For some, Sunday was a very good day. For others, it was very hard. For all, it was historic.
Under sunny skies with a cool sea breeze cutting the 90-degree heat, the new Mariveles District Hospital opened Sunday with Minnesota doctors screening about 300 Filipinos to determine who they could help via surgery in the week ahead.
Three-year-old Bernard Fajrlo was one of the lucky ones, though his loud cries made it obvious that he didn’t know it. His mother nodded in silence as Dr. Warren Schubert told her through a translator that they would fix Bernard’s palate and lip Monday.
The mother later said that they have never consulted a doctor about Bernard’s issues because they didn’t have the money. “I’m very excited,” she said.
Many patients seen Sunday had been referred by their doctors in the Philippines; others just showed up. They were full of hope but, in some cases, it was obvious they were beyond help. Maybe, just maybe these American doctors had a miracle or two in their satchels.
The doctors, nurses and other personnel were part of the Philippine Minnesotan Medical Association and arrived in Mariveles on Saturday. Sunday’s work focused only on those who were being screened for surgical procedures that would be performed during the week.
In all, about 90 major surgeries were scheduled and another 200 minor procedures will be performed. They will involve gynecology and ear, nose and throat issues along with the plastic surgery.
Though many were scheduled for additional treatment, making it a good day, others had to be told that nothing could be done.
Princess Castro, 5, was among the latter. She has a mass on her face that could raise too many potential complications if cut open. She had an earlier surgery in Manila and the U.S. doctors told her mother that Princess should follow-up with the surgeons there.
Schubert, a native of Wishek, N.D., who is a plastic surgeon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, scheduled about 30 surgeries for the week. He expects a few additional walk-ins in the days ahead.
Orland Sellar, a 22-year-old construction worker, was among the oldest. He says he has been living a normal life with his cleft lip and palate but decided to check it out when his neighbor told him about the Americans. He had never sought treatment because he never had the money.
He says he’s “nervous, but excited.” The surgery “will only change my appearance. My heart will remain the same.”
And the patients and ice cream kept coming
* Dr. Jonathan Sembrano, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the University of Minnesota and VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, saw the day’s first patient, a man who initially thought he had a dislocated shoulder. It turns out it was broken. They put him in a sling and told him how to care for it. Time, not surgery, would be his healer.
* As the day wore on, the crowd of patients never seemed to shrink. Given Sunday was supposed to be the quiet day with only about 300 patients, mission organizer Dr. Bernard Quebral was asked how they would handle the week ahead when 1,500 or more were expected each day. “One patient at a time,” he said.
* Bruce Bain, of Hugo, Minn., was the most popular man in Mariveles when he bought ice cream treats for approximately 36 kids who were waiting on the lawn outside the hospital. “There were some kids from families who had money and some kids from families who didn’t have money,” said Bain, who coordinates supplies and equipment for the mission. “You could see them looking longingly at the ice cream.” The cost to spread so much joy? About $5.
* The eye clinic was not supposed to open until Monday, but because the volunteers were ready and the demand was there, it opened long enough Sunday to give out 300 pairs of glasses. The group is prepared to give away as many as 9,000 pairs of glasses during the week.