News and Stories
Philippines Mission to Borongan, Eastern Samar – February 2009
by Mary Jane Trinkus
We’ve just returned after spending 3 weeks in the Philippines. It was our 5th medical mission in as many years. How nice it was to reconnect with our friends again who live on the other side of the world.
This mission was unique in that 5 of us went as an advance team a week before the main team arrived. This gave us an opportunity to unpack our many medical supplies and set up the operating rooms and recovery room. But more importantly, it allowed us to stabilize preoperative patients with ongoing medical problems with the medicines we brought so they would be able to undergo their surgeries. An added benefit was we could welcome the team and start the main work of the mission without jet lag!
Our group was quite large this year, 35 in all, consisting of physicians, nurses, ancillary medical staff and an art therapist. Everyone united well together as a team and worked long and hard hours. Our day started at the hospital with 8am Mass with Fr. Ernie Norbeck, a Joliet Diocesan priest.. Mass was held in the main corridor of the hospital. What a wonderful feeling of solidarity, sharing the Mass with missioners, the hospital staff and our mutual patients.
We worked many 12 hour days in this hospital that was in dire need of mattresses for beds, basic medical supplies such as stethoscopes, suction machines, oxygen, patient gowns, medicines…the list goes on and on. It is due to this stark poverty that patients who are unable to purchase from outside pharmacies the medical supplies and medicines needed for their care, go untreated. The hospital cannot provide what they do not have. It is why we shipped 20 boxes prior to our arrival and each missioner carried a 50# duffel full of medical supplies.
We felt the mission was successful – 144 surgeries were performed and with the added help of Filipino physicians, 865 outpatients were seen in a clinic setting. Our own hardworking internist saw 200+ patients herself.
In addition to the medical work, we also reconnected with our good friends, the Oikos Sisters. These 4 nuns have 2 rescue homes full of 30+ children, children who are either orphaned or have survived crisis situations such as abuse, abandonment and severe poverty. They fill each child’s life by providing a joyous place to live, education, care and love as they help heal their wounds. The Oikos Sisters were successful women of the world who heard Jesus call them to care for and live with the poor. They live with the children, sleep on the floor as the children do and they all share their lives together. They survive on donations alone, believing that God will provide and since the time they’ve been together – 10 years now, He has!
We were fortunate to have an art therapist return again from last year’s mission to work with the children. How happy the children were to hear ‘Ate’ (Auntie) Rita was returning. We also were gifted with 2 men who had the ability to build school desks for the children, along with lights to study by at night.. This was quite a gift; previously the children would sit on the floor or find an available corner to study. These 2 warm-hearted men would tell delightful stories of the challenges of hammering nails and sawing wood with children “helping” them every step of the way.
Yes, this has been a good mission and we were able to help many. But, sometimes as we return home, our memories go to the ones we weren’t able to help – Emanuel, a 6 month child with Down’s Syndrome and severe cardiac anomalies; Abogado, a fellow with a huge disfiguring head mass; Lorna, a young woman, not yet 30 with advanced cervical cancer. We could give her blood to strengthen her but not the treatment to save her. And the two lovely little ‘lolas’ (grandmothers), both with advanced breast cancers, so advanced we could only give them pain medication – the tumors too large to remove since skin grafting was not an option…the list could go on and on.
Every missioner has someone they carry home nestled in their heart. It’s one of the reasons I believe we go on mission, why we are called to mission. We have been blessed with the opportunity to give of ourselves - our expertise for some, our hearts for others. I thank God He grants us the sense of peace, peace that tells us, “don’t be troubled, we did enough”. At least it’s enough until He calls us again.