I am presently in the Philippines visiting Tacloban City Hospital with the World Surgical Foundation. We are here to check on the progress of the hospital rebuilding and determine what else WSF can do to help. This was supposed to be a simple visit with no major operations scheduled, but there is a young girl here today in need of an operation immediately to remove a choledochal cyst in her bile duct. Since this surgery was not planned, Dr. Alvear does not have all the equipment he would normally use like a harmonic scalpel or GIA staples. He will be doing it, “the old fashioned way” and expects to be operating for three hours.
As I watched her going under anesthesia, I got chills knowing this life is going to be saved or changed. Her pain and difficulties gone. I am going to watch her surgery because it is all just so incredible to see. Words cannot describe seeing this little body under the blanket with her tiny arm poking out. I have to hold back the urge to hold it. But it is soothing knowing that everything will be better for this little angel. I really understand now that having good health and good health care is such a blessing. I have to mention we arrived the day Pope Francis was leaving, and I believe this was no mistake. I say this because this first of three missions in the Philippines is already mind blowing, just the beginning of the magic. The World Surgical Foundation is making a difference one person at a time. This little girl will have a life she couldn’t have imagined before without cost. Not a even penny, because the hearts of WSF are ready to go.
The second case that hit me in the heart like a bomb is a sweet young mother with her baby boy who has an inguinal hernia. The procedure itself only took a half hour, but this woman, her brother, and child were displaced by Yolanda and live under a bridge. Homeless as can be, she works doing laundry for pesos. I could not let them leave here without giving them something. I was not going to let them just go back under the bridge. So I changed out of my scrubs and walked to a store to find some kind of useful gift before he was discharged. I remembered seeing a store on the way to the hospital that sold children’s bedding and bought a small mattress pad for her baby so he would not have to sleep on the ground.
A city completely leveled by the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban is really picking itself up and moving on. I took a tour around town and was actually shocked at how the survivors here are generally happy, grateful, and amazing people. I have completely reassessed my views on what really matters. I am so grateful to be here. So grateful of the Alvear family for creating this movement. Because that’s what it is a movement. With all the tragedy around the world today, I believe people are finally starting to reach for something greater. And WSF makes it easy for volunteers to get there.
Next stop? Manila and then a long bus ride to Talavera on Saturday for a week-long, multi-specialty mission.