Monday, January 26, 2015

Baffled

I HAD the immense privilege of helping Rich King, our batch head, compose the speech for the welcome ceremony for incoming first years in the Department of Medicine last week. His delivery gave this short message a more serious, determined tone; and he spoke like a seasoned orator. Here it is, in full.

Internal Medicine - Philippine General Hospital
Credit: Dr. Nemo Trinidad

It still baffles us: the fact we made it to residency in Internal Medicine at the Philippine General Hospital. When we look back at the rigorous pre-residency process just a few months ago, we had no way of knowing whether we were going to get in at all. There were so many applicants, many at the top of our own classes, all oozing with brilliance and compassion, so much so that in the end, we felt it was anybody's game. We wouldn't feel cheated if we didn't get in and they did. And yet, by God's grace, by a beautifully orchestrated miracle, we received the call one fateful afternoon. Some of us were still curled up in bed, or watching a movie over our laptop, and when we heard the resounding, “Congratulations! You made it!”, many of us couldn't believe our ears. Our lives finally took a new direction for the next three years.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

How do you measure a year?

LAST THURSDAY night, during my time with the Pilgrim Men—the Bible study (or cell) group I've had the privilege of attending in church—we shared what made our year memorable. The question was, in effect, like this: what criteria do we employ to say that our year has been a success?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Basement boys at the Ward

MORNING always has us scrambling for charts—not an easy task at all, but one that requires the visual acuity of an eagle, the extraordinary flexibility of a snake, and the father's forbearance in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Eve, PGH, and 2015

I WELCOMED the new year in the hospital. I was on 24-hour shift at the Pay Ward, intermittently called up by nurses for referrals that ranged from possibly fatal complaints (difficulty breathing or chest pain) to electrolyte abnormalities easily corrected by telling the patient to eat a piece of banana. I had brief moments of rest, perhaps the longest ones I've had since I had begun residency two weeks ago. From the call room window I could see fireworks decorating the expanse above Manila Bay. I imagined that, if I were home on New Year's Eve, my street at St. Gabriel would be noisy too. I could see our dog, Benjamin, cowering in fear whenever our neighbors lighted fireworks. The Dizons, who live just right across us, would call us up and invite us to their home; I wonder if their family computer, which we always fantasized about, is still working. My parents would probably be asleep, especially my mother, who cannot tolerate staying up late lest she incur a migraine the next day. But Tatay would wake me and my brothers up sometimes—that much I can remember when I was in elementary school. He would give us firework sticks and light all three of them at the tips with a single matchstick, assuring us that our hands wouldn't need to be amputated because that hardly ever happens if one is careful. I was particularly paranoid; I liked my hands very much.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Reading Year 2014

HERE'S a list (probably incomplete, and not in any particular order) of books I've read this year. I'm not sure which ones I like best; the top ten should include the works of Marilynne Robinson, William Faulkner, and, well, of pretty much everyone else in this roster. Jhumpa Lahiri was a surprising discovery for me; her simple prose evokes so many complex emotions. I read The Interpreter of Maladies once in a while, and I get a different insight from it every time. Roddy Doyle, the Irish writer, famous for The Barrytown Trilogy of which The Commitments is the first, is a happy addition to the Funniest Writers list I'm compiling—a list that already includes David Sedaris and PG Wodehouse. Also included in my 2014 reading diet are essay and short story collections, like Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs and Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. The New Yorker anthology, Secret Ingredients, features the best magazine articles about food; I enjoyed that immensely, too. Spiritually, I've benefited from Jon Bloom's Not by Sight—great retelling of Biblical stories Christians have come to love. Overall, a great year for reading.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fellowship

ONE of the greatest blessings—and joys—of the Christian life is having a church family. Having been literally rooted out of our home in Mindanao to pursue further studies in Manila, my brother and I didn't have any immediate family members to go to, homes to spend the weekends in, aunts or uncles to visit. Yet the Lord, in His sovereignty, brought us to a small, faithful church where everybody knew each other. Over the course of many years we have developed meaningful relationships with many of the members who have always prayed for us and wished us well. Our local church is the closest thing we have to a family in Metro Manila.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

About to begin

RESIDENCY begins on the 16th of December. Last week, I was handed my schedule for the entire year. I'll be at the Pay Wards on December, the Charity Wards on January, and the Medical Intensive Care Unit, hereon referred to as the MICU, on February—that's all I can remember for now. I will have my out-patient clinics every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon. I will have 24-hour shifts every three days. Except for the seven-day “leave” (yes, it's in quotation marks because it doesn't really exist) on the third week of August next year, I will be doing rounds every single day of the year 2015, regardless of holidays, floods, or supertyphoons.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lila by Marilynne Robinson: a story of grace



YOU READ a book, expecting to have fun, the kind that your brother Sean, who hardly reads anything at all, save for his textbooks, won't ever understand. You begin with the first few paragraphs. Amazed at the craftsmanship of the sentences, you keep at it—the pleasures of reading, they call it. Then you lose grip of time; your head is up in the clouds of the story—a made-up world that, for a moment, seems more real than reality.

You wonder at how words—letters pieced together, their meanings defined by spaces or lack thereof—can have such an effect on your emotions. Apathy turned into concern, rage into sorrow, discontent into delight. Or maybe a combination of them, because a person, indeed, has the capacity to handle, though not completely explain, a wide range of feelings, like the spectral colors of the rainbow in the afternoons of childhood.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Soaring like the eagle in the light of the eternal sun

AS A SUPPLEMENT to my daily devotions, I'm reading "What Happens When I Pray?," a condensed version of the works of two not-so-famous classic Christian writers, Thomas Goodwin and Benjamin Palmer. My copy is published by Grace Publications Trust (London, England), and is a rewritten and abridged version prepared by Dr. N. R. Needham, in order to cater to a modern-day readership.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Karl Ove Knausgaard on brothers

KARL Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian writer whose monumental book, Min Kamp (My Struggle: Book One), is what I'm currently reading. Critics call the 3500-page autobiography monumental; I can see why. There's nothing so special about the subject--his life--but he writes in such a way that keeps the reader, any reader, hooked. Compelling: that's the word for it. He keeps us interested, finding meaning in the minutiae of life: his breakfast, his band, his first pseudo-sexual experience, his father's death. One of my favorite book critics, James Wood of The New Yorker, said that "even when [he] was bored, [he] was interested."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Laughing at politics

AS I WAS INUNDATED with news of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee crucifying Vice President Binay for his alleged involvement in an overpriced parking space or airconditioned chicken farms, I discovered the HBO original production called Veep. Having resolved not to get too involved with national politics, I considered Veep a welcome diversion.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

To be the best for my patients

THIS IS an excerpt from my pre-residency admission essay for Internal Medicine - Philippine General Hospital. A set of guide questions where given. The essay reads like one of my blog entries, so here it is.

1

I'M LANCE, and unlike many people who go by other names, I'm simply “Lance” to most people I know—except perhaps my father who still calls me “Bon,” after the best sound I could blurt out when I was barely beginning to speak. My mother, then a voracious reader before her migraine attacks, named me after Lance Morrow, the Time magazine essayist who wrote about Imelda Marcos's shoes in the late 1980s. I emailed him ten years ago (I was 14), and Mr. Morrow jokingly said he and my mother were just “friends.” These days people call me “Doc,” so I guess I had better get used to that, too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Undeserved

LAST WEEK I had the privilege of being one of three people to share my testimony during my church's Wednesday Prayer Night. Here's an excerpt:

The sovereign grace of God underlies and explains every believer's life experiences, both the good and the seemingly bad. The true Christian knows that God lavishes His children with His providence—all of it undeserved, unmerited, and overwhelmingly so. We who worship the true and living God are assured that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28) and for our Master's glory, a realization we often arrive at on hindsight. We usually go through hard times without completely making sense of our circumstances. Only by looking back can we appreciate the tapestry of God's grace, beautifully choreographed like an ingenious master plan, the end of which is our prizing the Lord Jesus Christ above all things. We also become more like Him. And, like the writers and poets of old, our hearts are filled to overflowing that we can't help but sing of God's great love for us. It is therefore a privilege for me to “sing,” figuratively, of God's undeserved blessings in front of you tonight. Let me end with Isaiah 54:10: “'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My NBI Clearance experience

GOT MYSELF an NBI Clearance today. Took me the whole morning. I was exhausted, and my face looked like a convicted criminal. “You're lucky,” you'll probably say, given that for some, the process can eat up the entire day or more.

Roddy Doyle's The Commitments: listening to the soul of Dublin


Irish writer Roddy Doyle. Photo by Patrick Bolger, The Guardian.

I FIRST HEARD of Roddy Doyle through The New Yorker Fiction Podcast hosted by the magazine's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. The guest on the show was Dave Eggers, a writer in and publisher of McSweeney's, a literary magazine. In that episode, Eggers read “Bullfighting,” Doyle's short story about friends from Dublin who go to Spain for a quick vacation. The story kept me entertained throughout my hour or so of commute from Manila to QC a few months ago. What intrigued me then was Eggers's statement that although he is not a completist, he has read everything written by Doyle.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The second paid job of my life

THE SECOND paid job of my life will be at the Department of Medicine of the Philippine General Hospital. By God's all-sufficient grace, I made it through two weeks of competitive (yet surprisingly enjoyable) pre-residency, then a month or so of patient waiting and praying for the Chief Resident's call that should come on the third or fourth week of October, if I qualified for the top 21 slots.



Photo: Dr. Ralph Villalobos

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The first paid job of my life

image

THE FIRST paid job of my life was in a small infirmary in a coastal town along Sarangani Bay. I started working as doctor-reliever yesterday. My father, excited to see his son finally face the real world after years of studying, drove me to the hospital. My mother insisted that I bring a towel and a blanket, in the loving way that mothers nag their grown-up children to do the most illogical things. Tatay dragged my grandmother and my two other uncles with us. To the casual observer we must’ve looked like a family on a field trip, sans the embarrassing tarpaulin.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reciting the Hippocratic Oath

Physician Oath-taking Ceremony 2014
With my internship block. Photo credit: Dr. Agnes Custodio

NO SURGE of emotions, no tear-stained eye, no passionate sighing overcame me when I recited the Hippocratic Oath this morning with most of the country's newest physicians, passers of the August 2014 Physician Licensure Examination. But what's done is done; I am, by the grace of God, a full-fledged doctor. Many thanks for your support and prayers. Special mention goes to some of my dear friends who visit this blog daily and to random readers who wished me well and sent me encouraging emails in the course of my board review. I thank God for you.

Friday, October 3, 2014

In which I list the books I've read, lest I forget them

THERE ARE moments when I find more comfort in the presence of books than people. Reading is one of the very, very few things I do that keep me quiet—the others include sleep and prayer, but even those sometimes have me saying things aloud.

I turned to reading during the last few weeks leading up to the Board exam; I went back to it after my application for residency. By reading, of course, I mean me tackling non-academic, non-medical pieces of literature; including my medical textbooks will inevitably bloat my reading list. When I read fiction (don't say “pocket books,” unless you're reading a Mills and Boon paperback romance), I am transported to other worlds created by the author's mind. Why that's so thrilling is something only readers will understand—a thrill that, in my opinion, should be experienced by all. But, alas, not everyone has the patience for the written word, let alone pages and pages of it. But the truth is that much is lost when one forgoes reading—a perennially recurring tragedy, what with the advent of smart phones and tablets, leaving people, especially impressionable children, more adept at computer games than self-examination and empathy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping: suicide, adolescence, being different, losing someone

MARILYNNE Robinson's Housekeeping is a work of art. Every word, carefully chosen, reverberates in one's consciousness. Every punctuation matters. One does not sense the struggle in the writing process, if there ever was, because she makes it sound so effortless. Her prose reads like poetry—quiet, calm, soulful. Her language is masterful, often restrained, but so packed with the written and the unwritten that one should read it carefully, slowly, never in a rush, in full concentration, lest the story dissipate elsewhere. She deals away with clich├ęs but makes use of the full armament of her vocabulary to illustrate something or make a point. The landscape she paints of the town of Fingerbone, Idaho, where much of life is built around the lake, takes the reader to its darkest, hidden corners.