I was stopped by the security guard who led me to the triage area, which honestly I resented. After all, the Saint Louis University Hospital has been like a second home to me for more than 40 years. I had a four-year accredited training in internal medicine in this hospital, whose doors I freely breezed through and whose walls and corridors have witnessed the victory of science over disease as well as the tearful goodbyes when someone goes home to the Divine Creator.
After screening procedures at the triage — temperature check, hand-washing, etc. — I proceeded to the emergency room where doctors, nurses, and orderlies, identified by their color-coded PPE and looking like aliens from outer space, got my clinical history. Then I had my blood extraction, x-rays, and electrocardiogram, and I had to provide a urine specimen. The PCR swab test was done on me and my caregiver by the head of Infection control, who enumerated the hospital’s COVID-19 protocols: Only one watcher is allowed to stay with the patient until discharge, everyone must wear mask and face shield even inside their private rooms, and absolutely no visitors allowed.
My mind raced back to a rainy night a year and half before. After a house call on a senior, I slipped and landed on my buttocks. Except for mild pain, I was up and about after a few days. A month after, however, I woke up with excruciating back and leg pain, only slightly relieved by analgesics and a stubborn belief that being 70 years old was just a few months away, hence it was probably good old rayuma.
It was not. It was avascular necrosis of the head of the femur: The cartilage that serves as a cushion between the head of my right thigh bone and the acetabulum that serves as the receiving socket has been worn out. Total hip replacement was the only solution.
I’m a veteran of surgical proceduresʍleft ankle, gallbladder, eyes for retinal detachmentʍand most of them under general anesthesia. I’m also not scared of the so-called “doctor’s curse,” that even with simple surgical procedures, unexpected complications supposedly happen when the patient is a doctor.
I was wheeled into the operating room later at 3 p.m., and was told afterwards that I was brought back to my room at 11 p.m. Before anesthesia set in, I remembered my ECG result showing a complete right bundle branch block. I was also murmuring: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Then I drifted into deep slumber.
Every “gising” is indeed a blessing. I rolled back my eyes to see fluid bags hanging on metal stands with their tubes attached to my veins, while a blood transfusion was running in another arm. My nose was with oxygen mask, and a pulse oxymeter was on my index finger. My orthopedic team and nurses visited, all of them my former students. They warned me of possible complications like deep vein thrombosis that could lead to pulmonary embolism, infection, dislocation, loosening and wearing off of the implanted prosthesis. The caveats included no crossing of the affected leg, no bending to put on socks, and to sit with the back and hips not flexed for more than 90 degrees.
With a chromium-cobalt titanium implant into polyethylene plastic placed on the surface of the acetabulum, I was discharged as a “bionic man.” Physical rehabilitation at home started with small and careful baby steps aided with a walker, then crutches, then a cane. Admittedly, there is still pain, especially with the cold Baguio weather. But then I realize that the hardest and most painful things in life are often the biggest avenues for God to perform His miracles and grant us His blessing.
With their skills and expertise, doctors treat patients. With His mercy and grace, the Lord grants healing.
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Dr. Victor RG Dumaguing, 71, is an internist, a volunteer doctor of the Baguio FBASECA Seniors, and the Philippine Medical Association’s Dr. Jose P. Rizal Gold Medalist in Community Service (2005, 2013) and Excellence in the Academe awardee (2015).
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