Ahmad Sampang ibnu Hajiri, MD

A Personal blog by a Tausug medical student (now a doctor!) from Sulu and the stories that inspired him.
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As everyone hurriedly took their orders and grab their lunches in that famous fast-food restaurant with an over-sized smiling honeybee as their logo, one man was oblivious and unnoticeable of them all.

He sat there in a corner, singled-out from the rest of the dining tables, carrying the most precious things he had left: his fragile, ailing daughter wrapped in his caring arms and a bag that contained everything her daughter needed (or what he can afford of at least) for her first consultation in Philippine General Hospital.

His daughter has been suffering from a rare disease he could not even pronounce. She was a lovely angel since she was born, bringing light to their otherwise gloomy life in the farmlands. She was their sunshine, their love, their princess. Until that fateful day when her symptoms started to appear. It started with a high fever, then she stopped eating and she became more and more weak each passing day. On her second year of life she was already bed-ridden: unable to run and play like she used to, unable to laugh like she used to, unable to even smile like she always used to do. Their world was shattered into pieces, they have to do something, anything at all to get her back to what she was before.

They tried visiting the albularyo in the nearby barrios. They had to carry her to the next village where the albularyo resides, hoping a miracle would happen. But it was all nothing but a disappointing failure. Then they went to the nearest health center which was an hour of jeepney-ride away. Still, no definite treatment was given. Her condition was something that they cannot handle, he was told. They should visit a physician the soonest, or at least go to the metro, to PGH, or risk losing their dear angel if they don’t. It was a race against time, and they have to decide fast.

It was the heaviest decision they have to make. They have no money, nothing at all. What could a farmer who sell rice grains for mere P50 per sack a day could afford? And the trip to the metro would cost them all the fortune they have long and painstakingly earned and saved for years. But is there even another option than that? After all, she’s our daughter, our angel, his dear wife told him. We will do everything we can.

And so they exhausted all means they could get. They knocked on their neighbours’ doors, they went to barangay officials, to anyone they could ask help from. Some were generous enough to give them a few cash while some turned their faces away, not even listening to their pleas. In the end, what they were able to gather was only enough for a single trip for a single person to Manila. And they were racing against time.

With her eyes full of tears, his dear wife sent them off that one sunny day. It’s all we got, she told him, and I will pray and wait for you two to come back. And off he went to Manila, carrying his fragile angel in his loving arms, listening to her wails while calling her mother again and again, and not even knowing how and when they could come back and be together again…

Eto na po order niyo sir” (Here’s your order, sir) the waiter placed the steaming bowl of chicken soup on his table. He gestured a “thank you” but the waiter was already hurrying away to serve other costumers in that restaurant. It was lunch time and his daughter was getting hungry. This was all he could afford to buy, he have to save the rest for any medicines that her daughter’s doctor might ask him to buy. He won’t even need to eat at all… He is a strong, well-abled man after all, his fragile daughter needed it most. At least if he could get his daughter to eat and that would be enough for him to get by the day…

He went to his bag and took an old face towel from it, placed it in his daughter’s chest and slowly started to wake her up. She opened her eyes slowly and perhaps it took some time for her to realize that they were still far away from home. There were too many people around, the place was too noisy, too different from their house in the farms. She was already looking around… looking for her mother… Noticing this, he whispered in her ears, and told her that mama was away, buying some toys for her. Again, he lied to her. It was all that he could muster to appease her crying and longing. Here, eat something, he told his daughter, your mother prepared this for you. He blew on the hot chicken soup and slowly brought the spoon to her mouth. She tasted some, and then she started it again…

“Mama…” she said it like a whisper at first, then an audible mumble… “mama…” and then she started crying again…

He put the spoon back to the bowl of chicken soup and started shushing his crying daughter. Shhh, don’t worry mama will come, he lied again, mama will surely come. He could do nothing else but that. And he found his eyes starting to well up with tears as well.

In that corner of a room in a noisy fast-food restaurant.
A man silently wept as his daughter kept calling for her mother from afar.
No one knew about them.
Nobody cared.
No one would even know their story.

Until YOU read this.
And I hope their story would remain in your hearts as well.

Author’s note:

I was there witnessing all that happened. And that image of seeing them weep in front of me will forever be engraved in my mind. This is nothing but just one of the many stories our patients in PGH have. They deserved to be heard. They deserved to be acknowledged. 

Becoming a doctor was never easy. But I never thought that it was this scary.

As our  ICC year (third year in Proper Medicine) approaches the end of the road, more ad more realizations and learning experiences build up to prepare us for the next years of training to come. Through those months of rotations, we e have experienced the transition from dealing with paper cases to real patients, from weekly exams on theoretics of pathology and pharmacology to their applications in real clinical settings. And From choosing which letter in the scantrons to shade, to choosing which diagnostic tests to order for our patients while (always and always) considering the financial limitations our patients in PGH have. 

All these you have to decide for your patient and take responsibility as a future physician.

Say, if I have only one test that my patient can afford to order, which one should I choose? Which drug is cost-effective and will solve my patients’ complaints? And no we are no longer dealing with theoretical cases now wherein we can simply change our plans if we found out that we are wrong. These are real patients we are handling right now. Real lives. Real people.

And to carry that burden of responsibility for your patients is a gargantuan load so to speak: You decide the direction to which it is your patients who will primarily be affected. Not you. Their well-being, not yours. Their future, not yours. Their lives, not yours.

Does it not scare you? Do decide on things that will affect other people's lives? because really, it scares me to the bone!  What if I chose the wrong decision and things may have taken the worst turn (God forbid). Now I will be greatly, immeasurably responsible for those decisions! Agh! Such pressure!

And so it is as much a requirement for us, medical students (and future physicians) to give the best we have for our patients. We have to read a lot for us to know the basics not just to pass the exams (pfft! those scores does matter anymore!) but NOT TO HARM (or kill) our patients. For so long as they are under your care, they are your responsibility. As their physician, you have to see to it that they receive the best health care they need, without them spending for unnecessary expenses for unnecessary diagnostics and medications and all, and that they achieve the best quality of life they can have until they get well, or until they meet that very last of their breath. 

No, you are no longer that medical student who can still slack off a few hours sleeping instead of studying and say--I could just do well the next exam, I swear! Now it's totally different. Your patients are putting all their trusts and confidence in you; that somehow you could help them and do something to ease their pain, eradicate their ailment, give them light on what they are actually suffering from. And perhaps the best thing a physician can do then is to give justice to their patients and not put those trusts to waste. Be the best you can be. Go beyond just being a theoretical doctor who know nothing but what's in the books and medical journals. 

And lastly, always put your trust to Allah. Tawakkul Ala Allah. Remember that midst all these illusionary "power" you have as a physician, you are still human. Born to err, prone to a lot of mistakes. Before making major decisions for your patients, always say a prayer and mention "Bismillah!" (In the name of Allah!). In sha Allah, everything will be well if it will be well according to His Majestic plans.

Yes, Medschool was never meant to be easy. And it is surely more scary as it sounds. 
But it doesn't mean it is un-achievable, unconquerable. Remember that even a massive thing as a mountain, can still be moved starting with pebbles. You just have to keep on believing yourself and be consistent with your actions. ^_^

(I am really not sure if I am making any sense with that mountain-pebble thing haha LOL)

oh well, til our next talk,

Salam kasilasa! 
-Ahmad (Anakiluh no more)

PS: Photo is mine, taken one afternoon in Philippine General Hospital. Can't place the caption as my template automatically changes the image format when I add captions. I want it to stay there on that side

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just saying. -Dr. Ahmad