Written by Andrew Maccalla
It’s after midnight here after another extremely busy day and we’re up at 5am tomorrow to head to the northern tip of Cebu and over to Bantayan Island so I can’t write much but I have to mention this story.
After meeting with the local Red Cross, the local Disaster Management Agency, and the Governor of Cebu, an extremely gracious and friendly man, we headed north to Bogo, a city on the NE coast of Cebu which was hit hard by the Typhoon. Over 90% of homes were damaged and over 500 families are living in shelters according to the local officials.
We arrived at the Provincial Hospital and found the Israeli army/medical team had set up their field operations in the yard of the hospital and were treating hundreds of patients per day, many of whom were injured in the Typhoon. These guys were also some of the first on the scene after the Haiti earthquake and performed surgeries on patients who suffered some of the most traumatic injuries. They arrived into Bogo about 4 days after the Typhoon in their military planes and arrive on-site as a fully-functional trauma care hospital. They did some major surgeries after the Typhoon but are now transitioning things back to the local hospital as it settles down.
Inside we met Dr. Carlos Layese Jr, a Pediatrician and the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital. The place was bustling–over 200 babies born every month, TB isolation ward, busy operating theater. Every single bed was full when we went there, in fact, they are an 80 bed hospital with 150 patients inside, so the hallways were jam-packed with patients. Dr. Doug Gross, a pediatrician and a member of the US Federal DMAT team, got to spend some time with patients, including a three-day old baby with pneumonia who was having an extremely hard time breathing. Looking at this baby, you could instantly tell something was wrong because her whole body moved up and down as she struggled to breathe at an incredibly fast pace. They had her on oxygen and IV antibiotics and Dr. Doug said that was the correct procedure and hopefully the antibiotics would kill whatever it was making her labor for breath but it was still very hard to witness. The fear is that if she gets any worse, they don’t have a ventilator for her to use and so eventually she won’t be able to breathe on her own any longer.
It’s incredibly sad to see something like that where for a lack of a piece of equipment, a mother might lose her child. It’s not for any lack of medical care or training–just a simple lack of a material good–which happens to be what Direct Relief focuses on. However, these are the times when you see true ingenuity come out as well. Dr. Layese showed us the pediatric ICU where they did have one working incubator. However, whenever they had to transfer babies to another facility, they never had a good way to keep the baby warm, that is until the Israelis came with their cases of MREs. As I now know after eating my first MRE in Tacloban, they come with a heating element that activates when surrounded by water. Well, Dr. Layese realized that same heater that is usually discarded from the MRE after it’s used, could be used inside the incubator to keep the baby warm in transit. So now when they transfer babies, they carefully surround them with these mini heaters to keep them warm on the 2 hour journey to Cebu city.