Tzu Chi Foundation’s 234th medical mission at Caloocan High School on September 9 freed 1,322 patients from their long-kept burden, and secrets.
Rain poured in the morning of September 9, but over a thousand people still turned up and patiently waited to be treated at Tzu Chi Foundation’s 234th medical mission.
Among the crowd are Gina Oliveroz and her two sons, Reyjhon and Reno. The siblings have been enduring toothache for days.
“It’s starting to affect their attendance in class,” shared Gina. “Every time their teeth would hurt, they couldn’t go to school. However, I don’t have the money to bring them to a private dentist and have their bad tooth removed.”
For the family, Tzu Chi’s free clinic opened an opportunity to address the boys’ problem. Both underwent dental extraction for free. They also received antibiotics.
“We are very lucky that there’s a program like this today. My sons have benefitted greatly, that’s why we are so thankful!” said Gina.
Dental is just one of the six medical services that Tzu Chi offered during its free clinic at Caloocan High School. Patients numbering to 1,322 from across the city availed of consultation, treatment, and medicines from General Medicine, Pediatrics, Acupuncture and Origin Point Medicine (Chinese medical massage), Ophthalmology, and Minor Surgery departments.
Seventy-five of these patients underwent surgical operations that freed them from their long-kept secrets and burden.
Such as in the case of Janet Viray, 48, who carried a mass called lipoma on her right forehead for 18 years.
Being a solo parent, Janet has been putting her own health and needs in the backseat for her son. But as the years passed, the lump above her brow continued to swell that she can no longer ignore it.
“I would always style my hair in a way that it would cover the lump because I was really ashame about it,” she shared.
However, after 30 minutes in the minor surgery room, Janet finally walked home with head held high.
The free surgeries also revived the confidence of Hanna Czarina Santos, 24. For as long as she can remember, she had a lump that is slightly smaller than a pea hanging at the tip of her tongue. Despite her fears, she underwent the surgery and was happy to be rid of the source of her insecurities.
“I can confidently apply for jobs now. I was always afraid that I’d fail the medical exam because of this flaw,” said Hanna.
The free surgeries also meant a burden lifted off the shoulders of 59-year-old Nenita Saldi. The grandmother has been single-handedly raising four grandchildren whose parents had abandoned them to her care. Her love for her grandkids is the only thing that keeps Grandma Nenita strong. Hence, when she found out that one of them, the 16-year-old Michelle Palacio, has a lump on her breast, Grandma Nenita was alarmed since they have a family history of cancer. Michelle’s great grandmother succumbed to breast cancer. Her own mother survived a tumor on the womb, while an older cousin recently underwent a surgery to remove a breast mass.
“I was so scared because I heard this kind of tumor grows fast and I was afraid that it would become cancerous,” Grandma Nenita said, crying. “My conscience could never bear it if something happens to my granddaughter.”
Luckily, someone had handed her a leaflet and she found out about Tzu Chi’s free surgical mission. She brought her granddaughter immediately to have her checked.
When the cyst had been removed, the volunteer surgeon assured Michelle it was benign.
“I am happy because Grandma won’t have to worry about me anymore,” said Michelle. “Grandma will be at ease now.”
Caloocan High School’s security guard Romando Alfaro, 41, also seized the chance to have the lump on his right side removed at the free clinic. He had the mass for almost six years.
“I couldn’t sleep well because every time I turn on my side, I’d wake up in pain. That’s why I really want to have it removed,” he said. “Just in time, there’s free surgeries here so I grabbed the opportunity. I admire this medical mission because everything that a patient would need is right here already.”
Patients with different surgical needs trooped to the mission to seek help from Tzu Chi Foundation.
55-year-old Evaristo Besagas’ right face is so swollen that his right eye is now taut. What started as a toothache five months ago developed into cancer. Today, Evaristo is bound to his wheelchair. His wife, 54-year-old Lourdes, said he could not get a sound sleep and had difficulty in breathing as well as swallowing food. As a result, he had lost so much weight. His condition brought so much grief to his loved ones.
“I wanted to help him ease his pain but there’s nothing I can do,” Lourdes shared while crying. “I just want him to get better. Even if he doesn’t get his vision back, I just want him to get better.”
Surgeon and dentists who are members of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) checked on Evaristo’s condition and he was referred to Tzu Chi’s social service department where he will undergo assessment on how the organization can help him in a hospital facility.