In a few hours, I will board an airplane and fly about 8,000 miles to a land where I have never been to mingle with people who I have never met, amid more sickness and suffering than I have ever seen in one place.
It’s a trip I chose to take. And I am not alone.
About 100 residents of the Twin Cities, mostly doctors and nurses, are going on a medical mission to Mariveles in the province of Bataan in the Philippines.
The group is headed by Dr. Bernard Quebral, a native of the Philippines who practices internal medicine at the HealthPartners clinic in Woodbury, Minn. (Full disclosure: Dr. Q, as he is often called, is my personal physician and has been the last line of defense between me and the Pearly Gates for about 16 years.)
Dr. Q has led several missions to his homeland since 2002 under the auspices of the Philippine Minnesotan Medical Association (PMMA).
The group has goals that are hard to imagine. The plan is to see up to 1,000 patients each day. Most of them will be treated and sent home. But doctors also hope to do up to 35 major surgeries and 50 to 70 minor surgeries daily. As many as 200 patients will get dental care each day, and thousands will receive free eye glasses during the weeklong mission.
The scene will not be one of 15 to 20 folks patiently sitting on padded chairs in a quiet waiting room.
For the next 22 to 24 hours I will be traveling. There’s a 13-hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo, a two-hour layover and then a five-hour flight to Manila. From there, we’ll board a bus for a three- to four-hour ride to Mariveles, Bataan. I intend to file updates all week, as Internet connections allow. Please bookmark this page and check back often.