Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. For superstitious folks out there, please beware!

Many people consider this as the unluckiest day in the calendar. According to an article from National Geographic, the fear surrounding Friday the 13th may be rooted in religious beliefs. It has to do with the 13th guest at the Last Supper, who is Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, who in turn was crucified on a Friday.

The fear for Friday the 13th is so widespread that psychologists even have a term for people who suffers from it: paraskavedekatriaphobia. That’s a mouthful. The irrational fear for the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia.

Irrational or not, many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. So elevators will go from 12th floor and then skip to 14th floor. In 2002, based on an internal review of records, a report from Otis Elevator Company estimated that 85% of the buildings with Otis brand elevators did not have a floor named the 13th floor.

Most hotels have no room 13. Many hospitals have no room 13. Even our own ICU has no room 13. So you think medical institutions are not superstitious? Though I get it, I think patients or their family will freak out if they learn that they are being admitted to ICU room 13.

Speaking of ICU, I have been the ICU attending for the past couple of weeks now. It has been busy, plus you know that July is when the new residents or physicians-in-training start, so it is an added stressor to me. To destress, I blog.

It is known in the medical world that the rate of medical errors and surgical complications spikes in the month of July. The hospitals even have a name for it: the July effect. This is not due to a mystical phenomenon, but due to a very logical reason stemming from the inexperience of the newbie doctors.

Thus I am supervising and watching my residents like a hawk this time of year. And today, Friday July 13th, I will even be more vigilant.

To end, in connection to mystical events, I would like to share a story that was posted by a batchmate in the group chat:

Murder Mystery at the Makati Medical Center

There was this case in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit where patients always die in the same bed on Sunday mornings at 11 A.M., regardless of their medical condition. This puzzled the doctors and some even thought that it had something to do with the supernatural or even murder. No one could solve the mystery as to why deaths happen on Sunday at 11 A.M.

Mr. Licauco, Fr. Bulatao and the Ateneo paranormal folks were called. They arrived armed with special photographic equipment, infra-red devices and motion sensitive radar to detect any presence.

So on the next Sunday morning, a few minutes before 11 AM, all the doctors and nurses nervously  waited outside the ward to see for themselves what the mysterious phenomenon was all about. Some were holding wooden crosses, strings of garlic, amulets, prayer books and other holy objects to ward off evil spirits.

Just then, the clock struck 11. And then……..

Mang Joe, the part-time Sunday janitor, entered the ward, unplugged the life support system and plugged in the vacuum cleaner.

Have a happy Friday the 13th folks!

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(*photo from the web)

Electric Reminiscing

Last week during July 4th celebration, we had an experience that reminded me of my days in the Philippines. You may say, how can be a holiday that is so American (US Independence Day) remind me of my home country, the Philippines? Please stay with me and keep on reading.

Our last 4th of July was kind of unusual as we were invited for dinner by our friend to celebrate it with their friend, whom I never met before. We celebrated the holiday in a farm about an hour drive away from our home, in the outskirt of a small town of rural Iowa. We had dinner – burgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and vegetable salad (very American meal) – in a log cabin near a small pond. Then when darkness came we sat in our camping chairs and watched the fireworks that was fired from the nearby town.

Even though the setting of the log cabin was similar to a small barrio back home, but that’s not what reminded me of the Philippines.

Earlier that day, since it’s a holiday and I wanted my wife to take a break too from the kitchen, so we went out for lunch. We chose a restaurant that is located in a large shopping complex close to our home. After we were seated and only a few minutes after our order was taken by the waitress, the power went out. A blackout!

Why do we call it blackout or brownout? Technically the lights are out so it’s black or dark. Should it be “black in?” And is there a difference between blackout and brownout? Many people, including me, think they are synonymous. But according to energy company’s definition, a blackout is a total power outage while a brownout is a partial reduction in system voltage or system capacity. Now I learned something too.

So while we were sitting in the restaurant without power, that brought me back memories of the power outages in Manila.

I was reminded of those candlelight dinners we had, not because we were creating a romantic ambience, but because there’s no electricity and yet we need some light so not to swallow the fish bones. Those sweltering heat that all you can do was to fan yourself with the abaniko made of fronds from buri palm. For your information, we don’t have air-conditioning in our Manila home, but we have a few Standard or Hitachi electric fans.

Most of the people, at least from our neighborhood, would go outside in the street and hangout in front of their houses when the power is out. No TV to watch any teleserye, and it’s too hot to relax or nap indoors. So no other recourse but to gossip with your neighbors outside while enjoying Manila’s evening breeze. Lahat istambay sa kalye. 

Those blackouts most of the time, would last one to two hours.  And during the 1980’s to early 90’s, we had rolling blackouts or scheduled power outages, to conserve energy as there’s not enough power supply to cope with Metro Manila’s increasing electric need. Or perhaps the government just thought it was a good fad.

Sometimes it was not just once a day that we had blackouts, as it could be twice a day or more. With the lights going on and off so often, all business becomes “patay-sindi.” Of course the real “patay-sindi” establishments or the red-light districts just gets darker. And when the power is out, Metro Manila becomes one big sauna place, with its residents sweating profusely that no amount of tawas or Rexona matters.

Even hospitals and other vital facilities were not spared from this power outages. Some of the facilities have their own power generator, but even then, their generators cannot supply all their facility’s electric need. So maybe the generators can support the power for the lights, but not the air conditioning or some other functions.

When we were 4th year medical students, one of the roles we have was to become human ventilators. One of our sign-outs was the list of all patients in the hospital on mechanical ventilator. So when the power goes out, we all would run to our assigned patients and manually ambu-bagged the patient for the next hour or so, or until the power returns. Squeezing the ambubag for an hour was a good exercise for the forearm though and it strengthens the grip. I just did not realize until then that, that was one of my duties when I signed up for medical school.

When the long-awaited electric power finally returns, you could hear a loud hurray and even applause from the whole neighborhood. As if we need to cheer the energy company for restoring the power. It’s like it was our “utang na loob” to have our electricity back. Utang na loob na buhay ‘yan!

Back to our 4th of July lunch in the restaurant, as we waited for our food, the waitress told us that our food would be ready soon. They might have gas-powered grills as they can still cook even without electricity. Though it was already starting to get hot inside as there’s no a/c. They did not have to bring out candles though as it was still bright with all the windows open. We were not given the reason for the power outage which in the first place, was a very rare occasion here.

Not too long after, our food came. The restaurants closed its doors for new customers but let those people inside finish their meals. After we were done eating, the waitress told us with a smile that we can go and don’t have to pay, as our meal was on the house. I think with their computers off, we can’t pay with credit cards anyway.

I left a generous tip on the table, both for the free lunch and for the evoked reminiscing – a sultry trip down memory lane.

Basagketbulero 2

Sangayon sa mga balita, kasalukyang iniimbistigahan ng International Basketball Federation ang naganap na insidente sa laro ng Gilas Pilipinas at Australian Boomers. Hindi pa alam kung anong parusa ang ibababa sa mga sangkot sa labu-labong suntukang nangyari sa basketball court.

Inakusahan ni Luc Longley, dating NBA player ng Chicago Bulls at kasalukuyang associate coach ng Australian basketball team, ang head coach ng Pilipinas na si Chot Reyes na ginatungan nito diumano ang kanyang mga players, kaya nauwi sa rumble ang laro.

Dinepensahan naman ng dating coach ng Pilipinas na si Yeng Guiao si coach Chot Reyes. Sabi ni Guiao wala raw kasalanan ang kasalukuyang coach at hindi dapat itong idiin sa mga nakakabahalang pangyayari.

Ganoon pa man, hindi nagustuhan ng Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas ang naging papel ni coach Reyes sa mga kaganapan. Hindi rin nila nagustuhan ang “performance” ng ating mga manlalaro at ang estado na kulang sa “skills” at “training” ang ating mga basketbulero.

Dahil dito ay tinibag na si Chot Reyes.

Ito na ang kanyang kapalit:

(*Ang balitang ito ay hindi fake news. Totoo, peksman.)

Basagketbulero

Basketball at boxing. Ito ay dalawang libangan na paborito nating mga Pilipino. Pero sa Pilipinas, kadalasan pinagsasama ang dalawang sports na ito sa iisang event.

Mula basketball sa kalye, liga sa baranggay, tournament ng mga kolehiyo, hanggang professional basketball games sa Pilipinas, ay minsan (o madalas), nauuwi sa suntukan. Ngayon umapaw pa ito hanggang sa international games. Siguro naman ay alam ng lahat ang nangyari sa FIBA games sa laban ng Pilipinas at Australia.

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Siguro may mga ilan din sa inyo ang nakakatanda noong 1998 sa isang exhibition game sa America, ang ating Philippine Centennial Team, kasama sila Marlou Aquino at Andy Seigle, ay nakipagsuntukan sa Minnesota college basketball team.

Ang mga Pilipino ba ay sadyang “Basagketbulero?” Basketbulero + basagulero.

Hindi ko sinasabing hindi ko naranasan ito. Dahil noong ako’y naglalaro pa ng basketball sa kalsada sa aming lugar, may mga panahon na nagkakainitan ang laro, lalo na kung ang mga kalaro (o kalaban) ay taga ibang kalye o mga dayo. Kahit nga iyong pa-liga ng aming simbahan, oo magkakapatid na sa pananampalataya, ay nauuwi pa rin sa away. Pero hindi naman ako nakakasama sa suntukan, dahil mabilis akong tumakbo – tumakbong palayo!

Bakit nga kaya?

Dahil kaya sadyang mapusok tayong maglaro ng basketball? Dahil kaya tayo ay lahi ng mga palaban? Dahil kaya may dugo tayong lahat na boksingero at gustong maging Pacquiao? Pero in fairness kay Pacquiao, kahit naging basketbulero din siya, hindi siya nakipagboksing habang nasa basketball court, sa boxing ring lang.

Baka naman dahil may mentality tayong “walang iwanan,” na kapag inapi ang ating kasama ay igaganti natin ito ano man ang mangyari? Ito ang rason na ginagamit ng iba sa ating mga manlalaro. O kaya naman ay mayroon tayong “rumble mentality” – hindi masaya kung walang away. O dahil ba madali tayong mapikon at wala tayong “self-restraint?”

Hindi ko alam ang tunay na dahilan. Ngunit nakakalungkot na inaalis natin ang “sport” sa larangan ng “sports.”

Kahit ako ay Pilipino, ang boksing sa basketball ay hinding-hindi ko maipagmamalaki.

(*photoshopped image from the web)

Doctor’s Books

Last year we added two new partners to our group. It is good that our practice is growing and there’s now ten of us Pulmonary and Critical Care doctors in our team.

The downside to this growth is that our limited office space can barely accommodate our expansion. Storage spaces and closets have been turned into patient’s examination rooms.  The other thing that has to give is our personal spaces. Before each one of us have an office room, but now it was converted into one large room that we share together. Though we still have our own desk and a corner or side of the room where we hang our diplomas and personal photos or mementos.

We now also have a common book shelf that we share where we placed our valued textbooks even though they are outdated. As you know, a medical textbook is only good for a couple of years, like our smartphones, as new and revised version comes out every so often with updates of the latest studies and findings.

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Many of the books here in the shelf were published more than a decade ago, and thus they are obsolete and are only good for showcase. Note how thick and heavy many of these books. I can’t avow though that we read them from cover to cover. But perhaps just displaying them make us feel confident and smart.

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From “Medical Dictionary,” to basic science “Lung Cell Biology,” and to our specialty’s bible “Textbook of Respiratory Medicine,” I can say that at some point in time I referred to these books.

But there’s one book in the shelf that caught my attention recently, as it may be out-of-place. It is not my book, and I dare not ask whose book it is among my partners.

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Did you spot the book?

In case you still not sure what book I’m referring to, I pulled it off the book shelf and here it is:

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Perhaps it’s a book of one of the young children of my partners. Perhaps a partner of mine reads this book for relaxation. Or perhaps this book is an inspiration or has a special meaning for one of them. After all, considering where we came from and where we are now in our state of life, it is a realization of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” And as a transplant from a foreign land, this really rings true for me.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Maybe it really belongs to this shelf among other medical books. Besides, this book is also authored by some famous doctor. Dr. Seuss, that is.

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Post Note: “Oh the Places You’ll Go” was first published in 1990, and the last book published by the author in his lifetime. Even though Dr. Seuss is well-known as children’s book author and illustrator, this particular book is a popular gift for students graduating from high school and even college.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

My Weekend in Photos

Here’s what I did last weekend:

1. Helped my wife cooked tuyo (dried fish) in our outdoor grill.

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2. Chased a deer during one of my morning runs.

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3. Scavenged for bargain art item in the streets downtown (Des Moines Art Festival was this weekend).

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4. Got lost among the corn (visited a friend’s farm).

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5. And lastly, summoned my indigenous spirit or maybe my hidden pyromaniac nature and did a fire dance.

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(*all photos were taken by me with an iPhone, except the last photo which was taken by our friend)

Eating Out

It is officially summertime in our area. Summer solstice was June 21, so our days are long and hot. Time for picnics and grilling outside.

A couple of days ago, I came home early and my wife asked me to accompany her to the grocery store. She said she’s going to prepare a special dinner and needed to buy some items.  She saw in the internet this “summer dish” and wanted to try it.

After we got home and after some time and much loving effort, our dinner was ready. The new dish my wife prepared is called the Italian grilled vegetable salad. I am not a food blogger, so I’m not enumerating the ingredients needed to make this dish nor would I pretend that I know how to prepare it. Though I think some of you can figure it out just by looking at the photo below.

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I know it’s a deviation from our usual Filipino food we have at home. Where’s the pancit? Where’s the adobo?

It rained heavily early that afternoon so it cooled down a bit. The temperature outside was very comfortable and did not feel like an oven. We checked the forecast too and there should be no more rain the rest of the day.

So to make it a perfect summer dinner we decided that we should eat out too. No, not eat out in a restaurant. I mean eat out, outdoor in our deck.

The earlier downpour plus the strong winds also drove the insects away. Many times there are lots of flies around that you can’t eat out without having a fly swatter in hand. Besides, the rain already washed our outdoor table and chairs clean.

Eating outdoor is popular during summer time. Even fancy restaurants here have patio outside where you can dine. However, I still feel uneasy sometimes when the tables outside the restaurant is near a street where people passing by can see your every bite or can even grab your food. Maybe it’s just me.

After elaborate preparation – setting our table and taking all the food out, we were ready to eat. Of course we took a photo first before we chomp down the food (photo below).

IMG_6707.jpgNote how presentable and artful our table was. It was Instagram worthy. For you readers, I want to let you know that we usually don’t dine like this. Most of the time we scoop our food to our plate directly from the pots and pans. And knife and table napkins, who need those? Please also note the tomatoes, not on the table but on the planter near the table. They are not ripe yet though.

After saying grace and after we literally took our first bite, the rain started falling. Yes, rain! Darn! Can’t trust those weather forecasters.

We hurried back and carried all the food inside. We ended up eating inside our home just like we do everyday. Our “perfect” outdoor dinner was ruined by the rain. Though it would take more than rain to ruin our evening or break our spirits. We remain thankful, after all, it was still a very satisfying dinner.

At least we can claim we ate outside. Even for one bite.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

App To No Good

In January 2011, the American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year for 2010. Today, that word is engrained in our daily vocabulary. App is shortened for application, something that you download in your mobile device. I think everybody knows what an app is, unless you’re living under a rock.

There are more than 2 million app available in Apple app store currently, and for Android users, there are about 3.5 million apps. If you think about something, there’s probably an app for that. This technology has been part of our day-to-day life and it’s really on the up and up, or should I say, on the app and app.

I have several apps on my smart phone that make my life “easier.” I have an app for the weather alerts, an app to know where I park my car, an app to read and check the latest medical literature and studies, an app to do my banking, an app to control the air-conditioner or heater at my home even if I’m not home, and app to listen to Filipino radio stations, even if I’m 8000 miles away from the Philippines.

You already know that for about 3 weeks now, I have been using an app to help me improve my running (see previous post, App for the Challenge and App to Speed). I started with a pace of about 11 minutes per mile but with the aid of the app I was able to decrease it to 10 minutes per mile on my last run.

After a couple of runs with a faster pace, this week it was my objective to build on that and further improve my pace. My goal is to have it under 10 minutes or even a 9-minute mile.

But I failed!

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I ran a longer distance this time though.

I can think of a hundred reasons of why I was not able to achieve that goal. First, I had only 5 hours of sleep the night before I made that morning run.

Second, it was hot outside when I ran, with the temperature near 80º Fahrenheit. I know that was not really hot, especially if I consider that I grew up in a tropical country. But for me I rather run in a 30-60º F temperature and just layer up in my running gear. If the temperature is 90º F or higher? Forget it, that can kill a runner.

Third, the app did not give me wings in my feet.

Fourth, the app failed to give me more air in my lungs.

But I think the only acceptable reason is that running a 9-minute mile is not as easy as I thought, and I am not as fast and strong as I believe I am. As in most endeavor, it takes time and perseverance to achieve what you aim for. Maybe it would take me few more weeks or even months to attain that lofty goal. Or maybe never.

For now, I’ll just blame it on the app.

(*background photo taken during my run)

 

For Fathers Who Aren’t In Heaven

Sad stories are life’s reality. Several weeks ago I heard one sad story. It was told by a young man, but he did not even relayed it to me. I just overheard it.

We were in a youth camporee, and I went there as a supervising adult (see previous post). There were more than 300 boys and girls from several youth clubs that came to that camping.

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evening worship at the camp

One morning in the boy’s public bathroom, I was in one of the toilet stalls minding my own business. There was no phone signal in the camp, so I cannot surf the web on my smart phone to keep me entertained. I was just watching a small spider spinning his web at one corner of the stall.

(Sorry, this is my second post in a row that discuss something about restrooms. It is not my intention to turn this blog into a toilet talk, but just bear with me, for there’s a good point I want to make here, I promise.)

Then I heard people came to the restroom. I believe there were at least two boys who came in. While brushing their teeth and perhaps washing their faces at the lavatories, they started a conversation.

After some small talk and introducing themselves to each other, like their name and what youth club or place they came from, one boy opened up with a very personal information. I was not being nosy nor eavesdropping, but as the wash basins were just a few feet from the toilet stall I was in, I heard all their conversation.

“I never knew who my father is, for I never met him,” one boy confessed.

He added that he met his real mother when he was eleven years old, but her mother never told him who his real dad is. Then he said that his mother told him that she gave him away for adoption for he was a “blue baby” when he was born. “I was blue as a Smurf,” he quipped. Her mother thought that she cannot take care of him due to his condition, so she gave him away.

As a medical doctor, I know that “blue babies” have an anomaly in their heart or in their circulation causing poorly oxygenated blood to course into their arteries giving the bluish discoloration of their skin. Unless a life saving procedure or surgery is done immediately, they will not survive. Most likely this boy underwent such surgery.

I know this boy is a survivor. Yet he might had the corrective surgery to close a hole in his heart, but the void and longing in his heart for love, especially from a father he never knew, was never filled.

Like a priest inside a confession box, except that I was in a toilet stall, I heard all this heart-breaking confession of a young man without him seeing me. Most likely he didn’t even know I was there listening to his story. He is not aware that the walls, even the very private toilet walls, have ears.

I would like to break out from the stall I was in and give this young man a big hug, but given the situation and place, that may be deemed inappropriate. Perhaps even scandalous.

The thing is I know his first name, his age, where he is from, and what club he is a member of, but I never saw his face. By the time I was done with my business, and came out of the stall, the two boys were gone.

My heart was broken just listening to that sad story. I can just imagine what heartache that boy was feeling. I just hope he finds the love he was looking for even if he has no father. Though one thing for sure, “our Father who art in heaven,” loves him and I pray that he realized that.

This made me thinking, that fathers who aren’t in heaven, me included, have such a great responsibility. We may never change the world singlehandedly, but we are given this distinctive duty and privilege to make a positive impact in the precious lives of our children. And perhaps if all fathers will do that, then the world will change.

For you fathers who may be reading this, or for you young men or even boys who will be fathers some day, I hope we all rise up to this challenge.

Have a happy and meaningful Father’s Day.

Chilled

Last week, my partners and I went to a fancy restaurant in town. We have a candidate who is applying to join our practice that we interviewed so we took him to a place, a little pricey,  but reputable, especially when it comes to steak and chops. We don’t want to have an applicant think that we are cheap.

I am not really in to steak and chops, but after tasting their food, I would say that this restaurant have a valid reason to claim that their steak is the best in town.

Besides the entrée, some other small things are remarkable. The fresh sea food platter appetizer was nicely presented and decorated in a bucket full of ice. The drinks were cold and chilled. Those were expected, I suppose.

However, when I excuse myself from the group and went to the restroom, I found something else that was “cool.” This one I was not expecting.

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Do you see it? I know their urinals are not really swanky nor high-tech, yet it is classy. Though, I’m pertaining to something else.

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Yes, you got it. Those are ice cubes in the urinals! Why they put ice in there, I have no clue.

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I guess they chill the appetizers, the drinks, and yes, even the pee. Cool!

*******

Post Note:

After searching the web, I found out why restaurants and bars put ice on the urinals. No, it’s not to chill the pee. But ice is a cheaper alternative to the urinal cake. When the ice melts it flushes the urine, so no need of auto-flush. Plus, the restaurants have a lot of supply of ice anyway, and it is easier to toss the used ice, like those in their fresh sea food platter, in the urinal than tossing them outside. And lastly, it gives the men (sorry ladies, you may never understand this) something to aim for when they take a leak.

I really learned something from this post. I hope you did too.