Calendar Boys

I was rounding in the hospital with my team when we came to a room of one of our patients. The patient was a frail woman in her 70’s, who had significant lung disease and was oxygen dependent. She had improved on this hospitalization and we were discharging her home.

When we were heading out of the door, I overheard the patient told one of my team members, “I want a copy of that calendar.”

I have no idea what they were talking about, and not trying to be nosy or maybe little bit, I asked my resident, “What calendar was the patient talking about?” Since it is a new year, perhaps the hospital is giving away new 2019 calendars, I thought.

Then my medical resident sheepishly smiled and told me the whole scoop.

I learned that this patient thought that our team was “hot” and she was calling us the “Dream Team.” I have been in this teaching hospital for 15 years and have rounded with hundreds of medical students and residents that came and went, but I have never heard my team referred as such before. Or maybe it was, but I was just not aware of it.

So this particular patient, the elderly woman, suggested as a jest to my resident, that “we,” or my team should put out a calendar featuring our team members as models. Whether it’s a white lab gown edition or dress suit edition or a swimwear edition of this calendar they were thinking about, I dared not ask!

I then looked at my current team, and agreed that the old lady had a point. My team appears “hot.”

One of my new resident is a blue-eyed gentleman of English decent, clean-cut and handsome. Now that I think about it, he really looked like a much younger version of the actor Mark Harmon.

The other new resident is a young good-looking French guy with well-trimmed mustache and beard, with hair slickly combed back. He always dress very neatly too.

And then there’s the attractive and muscular Asian hunk of a guy. But before you think I was referring to myself as the Asian hunk, I was not. I was talking about the 4th year medical student I have on my team.

Of course I don’t consider myself as chopped liver. I can definitely hold my own. I deserve to be in that calendar too!

We have women medical residents and students as well in this hospital but it just so happened that this month’s rotation, I have all male house staffs.

But seriously, I never consider much the appearance of my residents. When I evaluate them during their rotation in our service, it is mostly based on their performance, their knowledge, their willingness to learn, and their emphathy to our patients. But of course we don’t want them to appear like hoboes or dress like gangsters. They need to look professional too.

I understand that our patients get well mostly due to our comprehensive care stemming from our intelligent decisions, skillful procedures and emphatetic support. But if our good looks help them heal faster, then I am fine with that too.

Would I put out a calendar featuring my team? Don’t count on it.

(photo is from the show Grey’s Anatomy)

A Battle Within

There is a raging war inside of me. The resulting blaze and smoke of this battle is evident while I am shaking and crouching under my blanket.

It all started a few days ago when the enemy gained unwelcome entrance to my domain. Perhaps these intruders escaped from another territory by a sneeze in which they could travel up to 20 feet at 100 miles per hour, and they usually travel as a mob with 40,000 others of their gang.

They got a foothold on my borders through my nasal and airway passageways. It’s really difficult to close all the entryways unless I quit breathing all together. The invaders then broke through my barriers and overwhelmed my sentinels. I should build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it. Hah!

As soon as there was a breach in my initial defenses, my border guards alerted the headquarters and radioed for back-up. They have identified these infiltrators and relayed their profile to the central intelligence.

The headquarters searched the database if I have a pre-fabricated artillery specific for this certain enemy. But lo and behold this “common” enemy is not so common after all, as it probably continues to change its appearance and structure to outwit my defenses. So my system staged an all out war to fight this common cold.

The first to arrive into the battle field are the big boys, called the macrophages. They are the biggest soldiers among my army of white blood cells. These big boys are like Pacmans as they hunt and engulf these viral invaders.

a macrophage in action (image from the web)

But the enemy has hijacked some of my manufacturing plants. They infused their DNA into my own cells and they are replicating themselves using my own factories and resources. The Pacmans cannot eat them all as they are too many now and they continue to multiply. Good thing my defenses have more tricks under their sleeves.

As soon as the macrophages got an exact profile from the captured intruders they send signals to the headquarters, my bone marrow, to have the rest of the cavalry released.

One of the most effective fighters are the B-cell lymphocytes. They are part of a line of my white blood cell army. These cells uses the information of the enemy’s profile and they start building specific missiles, a protein called antibody, to fight these particular intruders. Once these virus-seeking missiles are constructed they are launched into the system to seek and destroy every infiltrators.

antibodies attacking a virus (image from the web)

Some of these specific antibodies are stored into memory cells. So the next time this specific virus intrudes again, my body already has the pre-fabricated missiles ready to launch to fight them back.

Another important battalion of my soldiers are called the T-cell lymphocytes. These are elite fighting machines, like the SWAT or the Navy Seals. They don’t just track and kill the enemy but also destroy cells that harbor them. With some named as “natural killer T-cells” you know that these are badass soldiers.

Go, go, go my army and defend the motherland! And die you infidels!

There are also some foot soldiers that are deployed to the area of the breached wall. They have fortified the defenses there, and as a result the lymph nodes around my throat are swelled up, a sign of an ongoing battle in that area.

Besides the chills and runny nose, so runny I can’t keep up, I also started having this paroxysmal cough. I got out of my bed and went to the bathroom. I hacked up a phlegm into the sink – a nasty purulent and rusty mess. Then I realized that part of that purulent mess are dead bodies of my white blood cell soldiers. They have laid down their lives for the cause.

So before I flush down the purulent mess deep into the sink, I thanked them for their sacrifice, and as a grateful nation I fired up the canons and gave them my 21-cough salute.

After hearing my cough, my wife suggested that I should take some medicine to relieve my symptoms so I can have a better night sleep. Being hard-headed as I am, I said no to the medicine and just trusted that my body will take care of itself as I crawled back under the covers.

The next morning, I don’t feel as awful as the day before. Perhaps my army is winning the war, and they are rounding up the remaining stragglers, and cleaning up the residual wreck and ruins of the hard-fought battle. I guess I will live.

This is another victory for my immune system. But I’m not ready for a victory march and parade as of yet. I think I’ll take it easy and still stay in bed today.

Grateful to see another morning (photo taken with an iPhone)

(*Credits to my immune system and also to the Immunology class in my medical school)

A Day in New York

New York City has such a pull on my heart. You probably know it already that we lived there for a few years, long time ago. It was there where I received my training for my career, a medical specialty that I am now practicing for the past 20 years.

As the song New York, New York goes:


If I make it there,

I’ll make it everywhere,

It’s up to you,

New York, New York.

Anytime is a good time to visit New York City. But the holiday season is even more noteworthy. Especially on New Year’s when it becomes the center of the world’s celebration.

My family spent the last few days of the year 2018 in New York City. Here are just some of the places we visited:

We passed by some swanky restaurants, but we did not dine there.

Instead we were taken by our friend to a quaint eatery that was more quiet and subdued.

The ambience in this place was homey, relaxed, yet festive. The food was excellent. This is not a paid post, but if the management of this restaurant wants to give me a free meal next time, I heartily would accept it.

Then we went to Midtown Manhattan. Of course we used the iconic New York subway to get there.

Our kids together with some friends’ kids went ice skating.

There are several ice skating rinks in New York City. Perhaps the most famous is the one in Rockefeller area, but that is too small. Then there’s also one in Central Park.

We went to Bryant Park. This is near the New York Public Library. The ice skating rink is surrounded by New York’s skyscprapers. You could even catch a glimpse of the Empire State building from there.

The skating rink was very crowded though. There was a long line of people waiting and it took more than two hours to get in. But our children did not mind, as they chatted away with their friends while waiting in line.

I did not join them and was just satisfied watching the skaters go. Though there were some skaters that fell on the ice, but who cares, at least they were enjoying themselves.

I probably would be included in those falling a lot on the ice if I skated. I tried ice skating before, at least twice, and I would say that I could glide over the ice. Whether I was standing, or I was on my or knees or worse on my butt, but at least I could glide.

Besides watching people skate, the best part for me was watching this big machine sail through the ice.

This is the Zamboni machine, named after it’s American inventor and engineer. This machine smooths the surface of the ice.

I also spent time talking with our friends, catching up with them, while our children skated. Including an old friend, a classmate back in elementary and high school days. He now lives in Massachusetts.

We were in this place for several hours and my fingers and toes got numb from the cold. I had to walk around to keep warm and many times went inside the market stalls surrounding the place where there were heaters.

It was already dark when we call it a day.

We went back to our hotel which was located across the Hudson River, so technically it was in New Jersey. But you cannot beat the view from there – a view of the New York City skyline.

From New York, I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New year!

Pinoytransplant

(*photos taken on the eve of New Year’s Eve)

Someone is Praying

I was pulling out of our driveway last weekend and I had this certain feeling of heaviness in my heart. I was going to work and would be in the hospital, mainly manning the ICU, for 36 long hours straight.

First of all, it was the weekend before Christmas, so I was a little sad that I would miss out on many happenings. My kids were supposed to play music in the church’s Christmas program. But more so, I had this feeling of dread to whatever challenges I would face. The ICU is crazily busy this time of year, you know. What kind of chaos was waiting for me, God only knows.

Of course that dreadful feeling I had was nothing compared to some other people leaving for work. Like the OFW or overseas workers who are leaving their home and family for a year or longer to go to a foreign country. They would be fighting extreme loniness and homesickness. Though I had a taste of that feeling when I left my home in the Philippines more than two decades ago with an unforseen future at that time.

For some, it is even worse. I would not even try to imagine the feelings of soldiers leaving their home to be deployed somewhere in the world where there is war and unrest, and their return is not guaranteed at all. Talk about feeling of dread and angst, that definitely is.

Anyway, as I drove away from our home, the first song that played on my radio (my car radio is sync on my phone’s playlist) was “Someone is Praying for You.” All of a sudden I felt some kind of reassurance, and the foreboding feeling I had melted away.

The chorus of that song goes like this:

Someone is praying for you, someone is praying for you.
So when it seems you’re all alone, and your heart will break in two.
Remember someone is praying for you.

Do you have someone praying for you?

Maybe you owe someone money, and they are praying that you remember to pay your debt. Or maybe you have offended someone and they are praying that you choke on your food so you would think of them. But I am not talking of those kind of people wishing for you.

What I mean are people who really care for your well-being and have you in their thoughts and prayers no matter what.

I know most parents, if not all, especially mothers, are always praying for the good of their children. It does not matter how old you are or how far you wandered away from home, your parents are still praying for you.

My parents are both gone now. My father died 3 decades ago and my mother died 4 years ago. Yet, I know that there is still someone praying for me all the time.

It is a comforting feeling that someone always have me on their mind. Whether I am home or not at home. Whether I am strolling in a park or walking through the forest of difficulties. Whether I am sure of my path or I can barely find my way.

And that someone has also been by my side for the past 24 years. Happy Anniversary my dear, and thank you for walking this life with me.

(*photo taken last year)

Love, Joy and What?

Peace is elusive. And when the bond keeping the “peace” is weak, this is what happens:

I’m glad the real peace we can have in our hearts is secured more than just by adhesive tape. It is from the Saviour in whom we commerate this season.

Merry Christmas everyone!

(*photo taken one night when we arrived home and our “PEACE” had fallen)

Pasko, Paksiw, Pakso

Parang mga bata, sabik na sabik kaming sumapit ang Pasko sa taong ito. Kulang na lang ay hilahin namin ang mga araw para maging Pasko na. Hindi dahil sa mahaba ang listahan namin para kay Santa Claus. Nanabik lang kami dahil magiging iba ang pagdaraos namin nito.

Binalak namin kasi na mag-Pasko sa isang lugar na hindi pa namin nararating. Matagal-tagal din naming inasam-asam na mabisita ang lungsod na iyon. Maraming oras din ang aming ginugol sa pagsasaliksik, pagpaplano at paghahanda sa aming gagawing paglalakbay. At maraming pawis at ipon ang ipinuhunan sa biyaheng ito.

Pero alam n’yo ba na mas maraming pawis at mas malaking ipon ang kailangan kung kami ay magbabalik bayan, lalo na kung sa panahon ng Pasko?

Aming pinapanaginipan na sa umaga ng Pasko, kami ay mag-aalmusal ng kakaibang tinapay, at hihigop ng mainit na tsokolate, habang nakatanaw sa mataas na toreng bakal na napapalamutian ng mga ilaw.

Sabi nila maganda raw ang Pasko sa lugar na iyon. Sabi nila wala raw kahalintulad ang Pasko sa siyudad na iyon. Kung ang Pasko ay kung saan ang boong paligid ay ginagayakan ng mga kumukurap-kurap at makukulay na ilaw, hindi ba magandang magdiwang ng Pasko sa Lungsod ng mga Ilaw?

Ngunit sa hindi inaasahang mga pangyayari, sumabog ang kaguluhan sa lugar na iyon. Kumalat ang mga demonstrasyon. Naglipana ang mga nagproprotesta na nakasuot ng dilaw. Akala ko sa bansang tinubuan ko lamang ang mga “dilaw.” Naging marahas at madugo pa ang mga naging salpukan ng mga demonstrador at mga pulis. Sa tutuusin, kung ating babalik-aralin ang kasaysayan ng mundo, sila ang nagpatanyag sa salitang “rebolusyon.”

Kaya hindi man namin gusto, ay wala kaming magawa kung hindi mapilitang kanselahin sa huling minuto ang aming paglalakabay. Ayaw naman naming malagay sa binggit ng alanganin, o maipit sa mga nagbabanggaang pwersa.

Oo nga’t may mga nabayaran na kaming hindi na namin mabawing buo. Mayroong halaga rin ang nawala na parang bula. Sisingilin na lang namin ito sa karanasan at aral ng buhay. Nakakapanghinayang din ang mga oras at pagod na ginugol namin sa paghahanda sa biyaheng ito. Hindi maiiwasan na kami ay makaramadam ng kalungkutan dahil napurnada ang aming pangarap. Mga ilang buwan ding kaming naghintay at nasabik, mauuwi lang pala sa wala. Ang aming Pasko, naging Pakso!

Pero matapos kaming mahimasmasan sa aming kabiguan, ay natanggap din naman namin ang naging kapalaran. Hindi kami galit sa mga tao sa lugar na iyon. Kung sa amin ay maliit na pagkabigo ang hindi matuloy ang aming pangarap na bakasyon, para sa kanila, ang kanilang kabuhayan at karapatang mabuhay ang ipinagtatanggol nila. Amin silang sinusuportan sa kanilang laban.

Kaya amin nalang ipagdiriwang ang Pasko dito sa Iowa. Magiging maliit na pagdiriwang na lamang ito. Mag-papaksiw na lang siguro kami sa Pasko.

Ngunit wala kaming dahilan para magmukmok at magreklamo. Dahil sa buong mundo ngayon, saan ka man dumako, sa kabila ng mga kasiyahan at selebrasyon ng panahong ito, ay mayroong mga tao at kanilang pamilya na marahil hindi nakakaramdam ng Pasko. Marahil sila ay dumaranas ng kahirapan ng buhay. Marahil sila ay naghihikahos. O kaya nama’y sila ay nakaratay sa banig ng karamdaman. Marahil sila ay nangungulila. O kaya’y nasakuna ng digmaan. Ano kaya ang Pasko para sa kanila?

Pero alam naman nating lahat na ang Pasko ay hindi tungkol sa pagliliwaliw, o paglilibang, o handaan, at inuman. Ito ay tungkol sa pagdating ng ating Tagapagligtas. At ito ay sapat na upang tayo’y magpasalamat.

Noong panahon ni Hesukristo, matagal na hinihintay ang ipinangakong Manunubos. Ang lahat ay nasasabik sa pagdating ng Mesiyas na sa kanila’y magpapalaya’t magliligtas. Ngunit nang dumating ang takdang panahon, walang man lang maglaan ng silid para sa Kanya. Hanggang sa sabsaban na lang ang naging lugar Niya. Dahil iba rin ang kanilang ekspektasyon at pakahulugan sa darating na Tagapagligtas, marami sa kanila ang nabigo. 

Kung sa panahon natin kaya Siya dumating, ilan kaya sa atin ang handang sumalubong?

Sa Paskong ito, ano mang ang ating pagkakaabalahan, sana ay may lugar sa ating puso ang ating Manunubos.

At kung ano man ang ating hinihintay sa Pasko – bonus, regalo galing sa  Ninong at Ninang, o nawawalang sinta (Pasko na sinta ko hanap hanap kita……), o kahit pahinga lang mula sa kapaguran sa trabaho – sana ay hindi tayo mabigo. 

Pero kung ang hinihintay natin ay kaligtasan at tunay na kasiyahan galing kay Hesukristo, sigurado akong hindi tayo mabibigo. Walang gulo o kahit pa giyera ang kayang humadlang nito.

Maligayang Pasko po sa inyong lahat.

Ice Run

It’s been two months since I ran the half-marathon for this year. But I am proud to say that I have not yet relented on my running for this season. Emphasis on the “yet.” Maybe I just want to stay trim for Christmas. Maybe I want to look good on my vacation photos. Whatever the reason is, I am still running even if it’s already winter here in our part of the world.

But hopping on a treadmill and running for a mile or two in place is really boring. Even running inside an indoor track in our local Y can be dull and uninspiring. So when I saw that the temperature outside this morning was 30º F instead of our usual single digits or teens, I cannot resist to run outside. Besides, there was no snow on the ground and more importantly, no ice. I can run on snow, but not ice (see older post).

When I got out in our front yard, I saw ice! But it was just in our bird bath, which was frozen solid (photo above). The sun was shining though, so it’s a wonderful day to be outside.

As I approached the pond in our housing community, I again noticed that the water was frozen. 

Should I try running on ice? Or perhaps put on a pair of ice skates and glide my way through?

Then I heard some honking. When I looked up I saw a flock of geese. 

They seems to be egging me on – “Run on ice! Run on ice!”

The temperature however was not in the deep freeze. I am not that foolish yet. Again, emphasis on the yet. So no running on thin ice!

As I kept on trucking, I was looking for my deer friends, but they were nowhere to be found. Have they gone some place warmer?

Instead I saw some polar creatures. A penguin and a polar bear! You don’t believe me?

Here they are:

The pengunin and the polar bear seems to be lost in place without the snow. Perhaps like my son they were praying for snow. Lots and lots of it. But for me, I’ll enjoy this relatively warm day without the snow and ice.

Overall, it was a decent day for a morning run. 

After about an hour outside, I came back in and warm myself with the leftover arroz caldo my wife cooked yesterday.

Again, I have my app to document my “cool running.”

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Batingaw

O aming minamahal na mga batingaw,

Pinagtanggol ang kalayaan kaya’t umalingawngaw,

Subalit pinilit supilin, kayo’y sa ami’y inagaw,

Sinakal at ginapos para hindi na makasigaw.

                 

Ngunit mga kampana ba’y mapapatahimik,

Alab ng puso ng isang bayan, ito ba’y mapipiit,

Kahit impit na ang mga tinig ito pa ri’y maririnig,

Patuloy na lalaban kahit buhay man ang kapalit.


O Inang Bayan, tayo’y kumanta’t sumayaw,

Kinalagan nang muli ang ating mga batingaw,

Kanilang mga boses muling hihiyaw,

Para sa kalayaan muling aalingawngaw.

(*A tribute to Balangiga bells. Above photo though is not of Balangiga bells, this was taken at Bantay tower in Vigan.)