Anger

WHAT SOME PEOPLE may not know is that I can get extremely irritable. This afternoon, after a tiring day at the Medical ICU, I talked to my father over the phone while simultaneously turning my old, trusted Compaq Presario CQ40 on. I do it all the time—multitasking. Tatay was in the middle of asking me how I was doing when he heard me grumble about the pitiful state of my four-year old machine.

"Bon," he said, "you're getting angry again."

"My stupid laptop isn't working."

"Did you try to get it fixed? Maybe you have friends who can help you."

"No, it's a stupid laptop, and it's not being useful when I need it the most."

Week 34, 2012: Medical Intensive Care Unit, first week

IN THE MIDDLE of our first week at the Medical Intensive Care Unit, some of us were fielded to the newly-opened LICU. The L stands for Leptopsirosis, a disease caused by microorganisms transmitted through the urine of rats. Weeks after the massive flooding in Metro Manila, a deluge of severe lepto patients was imminent. Fortunately the unit wasn't officially opened yet; there needed to be about 25 consults a day for the LICU to be activated. Since there was hardly any patients, Lennie, Ching, Marv, and I went to the pantry to finish our breakfast, and we found this note—a perfect blend of good handwriting and sarcasm. Below was an empty box of BonChon takeout meal.

week 34, 2012

Old friends

IT WAS DR. SUSAN Punongbayan, a physician in Bukidnon, who gave me this important piece of advice last summer break: keep your non-medical friends close.

A month ago I met up with old friends from way back in first year college. Jaylord Tan celebrated his 25th birthday and invited us over to dinner. From experience I've learned not to commit to any social event, until I'm absolutely sure that I'm not on call at the hospital, so please forgive me if I don't reply to invitations immediately. I simply do not want to disappoint you.

I had first met most of them in Kalayaan Christian Fellowship. We had Bible studies every Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?). We bumped into each other at the Mess Hall where we shared meager servings of brown soup and unlimited supplies of rice—well, there was that. After I was done with homework, I would drop by their rooms at the Kalayaan Hall Basement, share to them how my day went, listen to them as they poured their hearts out, and ask them to solve academic problems I couldn't make sense of. They've been part of my closest circle of friends since then.

happy birthday, sir jaylord

On Sara Bareilles and drowning the world's noise with my earphones

SARA BAREILLES' album, Live from the Gravity Tour, has been on my playlist for weeks now.

The songs she performs—they have the right kind of melody to keep me awake, make me sing along without overly distracting me from finishing my patients' progress notes.

I discovered her about a year ago, when I chanced upon a live recording of King of Anything in YouTube. I liked her then, and I like her now: the clean and modest look, the magical voice, and the joie de vivre on-stage.

Two deaths

I WOKE UP to the news of my patients' deaths. Both expired early in the morning and were never revived successfully.

The first patient, a 30-something obese man, came to the Emergency Department three days ago with fixed dilated pupils. He was unresponsive even to pain stimulation and had high-grade fever. His neck was rigid. My superiors were entertaining a brain infection in its advanced stages. Unfortunately, because of the acuteness of his condition, I didn't see much of him.

The second patient, Mang Ronny, 65 years old, was close to me. I had been his student-in-charge since day one of my Neurology rotation. Because he had been confined for almost a month already, his chart was thick when it was first endorsed to me, packed with indecipherable notes from various services, laboratory results, antibiotic schedules, and nurses' narratives. I was overwhelmed when I wrote my incoming notes. It was the longest clinical abstract I had written.

A prayer to overcome my lack of faith

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory ... — 1 Peter 1:8
Dear Father, I tend to believe what I see and doubt that which I don't. Forgive me, Lord, for my lack of faith.

I woke up this morning on the wrong side of the bed, immediately turning my laptop on the moment my alarm clock had rung. I hardly uttered a prayer. Instead I went on grumbling, hoping the day would end before it had even started.

How short-sighted I was, Lord, and how irritable! I finished my report after an hour. I just wanted to get it done with. Was I thinking of doing it to glorify your Name, to display excellence so as to honor You? No, I wasn't. Exhausted, I headed straight back to bed, blaming the stresses of the hospital, my decision to sleep earlier the night before, the 24-hour duty scheme of my training institution—and the list could go on and on.

Erich Maria Remarque may have written about med school — by accident



WHILE SKIMMING through my dusty stack of books this evening, I got hold of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, which I had read last year. The short novel is a searing and moving account of young German soldier Paul Bäumer in the trenches. Shortly after World War I began, he and his classmates are drafted for the battlefield.

And it hit me: Erich Maria Remarke may well have written about medical school—by accident.

The narratives of being in the trenches make great analogies of what to expect in, say, the emergency room on a Saturday night. There's also that danger of leaving one's things unattended:

The clearing station is very busy. It smells of carbolic, pus and sweat, just like it always does. You get used to a lot of things when you are in the barracks, but this can really turn your stomach. We keep on asking people until we find out where Kemmerich is; he is in a long ward, and welcomes us weakly, with a look that is part pleasure and part helpless agitation. While he was unconscious, somebody stole his watch. p.9

Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado, and my wish for more contemporary novels written by Filipinos

THE WRITER Miguel Syjuco was unknown to me before he had won the 2008 Man Asia Literary Prize. Since then I've been hearing a lot about his book Ilustrado, having seen it many times displayed in local bookstores, its singular presence a reminder of how rare serious novelists are in the Philippines. Wasn't it the writer Butch Dalisay who said that Filipino writers can't be taken seriously in the international arena unless they publish novels?

Naturally I was curious as to what Ilustrado was all about. If you care to remember your Philippine history (and I still do, in a way, thanks to Mr. Mario Madrero, my high school history teacher), ilustrado was a term used during Spanish colonial times to refer to the enlightened; i.e., people from the society's upper middle class who were privileged enough to study in Europe. Our heroes José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar at Mariano Ponce belonged to such a category.

Classes in Metro Manila suspended today

DURING MY TOUR of duty at the Emergency Department last weekend, I saw a number of patients consulting because of high grade fever, muscle pain, and jaundice. Their labs indicated that they had leptospirosis; all of them had waded in the flood, thanks to the rains that have left low-lying areas of Metro Manila looking like Water World.

Astonished by the Gospel

WHEN PRAYING BECOMES a tedious chore rather than a source of refreshment and delight, I often turn to Scott Smith's blog, Heavenward. There he posts daily personal and practical prayers, always beginning with a verse or two, with catchy, sometimes amusing, titles. His meditations are reminiscent of Augustine's Confessions or King David's Psalms, and I wonder if the blog is his way of forcing himself to commit to the daily spiritual discipline of quiet communion with the Lord. Heavenward has certainly been a treat for my tired and weary soul, especially during the quiet moments before my post-duty sleep commences.

The 10 best closing lines of books — and one of my own

ROBERT MCCRUM of the Observer has compiled his list of the ten best closing lines of books. The list includes:

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Ulysses by James Joyce:
“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another… then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”