Nanny Velasco (photo on the left), 66, came three hours early, hoping to find a cure for a stroke she had six years ago that left her face twisted and her legs unable to move. So did Ursino Bermil, 82, who has a history of high blood pressure and pneumonia.
They were among an estimated 800 residents of Caramoan and neighboring towns in Camarines Sur who braved the sweltering heat to seek help for their ailments through the Saleaflor Foundation Medical Mission. When the mission finally opened at 9 a.m. there was a surge of people suffering from a variety of disorders trying to get past the long line.
The medical mission -- led by six medical doctors, 10 nurses, two dentists, two pharmacists, one EKG technician, and dozens of volunteers -- listened to the adults and children describe their physical conditions: cannot walk, hard of hearing, shaking hands, continuously losing weight, leg wound won’t heal, not to mention the conditions common among Filipinos, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It also offered dental services, including teeth extractions.
The patients left with prescription medicine, important knowledge of what caused their conditions and how to keep them under control. The doctors agreed that education is just as important as meds in managing people’s health. A young boy with dental issues was adviced by pediatrician, Dr. Diana Frances Tan, to brush his teeth often and to brush his tongue as well. Simple reminder the boy’s mother took note of.
In another case, a young woman was dragged into the mission grounds by two men who said she was about to collapse. Nurse Florida Lucas rushed to her side in the examination room and did the most basic procedure: she loosened the woman’s clothing, asked her to inhale-exhale normally, and offered water. The woman did not take breakfast that morning and stayed too long under the sun. She was able to walk again after a few minutes’ bed rest.
The mission was procedurally organized; the stream of people flowed smoothly. Saleaflor office administrator Alex Alejandrino and Rolly Anselmo made sure people were admitted in batches and that order was observed. Intake was done at the first table by volunteer nurses and medical technologists who also took the patients’ blood pressure and glucose level. The patients were given numbers and asked to wait at the main seating area where they were given cups of porridge to sustain them during the wait.
The adults and children formed two separate lines to approach the six doctors on stage. After consultations, the doctors gave prescriptions which the patients presented at the Pharmacy table supervised by nurses Lea Batomalaque and Florida Lucas. Lea and Florida are New York-based nurses who co-founded Saleaflor Foundation with nursing colleague Sally Nunez. Three nurses from the U.S. assisted during the medical mission. They are Weng Alba of Bellevue Hospital, Joeralin Lim of Amsterdam Nursing Home, and Ann Moreno of Kaiser Permanente.
Rice cake, coconut water and soda flowed throughout the mission held at the grounds of the Parish of St. Michael the Archangel. Mellow music played to keep family members entertained while waiting for their loved ones to finish their consultations. Some danced to while the time, as the children ran around the sprawling grounds. The mission with its brightly colored tent appeared recreational instead of an event devoted to medical concerns.
The doctors who volunteered their time included OB-Gyne Dr. Noemi Casipit; pediatrician Dr. Diane Frances Tan; family physicians Drs. Maricia Obias, Grace Paranal, Jean Orense, and Vicente Lao. A room behind the stage was turned into an examination room with a bed and an EKG machine operated by medical technologist Myra Debin.
For a first-time medical mission it went well, declared Sally Nunez, chair and CEO of Saleaflor Foundation. There were lessons learned as she took note of having wheelchairs ready and an ambulance available for emergency cases.
“Next time, there should be more people,” she said.