If you ask me what were the most memorable gifts I have ever received in practice, these come to mind: my first basket of ampalaya (bitter gourd), an ordinary ballpen, a P100 bill, a handwritten thank you note, and a towel embroidered with the words “Timmy gives hope.”
More than the material, the most precious ones have come from patient encounters that have led me to a better understanding and appreciation of people and of life in general.
“Yes Ma’am, what can I do to help you?” My secretary had stepped out, and a mother and her child were waiting outside the examination room. She quickly introduced herself and recounted that her child was under my care when she was diagnosed with a surgical condition. As finances were tight, we had to transfer to another institution. I had never seen them again but remembered the case. She then held out her child to me and said that she was already a year and a half old and doing very well, all because of our timely diagnosis and assistance. “Doktora, bumalik kami sa iyo para magpasalamat muli.” I looked at her, hugged her child tightly, and told her just how much her visit was appreciated.
“Dr. G! Kamusta na po kayo. Let me know if you need anything po.” The buffet area was full and my sister who was with me was wondering why the waiter was giving me the VIP treatment. I told her that he was the father of a patient, a little boy who had recently lost his battle with leukemia. I went on to say that their family had fondly called me Dr. G, and to their son, was the doctor associated with the gift of a red truck that had become his favorite and the giver of an occasional box of Munchkin donuts which he loved but was forbidden. What started out as a light conversation flowed into a subdued discussion on how difficult the fight must have been, not to mention how it could have stretched them financially. To say that breakfast was a little saltier than usual was an understatement. As we were about to leave, he comes over, hands a box full of pastries, apologizes that this was the only thing he could afford, and told my sister how grateful he was for the care that I had given his son. We both walked away touched by the generosity of his action but more so by his words.
“Doktora, order what you want!” It was a Monday. “Grandpa groovy” and I had accidentally ran into each other at the fruit drink stand. He was a patient in the cancer ward and I, the intern assigned to his care. Always well groomed, he stood out for his wool trousers and a gray Gatsby hat. But more than these, it was how he made me feel that set him apart. Fully aware that I was a year short of the Board exams, he had always afforded me the respect given to a full-fledged doctor. To him, I was an integral part of his medical team attending to his prostrate cancer when in actuality, I was the gofer. Being at the bottom of the totem pole, it was expected that the most menial tasks were your responsibility. Mine was to diligently accomplish and ensure that his weekly request to be given an out-on-pass ticket for the weekend be granted. Without him verbalizing, I knew that it was the very thing he looked forward to, his needed respite from treatment to be with family. That friendship was borne out of mutual respect. That melon drink from the canteen stand with the hopia brought from home will always remain to be amongst the best treats that I have ever tasted.
Lessons learned from these encounters. First, no individual or task will ever be insignificant because every action or word can impact another. Second, be generous and sincere in showing appreciation while people are still around to hear them. Never ever lose those opportunities. These are to be held dear. Precious.
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