Written by: Ellen Libby, Director of Marketing, Physicians for Peace
From the field: Bicol Region, Philippines
We started the day at 6:00am with the team divided into three groups. The surgery group went to the local health clinic with Saji, our medical student intern from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. At the clinic, our group worked alongside the hospital’s OR team. There were two operating rooms set with six tables and one room with two tables... allowing for a total of 14 simultaneous operations at any given time. More than 40 procedures including cleft lip/palette were completed today. (Look for Saji’s update on the blogs soon!)
The second group of two optometrists returned to the Tigaon Elementary School to continue working with the teachers, who had identified students to be screened for vision impairment. The teachers applied their training from the previous day and worked with children they suspected had vision problems. Optometrists performed eye examinations and refraction testing, and then fitted the children with glasses and ordered lenses. Children who need medical intervention were referred to local opthalmologists for further review.
One particular child, Arjay , a shy 6-year-old who loves to read the fairytale of Cinderella had an unfortunate accident this past October that left him blind in one eye. His teacher, Emma Lou, identified his vision problems after the vision screening training yesterday. Dr. Soltura confirmed that Arjay has a traumatic cataract, which will require a major operation to correct the retina. I sat with Arjay's mother as she wept into her hands wondering how she could afford to pay the cost for surgery and found comfort in the news that Physicians for Peace-Philippines would connect her with local foundations to find her son a sponsor to offset the costs.
Our third group was dropped off at the Tigaon Infirmary, where the bulk of the multi-specialty treatments were performed.
Upon arriving at the infirmary early in the morning, lines of people – many of whom had traveled significant distances to get care -- were already organized into four corrals: vision screening, limb prosthetics, dental care and pediatric care. The weather was not in our favor but it did not seem to put a damper on the number of patients pouring in to be seen. GT of VonZipper, one of PFP’s philanthropic corporate partners, joined us on this mission to see how his donated frames support our Seeing Clearly program. From the moment he stepped into the infirmary, GT worked with the optometrists to set up the frame fitting station and used his expertise in consulting with the patients on fittings.
Later, exhausted but exhilarated by all the patients' hope for a healthier life, we shared our stories over dinner. More to come…