With the highly anticipated release of season 15 of “Grey’s Anatomy” just around the corner, I felt like getting some sort of advanced screening, and perhaps even playing a Dr. Meredith Grey in a real operating room.
This was last August in the Hospital on Wheels Philippines (HOW) surgical mission at District 3780 Rotary Center parking grounds in Barangay Paligsahan, Quezon City.
I am a certified Red Cross first aid and lay rescuer, which I believe is pretty cool in itself. But it is totally something else getting to don a real scrub suit and surgical gloves in an operating room to assist a doctor in actual surgery.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine having this opportunity as a 17-year-old senior high school student.
This HOW mission was my second time to volunteer. The first time, I did it alone. This time, however, I brought along some close friends from school who were taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and some members of the Interact Club of Red Cross Youth.
We divided ourselves into two groups doing morning and afternoon shifts. Because the HOW mobile surgical bus could accommodate only two student volunteers at a time, we divided the assignments into those who would be assisting inside the bus, and those helping either in the brick-and-mortar Rotary Center clinic or at the registration table.
We were looking forward to our turn in the operating table.
The 63 patients registering and waiting in line for the day were split into those needing minor surgeries who would be treated at the Rotary Center clinic, and those with more complicated cases to be treated by HOW founder and modern-day Filipino hero, Dr. Jim Sanchez, in the mobile surgical unit.
Though the line was long and the wait tiresome, no one seemed to have noticed, as the Sunday mission was blessed by the lovely serenades of former Aliw Awards finalist Willy San Juan and daughter Maely, who performed pop, folk and Broadway music—Willy on guitar and Maely on violin.
You know how it is sitting in the classroom and unable to relate to what you’re studying?
As STEM senior high school students taking up Anatomy, we were amazed how all the theories we had been learning and memorizing in the classroom came to life in the mobile surgical unit.
It was surreal to stand in front of Dr. Jim, or his son, Dr. JJ, and relate to and understand them like we were real doctors, too, when they brought up terms like, “epidermis,” “sebum” or “Merkel discs,” to explain the procedures.
In the words of a student volunteer from my Interact Club, it was like “a dream come true being a nurse even for just one afternoon.”
While the student volunteers were visibly excited with the opportunity to be like Dr. Meredith Grey or, in this case, rub elbows with Dr. Jim, the most amazing thing in the HOW surgical mission was that we were able to make people improve their physical conditions and help them move on with their normal lives.
Most of us were surprised by the big turnout of patients and how many people needed medical assistance.
To hear such stories as people left by their loved ones or people unable to get jobs because of their lumps or facial deformities, and then be given a new beginning, and to realize that you had a hand in making it happen, is a feeling that is hard to describe and fathom, especially since not everyone our age is given such an opportunity.
Shout-out to HOW founder Dr. Jim Sanchez for creating the Student Volunteers of the HOW program and believing in us, the empowered youth, who can’t wait to show the world that we, too, can make a difference, if given a chance. Thank you for believing in us, Dr. Jim!
The Hospital on Wheels surgical mission in Barangay Paligsahan was hosted by GiveLife in partnership with the Rotary Club of New Manila Heights.
GiveLife is a nonprofit online donor-recipient matching platform founded by the author of this article.