, saving them. The common denominators among participants was a spirit of volunteerism, the principles of humanitarian assistance, and the overriding belief in providing care to the most vulnerable among us.