Monday, May 28, 2012

Four months

Below is an excerpt of the reflection paper I had written three days before I left Bethel Baptist Hospital.

I came here four weeks ago. I was in search of a refuge, a place to take a breather from the hurly-burly of Metro Manila. I felt spent and tired after three years of med school. My ideas of what it means to be a doctor were distorted. I wanted to be reminded that there is a place somewhere in this planet where the sick are treated like real people, with a compassion and love overflowing from Christ who had first loved us. I was in search of an ideal, or even an imperfect facsimile of it.

All at once, I noticed a world of difference. Making comparisons was inevitable.

The hospital was smaller. The hallways were cleaner, decorated with timeless reminders of preaching the Word and healing the sick. The emergency room wasn't foul-smelling, the beds were covered in mattresses, and there were hardly any patients rushing in. The air was cold and refreshing, even inside the building. I realized I was going to enjoy it here.

Regardless of rank or designation, members of the hospital staff greeted each other, even on the hallways. They knew each other on a personal level, not just by name, for they would occasionally ask how the children are doing, or if so and so got the job. They prayed for each other, rejoicing and suffering and hoping as they need may be. They had morning devotions. They studied Scriptire. They were a family.

On my end, I was welcomed with wide, open arms—forgive the cliché. I felt being ushered into friendly territory, without the hostility or indifference I had grown gotten used to. People called me “doctor” despite my ignorance and lack of any medical license. I tried convincing the nurses and the rest of staff to stop calling me that, but they were insistent. The people I worked were more than happy to teach me when I asked questions.

Now that I'm leaving, I often get asked what things I've enjoyed during my stay in Bukidnon.

I tell them I loved the cold mornings, the afternoon rains, and the sight of mountain ranges in the horizon.

I got the best sleep here, often of comatose proportions. Maybe it was because of the silence, or the crickets and cicadas humming in the background.

I relished the intimate moments I had with the Lord inside my room, and the things He has taught me during my devotions.

I learned a lot from the hospital visitations, ward singing with the retirees, and the morning staff devotions.

I loved the adventures I've had with some of the hospital staff, things I wouldn't have done under ordinary circumstances. Crossing rivers to reach the Matigsalug-Manobo community in Kitaotao. Ziplining during a heavy rain (sans the lightning and thunder, thank God!). Climbing a tall, limestone wall, realizing my utter lack of physical strength. Rappelling from a bridge, being suspended in mid-air, wondering if I'd make it back to the ground alive.

I tell them how much weight I had probably gained, thanks to the occasional free meals—lunch and dinner and anything in between—I occasionally got invited in. And how huge the lechon was!

But the highlight of my stay was the opportunity to get to know my mentors: the doctors who have treated me like family. Aside from teaching me during rounds or consultations, they welcomed me into their homes, introduced me to their families, fed me, showed me around, and treated me to restaurants—these things they did despite their busy, often demanding, schedules. They took time to share the life stories, how the Lord has led them to this hospital. They gave out juicy bits of their love stories.

I got invited to their churches, and what a surreal experience it was: seeing them lead, sing, and preach the Word. They remained faithful Christians while being doctors at the same time.

I was encouraged, even rebuked, by their compassion, especially when they prayed for patients before every surgery or when they asked if their patients were doing well in the outpatient clinics. I wish I could be like them.

I came here four weeks ago, and now I'm all set to leave in a couple of days. How time flies! The Lord has taught me so many things here. I've met new friends in the Lord whom I will treasure forever.

Bethel is by no means perfect, of course, but it faithfully serves a perfect God. As I go back to the “real world”—a world where the sick are treated like diseases, where academic pressures and demands can overwhelm even faithful believers—I will always look back at the days I had spent here, and I will be filled with longing. And I will recall the compassion overflowing from the hearts of the doctors and nurses and staff, and I will be reminded that because God has first loved us, I can love others, too, even the most difficult of patients.

I consider my short stint in Bethel as one of the most memorable, enjoyable moments of my life.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the words of Dalvie, pak na pak ang experience! -aa

Sat Jun 02, 11:39:00 PM GMT+8  

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