Its been a little over a month since I returned from our one month trip. I’ve been thinking about how I could compose the most amazing trip I’ve ever had into words. The week volunteering for the mission was packed with stories, just too many to count. I came home with the most amazing experience that I will forever cherish.
The mission was held in Tuguegarao CIty, Philippines. An hour plane ride from Manila, only 2 flights a day arrives into their tiny airport. The city was very special to my dad. He had spent his high school years here and returned with volunteers of Aloha Medical Mission to provide free health care to people who cannot afford it.
All the volunteers paid their own transportation and lodging. It cost about $2000 per person. Its a big chunk of change. Why would anyone want to spend their hard earned money and vacation time to work? Not just work, but hard work.
The next morning after we arrived in Tuguegarao we went straight to work. The day started at 700am meeting at the hotel restaurant. We were all still very jet lagged after traveling for over 20 hours the day before. Our volunteers from San Fran traveled even longer! We were exhausted, but no rest for the weary. Our day was spent walking through the Tuguegarao General Hospital and the make shift clinic (the local parish). Then we unpacked and organized over 30 boxes of medical supplies.
Going through the hospital was eye opening. The ward was nothing I’ve ever seen with many beds in a long room. One side of the building is, male. The other side female. Also, a pediatric ward. One of our doctors went straight to work and asked a family how their child was doing.
After unpacking some of us got a taste of the Philippines by riding trikes back to the hotel. Those with energy to spare went to the Callao Caves. Don and I were too exhausted and opted to sleep.
The next morning was the first real day. At 630am the group met at meeting/breakfast. Then it was straight to the hospital and clinic to start working. We unpacked boxes in the OR. Hundreds of people were lined up at our makeshift clinic to see a Doctor or Dentist. Before noon the surgeons were scrubbing in!
The first day was pretty chaotic. There was a lot of bumps in the road, but we made it through the day. By the second day, we had it down. The clinic was well organized and the OR running smoothly. We all worked long hours with little breaks, but the joy of helping people kept us going. Also, we had an amazing team! The local volunteer nurses were so friendly and fun! We laughed and told stories. We got to know eachother. We were helping people together!
One of our patients was a 8 year old boy. He was given away because he had a hernia at 3 months old. It was a heart breaking story. Thanks to the surgery done by Dr. Becky Sawai, he now no longer has a hernia.
A man was fitted with a prosthetic hand. He was able to write his name for the first time in years and told the team in his native language, “I feel whole again.”
An emergency breeched C-section done by local OB allowed a family to keep their water buffalo. Which they would have had to sell if AMM was not there. The mother gave us the honor of naming the baby.
In just 5 days we were able to do 70 surgeries and see over 1,000 patients. Over a thousand stories. So why would anyone want to spend their money and vacation time working in a medical mission? Walking back to the hotel on the last day of the mission I cried. It was awkward, I was crying on the street. My emotions were so strong. The week was so fulfilling helping people in need, but I wished I could have done more, stayed longer, continued to work. I was sad that this amazing experience was over. I met and worked with wonderful people with huge hearts and who I can now call friends. I got to help the most beautiful and most grateful patients. The experience will forever hold a huge place in my heart. I now understand why people will donate their time year after year to do these mission and I can’t wait to do it again.
We had 3 journalist who came with us on our mission. Not only did they document the mission, they also put in hard work helping from organizing supplies, helping the pharmacy group by organizing and packaging medication, and other duties where ever it was needed. Please check out some their coverage on Aloha Medical Mission.
Some of the pictures of our mission:
you can find more pictures on instagram #alohamedicalmission #alohamedicalmissiontuguegarao