Community Medicine Week 5: Familiar Paths

“Home isn’t a place. It’s a person.”
– Stephanie Perkins

Tita Nini, the midwife of Barangay Luksuhin Ibaba, and I were walking towards the tricycle terminal, together with one of our Barangay Health Workers, Nanay Aida, after another long Wednesday clinic day. Wednesday was our busiest clinic day, the day when most of the patients came to consult, especially the pregnant women who were to be seen by the midwife for their prenatal check-up. That said, it was quite understandable why the three of us were eager to go home and rest a bit.

We were halfway towards the Luksuhin Public Market when Tita Nini remembered she had to check something out at one of the local parlors. Parlor-parlor din ‘pag may time! Nanay Aida offered to come with her. I smiled and said that I’ll go ahead of them.
“Sigurado ka ba, dok?” asked Tita Nini, looking a bit reluctant to let me go off alone. “Kaya mo ba mag-isa?”
“Ay, oo naman po, Tita Nini! Kayang-kaya!” I laughed, reassuringly. My two companions heartily laughed along while waving good-bye and walking towards the direction of the local parlor.

As I proceeded towards the tricycle terminal on my own, I thought about the ease at which I reiterated that I was fine on my own. I also realized that it was true, that I could easily head back to Barangay Sulsugin by myself, that I no longer feared getting lost, that I knew my way back to my foster home, that a lot about Luksuhin Ibaba has become familiar.

Five weeks can never be enough to fully understand a place and a way of living, but in this very short time, I’ve grown to be fond of these paths. It is a far out cry from my first week, during which I felt like a lost wanderer most of the time. I remember being so wary of having to commute everyday just to reach my assigned barangay. I remember being so afraid of getting lost, of ending up who knows where with no idea how to get back home. But now, the paths have become familiar. The place has really grown on me.

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The barangay health workers of Luksuhin Ibaba, Dr. PJ Francisco (Family and Community Medicine resident), and I after our vital signs OSCE || It’s been a great five weeks. Thank you for making me feel right at home! :)

But more than the place, what I’ve really grown fond of are the people. Also among my fears upon starting out was feeling a bit lonely amidst all the new people. Though I’ve never been much of a shy person, there is still always that worry that there’ll be difficulty getting along with people. But everyone here has been more than welcoming. The new-found friends in my health team as well as within the other people of the community will surely never be forgotten. I’ve learned a lot from them about the simplicity of life, the dedication to work, and the importance of family. Because of them, despite being a mere visitor, I felt that I found something of a home here in Luksuhin Ibaba and in Sulsugin.

As my community medicine rotation is slowly coming to an end, I hope I was able to contribute something, no matter how little, for the betterment of the people of Luksuhin Ibaba.

Community Medicine Week 1: Wandering and Wondering

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Beginnings and endings are equally difficult to experience, but for different reasons. In the case of this week, beginning our community integration proved challenging because everything was new and different. Adjusting needed to be done as we prepared for living with our foster families, and working at our respective barangay health stations. We were to meet and converse with a lot of people, and truthfully, there was really no way of preparing oneself. That we will feel lost is an understatement. No amount of orientations or endorsements would be able to give you the exact picture of what you were to face. You only ever learn by experience, by opening yourself to discovery.

The Alfonso Municipal Hall, which doubles as the Rural Health Unit

This past week, I began my duties as the medical intern of Barangay Luksuhin Ibaba. One notable difference I had with my fellow interns was that I was the only one who didn’t reside within my assigned barangay. This made me consider two things – First, what the residents of Barangay Luksuhin Ibaba may think : could the fact that I wasn’t living in their barangay create some sort of gap?; will this make them more distant, less willing to deal with me? Or am I just overthinking things? I don’t know if it has ever been done that the Luksuhin intern be assigned a foster home in Luksuhin per se, but I wonder if it will make some sort of difference.

Second, how can I, a partially directionally-challenged person, survive daily commutes without getting myself lost? I dislike communting by myself as I tend to get off at all the wrong places. I really fear not knowing how to get home, so imagine the internal panicking that happened when I found out I was to commute daily to my assigned barangay. Still, I let myself be open to this challenge and learned the routes and fares from Sulsugin to Luksuhin (and vice versa), as well as from Alfonso Proper to Luksuhin (and vice versa). Not a lost wanderer anymore!

Ready for clinic duty at the Barangay Luksuhin Health Station!

Still, as one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote in his famous poem, not all wanderers are lost. I certainly felt like a wanderer this first week at Alfonso, going about day-by-day without a clear direction in mind, simply aiming to get to know the ropes of things. And, so as not to get lost, I gladly opened myself up to the challenge of integration, of slowly getting to know and engaging within the community.

I had my first interaction with the Barangay Health Workers (BHW) of Luksuhin Ibaba last Wednesday. The previous interns said that Wednesday Barnagay Health Station (BHS) clinics were busy, and boy, was it really busy! I barely had the time to converse with the BHWs, aside from our short chitchat over lunch, what with the number of patients that came for consultation. I saw more than 20 patients on my first day! Wednesday’s rush got me browsing through my clinical notes, much that I was a bit more prepared for Thursday’s clinic. Truthfully, I was a bit hesitant about holding clinic duties on my own, without the familiar guidance of a resident or consultant to guide me, especially in my diagnosis and management. To make things a bit worse for my nerves, the people here have such great respect for doctors. How they smile as they greet you, Good morning doktora! How they hang on to your words as you attempt to explain their illness and treatment plan. Oh the pressure. But, I think I did alright. I certainly found talking with the patients enjoyable. One notable patient, an elderly man with hypertension, even made an effort to come back a few hours after I saw him for a consult, just to give me a small token of his appreciation – a pen. His simple effort made in complete gratitude did not fail to made me smile.

I had another interesting patient encounter during my duty at the Rural Health Unit (RHU) earlier today. It was a morning filled with consults of coughs, colds, and fevers, when come the afternoon, an 8-year-old boy came with a laceration on his forehead, brought about by a rough round of play time at school. Thank God it spared his eyelids! But the wounds was deep enough to require suturing. So suture, I did! To think that I’d still need my surgery skills during my community medicine rotation! At first, I was wondering how I was to go about it, what with the need for instruments and all, but it was good to know that the RHU was equipped with the basic suturing supplies!

After this first week of wandering and wondering, I plan to continue getting to know Barangay Luksuhin Ibaba and its people. I look forward to hearing their stories. As the new place slowly turns into a different form of home, and the stranger slowly becomes a familiar face, this wanderer will soon find direction amidst all the challenges she will face.