Power’s out

I wake up from of a buzzing near my left ear.

I don’t bother swatting the mosquito off. I know I won’t be able to smack it in time.

My skin is filmed with sweat. I try to make myself more comfortable on the wooden bench and fail. It is day 1 of the scheduled electric interruption in our town. This happens regularly here. I’m sure if this was to happen in metropolitan cities, all hell would break lose. Then, they’d turn on their generators.

I have already survived a fourth of the day. Good. I’ve been following my game plan for this day. I’m conserving my energy and trying to make the day go faster by sleeping on a wooden bench in the sala. When I sleep, the time goes on without me noticing. I also won’t have to sweat more.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, I am uncomfortable. The Philippines’ warm tropical climate is making itself known. I am perspiring so much, even while I’m lying perfectly still. The hard wood hurts my back.

I play Solitaire. I have been playing playing this for a long time now but I still click the hint button. I feel like I’m not smart enough for this game.

The game tires me out. I put my phone on the windowsill and close my eyes again.

Schrödinger’s Equation

There is a period between the light and the dark where everything is relative. Things move slowly, unsure of what’s happening. Beings form and lose form as the light recedes and gives way to darkness.

Some time later, darkness envelops the world. Everyone and everything breathes a sigh of relief; we are finally out of the bright light. But not for long. For in the darkness are demons, large and small. The darkness that keeps out the light also harbors something unpleasant. We fumble, unable to see anything. The darkness that keeps us safe also hides the demons. Thus we are unsafe. And so we bid our time.

Again comes the period between the dark and the light. The darkness and the light dance their eternal dance of setting and rising. The world holds its breath in suspense once more.

Inching closer and closer, the light slowly wins. Everyone and everything breathes a sigh of relief; we are finally out of the de
ppressive darkness. But not for long. For the light is unceasing and unkind. It does not care who is blinded, as long as it is able to flash its huge power. It is proud and pompous. We try to hide, to no avail. We are not safe from the light’s intense heat and gaze. And so we bid our time.

The darkness eventually comes to reclaim the throne. The darkness and the light dance their eternal dance. Again, the world becomes different shades of gray. Our breaths we held, for we do not know what harms this in-between period will bring. But there is nothing. We are suspended in reality, in between the light and the dark, before we go into the darkness (then the light) again.

There is a period between the light and the dark where everything is relative. In between the light and the dark, I stay.

Pediatrics Reflection During Quarantine

Pediatrics was (is?) the reason why I got held back in medical school. I got overwhelmed on the first day of the rotation and never went back. I remember that was April 1, 2019. Now, my former class is graduating and I’ve been left behind. But that’s not the point of my current rambling post.

Anyway, I went back to PGH mid-November of 2019 to finish my two remaining rotations for clerkship: Family-Community Medicine and Pediatrics. I broke down and went to the ER while doing my Family and Community Medicine Rotation. I was overwhelmed of being back in PGH, which is my #1 stressor. I had suicidal thoughts and was cutting myself.

After that episode, I was assigned a psychiatric resident to be my doctor. I was prescribed meds and had twice-weekly, then weekly, sessions with her. She really helped me a lot.

Then, I finished my Family and Community Medicine Rotation. It was now time for my last and dreaded rotation: Pediatrics.

For my first week, I was assigned to the NICU, or Neonatal ICU. My peers assured me that this was the easiest part of the rotation, so I went in the first day. In that sub-rotation, we were in charge of the baby the moment it came out of the mother’s womb. We did the necessary steps depending on the situation, which could be resuscitation or Unang Yakap. It could be really chill or really toxic. It depended on the babies being born and the cases. I was so scared of Pediatrics that I was thankful for my interns. They babied me and did things when I couldn’t do them. They taught me things over and over again. They were patient and talked to me on our downtime. I’m also thankful for my residents. They were chill but responsible. When I made mistakes, they pointed them out in a nice way. They patiently taught me the ropes. I hope they didn’t judge me when I did things wrong over and over again.

Next came the Pedia ER. I was so scared for this but I pushed myself and went anyway. Like the NICU, the posts were 12 hours each day. There were times when we couldn’t sit down because there were a lot of to-do’s for the many patients flowing in. This was PGH, after all. I’m thankful that I was grouped with interns I liked and who covered my ass when I lapsed. I did the best I could but I also still found excuses when I knew I should’ve taken responsibility. The residents always changed and I am thankful I never rotated with a mean resident. I would’ve quit if I did. A memorable but embarrassing memory for me was when I was assigned to triage with an attractive resident and I spilled coffee all over him. He was stuck with a sticky pair of pants and shoes the whole day. I’m so sorry, sir! I didn’t know how to react or what to do so I just watched in disbelief as he cleaned the table, the documents, himself, and the surroundings. I didn’t even apologize.

Anyway… On our last day of being together as a Pedia ER group, my interns and I ate out to celebrate and spend time with each other. I was happy. But then, afterwards, my anxiety kicked in HARD.
In a few hours, I would have to go in and spend two weeks in the Pedia wards. We were short on people so everyone had to take extra patients on top of the many patients already assigned. Instead of only 12-hour shifts, we had to do 36-hour shifts. We only had a few hours off and then we had to do it all over again. We had to monitor the whole ward every hour. We had to present about our patients to residents and consultants daily. I can’t fully express why I was scared, but I was truly TERRIFIED. I could not fathom going to the wards. I was crying and overthinking non-stop in the dorm. After a few hours of leaving the ER at the end of my duty, I was back. This time, I was the patient.

I really did not want to have to do the Pedia wards sub-rotation that I started questioning why I was still in med school. It was clear that I hated it. The only thing keeping me there was that I had to pay the school back millions because of my breach of contract if I ever quit med school. My family is on the lower-class socioeconomic level, so it’s clear that we would never be able to pay even a fraction of that. I spiralled down a black hole of self-hate. In my mind, to avoid having to continue med school AND sparing my family the burden of paying millions, I would have to kill myself. I did not (and still do not) see a future for me. I was lost and had already given up on myself. I then overdosed on prescription drugs. I was rushed to the PGH ER and experienced what it was like to be a patient there. It was so hard. I had to fight for space and had to find a way to look for a wheelchair or a bed when it was clear there were none available. I had to wait for a long time and get shouted at or ignored. All while slipping in and out of consciousness that was drug-induced. I hated that I was still alive. Yet another suicide attempt of mine failed. I felt pathetic and a total failure. My brother had to skip school to be my “bantay”, or the one who would do all errands for me. He did not get any rest for some time. My former batchmates also showed up to the ER when they heard I overdosed. They were the ones I asked to extract my blood and insert my IV line.

I spent the week inside the hospital but as a patient. I was in a solitary, small, private room in the 5th floor of PGH. It was windowless and cramped, but I was not allowed other options because I was on suicide watch. My parents flew in. My family and friends visited. I’m grateful for all of them.

After I was discharged, I tried going on duty. I tried to finally start my sub-rotation in the Pedia wards. However, on my second hour, I had a panic attack. When I was able to, I left and never went back.

I spent my next month doing nothing in the dorm. I only did basic stuff when necessary. I was rotting and it was not good for my health. After more than a month, my parents convinced me to go home and give it another try after resting. I narrowly missed the lockdown. I was able to fly back to Mindanao three days before the COVID-19 fiasco hit the fan in Metro Manila. Now, two months after, I’m still here in Mindanao.

Honestly, typing this has made me sadder. This has not been cathartic. I’ll just stop this here. I wish I could say I’m better, but I’m not. I’d be lying if I said I did. Now, I still don’t know what direction I would take. I’m still lost. I hope it gets better. I don’t know what I’d do if it doesn’t.

Ambigat ng pakiramdam ko. How does one translate this sentence to English? The literal translation of the first word is heavy, but it does not capture the essence of it. The loss. The longing. The disappointment. The hurt.

I’m trying to do what I can but I guess I already developed the habit of doing nothing. I can only study 25 minutes max per day and at this rate, I’m screwed. If I decide to go back to med school, that is. My mind is a foggy mess and I don’t know how to get better. How do other people do it? I just want to be normal.

Health is Political

Health is Political

With all the issues our country is facing right now, the government has focused on suppressing press freedom. One of the largest and longest-running television network has been shut down because the President has taken a dislike to them.

The government has also been arresting citizens expressing dissent or criticizing the government. No laws have been violated and no warrants of arrest have been produced, but citizens have been forcefully taken and jailed indefinitely.

All of this despite the epidemic. The numbers of positive patients have been increasing and only 0.1% of the population has been tested. The country is running low on testing kits, reagents, PPEs, disinfectants, and other materials. The President made a loan of hundreds of billions of pesos for this, but we have yet to see what he has done with the money. Everything that we have been using are donations from different people and organizations. I fear that this is taking a toll on those who have been donating and donations will decrease.

Barangays have been forced to take the responsibility of feeding all their constituent families without much additional budget from the national government. This is also true for mayor’s.

Citizens have also been arrested for holding “mass gatherings” and giving aid to people in need. Healthcare workers going to hospitals have been stopped at checkpoints, fined, and thrown acid on them. The government has done nothing about this.

However, higher government officials under the protection of the president have been having mass gatherings for parties and speeches but they’re barely given a slap on the hand. Their supporters have been harassing people online who have asked why they weren’t fined when others have been.

Selective justice is happening, which is injustice.

With all these events, a national organization composed of medical students posted a statement about the current status of the country and its suppression of the press. Some healthcare workers then commented that medical students should stay out of this and instead go back to studying and reading books. We should not be concerned of that, they said. We should support the president and the government because they are doing the best the can. That we shouldn’t make health political

I disagree.

Health is, and has always been, political.

For a fact, health is a right. That is the number one thing taught in medical school. Currently, the country treats healthcare as a privilege, with only the rich getting proper healthcare because they can afford them. If a patient is not one of them, then best of luck to them. They are relegated to old hospitals, overworked healthcare workers with too many patients assigned to them, limited space, scarce resources, malfunctioning equipment, and overall bad conditions. But what can they do? This is all they can afford. Most don’t even go to a hospital before it’s too late because they have to work to provide for themselves and their families. If they don’t work, they will starve and die.

But I digress. Health is political because it is affected by what is happening in the government and in society. The budget is from the government. How hospitals are run is influenced by how society is run. There are social determinants of health that state that various factors will affect health. These are few of the first things taught in medical schools.

We even have rotations in the community and in barangay health centers so we really see health at the grassroots level. We see how people are affected and, in turn, how their health is affected. Wee see the injustices done and how crafty the Filipino are to do the best with what they can.

I am mad at people who say health is apolitical. It is not. It can be seen in plain sight but they choose to turn their eyes away. If the government does not have its priorities straight, the healthcare system will surely be affected.

People have forgotten the teachings of their Family Medicine and Community rotations. They did not take things to heart and just treated them as another easy rotation to get some rest and be done with. People think medical school is all about studying to pass the boards and to finally become rich doctors. That is not the point. Being a doctor means touching the lives of every patient you encounter and give them the care they deserve. You may not always get to treat this, but you can give them solace and making their quality of life better. What use are your prescriptions if your patient can’t afford to buy them? What use is it to treat a patient then send them back to the place where they got sick in the first place?

As doctors and doctors-to-be, it is our duty to fight for our patients’ right to health. It is our job to give them a better healthcare than what we currently have. It is important to take into consideration all their social determinants to holistically care for them. This includes fighting for what is right. If an important aspect of the society is suppressed, we could be next. Healthcare would be seriously comprised to make way for what the ruling class wants.

Being apolitical is siding with the oppressor. As a doctor, you should never be in favor of oppressing the very people you swore to treat and protect.

Emotions in the Time of COVID-19

I’ve been feeling a lot of emotions recently. The quarantine is not helping.

1. I still don’t know what the meaning of my life is. My view on my existence is still bleak.

2. I miss my grandfathers. They loved me in ways no other people would.

3. I wish I could connect more with my paternal grandmother but I don’t know how. I try my best to express my love.

4. I hope my maternal grandmother could understand why I stopped studying in med school. She refuses to accept my reasons and even though I know she loves me, I can’t help but feel bitter about her non-acceptance.

5. I love my best friend so much but I don’t know how to express it without sounding weird.

6. I still feel left out now that my original med class is graduating med school. I got left behind and it sucks.

7. I’m sad that I don’t have close friends I can talk to regularly. I feel alone.

8. I can’t contain my emotions that I just burst out randomly.

9. I can’t focus on anything. I’ve tried stopping my habit of scrolling on social media but I go crawling back in 5 minutes.

Dear Darren

Last night, I realized that you won’t be participating in your supposedly last Palarong Med. I know you were looking forward to it, but we can’t do anything about the current circumstances.

I just wanted to say how proud I am of you. I’ve been cheering you on for each of the past 6 Palarong Meds you’ve participated in. I would’ve cheered for you for your last.

Through the years, you’ve always been a committed player. Through the ups and downs of the basketball team, you’ve stood by it. It didn’t matter whether you were good or not. If you got to play or got benched. You always had the most dedication out of everyone. You worked relentlessly behind the scenes to make the team better. You did this while having a heavy med school workload. I applaud your work ethics and ability to balance things out.

Just know that whatever happens, I’ll always be here for you. It is rare for a person to meet someone who is aligned with their beliefs and thinking. In that sense, I think we are soulmates. I’m thankful we got to meet. You are a blessing to me. I’m thankful we became best friends.

I know you have good values and principles. With that, I will always support you in whatever you may be doing. Through the 7 years I’ve known you, you’ve matured so much and I’m so proud to have witnessed that. You’ve grown, not only as a basketball player, but as a person. Now that your student life is coming to an end, I’m sad that I won’t be able to experience that with you. From now on, we won’t be together in the hospital or out of it.

Nevertheless, I am still so so proud of you for sticking throughout the whole med school process. You are resilient, brave, and resourceful. I’m honored to call you my best friend.

Even though we’re going our separate ways, I hope you’ll still keep me in your heart and mind. Though we may be taking different paths in life, I’m glad our paths converged for a time. I’ll bring you with me for the rest of my life.

Congratulations and good luck with whatever lies ahead. I’ll always be here if you need me.

Easter 2020 ✨

Happy Easter, everyone! ✨

Happy Easter, everyone! ✨

Even though we’re all stuck at home because of community quarantine, let us not forget how Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins and that after 3 days, He resurrected in accordance with the scriptures.

What is there to write about?

What is there to write about?

The world still sucks

There is a pandemic

The stock market is crashing

The country’s going down in flames

The health care system’s on the brink of collapse

More and more people are getting sick

The rich are getting richer

The poor are getting poorer

I’m still a disappointment

Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?