Thursday, Apr 15

Learning the meaning of the medical profession from needy patients

July 14, 2018 | Jamaica Digo

As they bid goodbye to Celestino Cabacoy, medical students from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan thank the family for welcoming them and sharing their story. The students pray for the success of Celestino’s treatment so that he will be allowed to undergo a cataract removal surgery soon and eventually, return to work.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

Story Highlights

  • On July 14, Tzu Chi Foundation held a screening of patients for the upcoming cataract mission in Ormoc City in August. Based on the results of their post-surgery tests, more than 100 patients qualified to undergo the surgeries.

  • Medical students from Tzu Chi University in Hualien, Taiwan assisted the volunteers, doctors, and nurses during the screening. Some of them also went to visit the patients to their homes in order to understand the latter’s situation. The experience opened the students’ minds to the importance of treating patients not for the purpose of accumulating physical wealth but to help, regardless of the latter’s social status, race, and religion.


In preparation for Tzu Chi Foundation’s first large-scale cataract mission in Ormoc, a screening of patients was conducted on July 14 at the Ormoc District Hospital (ODH). Members of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) doctors from Manila provided the free consultations.

Tzu Chi had coordinated with the ODH to provide the necessary chest x-rays for the patients. The Buddhist group also brought its own ECG (electrocardiogram) machine, while TIMA doctors brought portable x-ray readers and conducted blood tests.

With the pre-operation tests complete, the team of doctors and nurses to were able to immediately identify over 100 patients who are qualified to undergo the free surgeries on August 4 and 5. For these patients, it won’t be long until they can regain the function of their eyes again.

However, some patients are not as lucky.

Living up in the mountain village of Mabini, 48-year-old Celestino Cabacoy had supported his family from farming a land he doesn’t own.

In 2017, he lost his vision to cataracts. Today, the father of four could only move when his wife, Mariza, would assist him.

Life was better when Celestino could still work. “But after he fell ill, our second eldest son had to quit studying and work instead to help with the expenses,” said Mariza, 44.

Their 16-year-old son, who took a job as helper to a backhoe driver, is now the family’s breadwinner. Mariza, on the other hand, receives Php700 monthly from working as the village’s peace and order personnel.

The sad fate of his family is a constant source of anxiety to Celestino. “It should have been my responsibility to support them, but because of my condition, my poor son had to take the burden instead,” he said.

A few houses down Cabacoy’s, the shanty of Mira Galano, 30, stands forlornly. Built in wood, this is where Mira struggles to raise a family.

Mira lost her vision when she was only 20 years old. As a result, she could only guess how her husband and their two children look like. She mostly stays home, while her husband works as a construction worker to support them. Unable to see, Mira’s mother and other relatives assist her in doing the household chores.

Mira’s condition poses a serious challenge in how she raises her children. “I always fear that I might cause an accident to my children whenever I am looking after them since I am not able to see well,” she said.

Medical students from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan visited Celestino and Mira in their homes. Accompanied by local youth volunteers, they travelled through the bumpy dirt road to Barangay Mabini in order to take the patients to be seen by TIMA ophthalmologists.

Upon checkup however, it was found out that Mira’s condition is beyond treatment. The nerves on her eyes have been badly damaged.

Celestino, on the other hand, was advised to first treat the infection on his eyes. The treatment is estimated to last for three to four months. It is only after this that he can undergo a cataract surgery.

Although saddened by the result of their consultations with the doctors, both patients remained grateful for the volunteers’ love and concern.

To ease Mira’s sadness, TCU students sang a classic Filipino song called, “May Bukas Pa” (There Is a Tomorrow) for her.

“Somehow, the heaviness in my heart was lifted,” said Mira after singing along with the students to the song.

The experience had brought a lot of new insights for the Taiwan-based students.

Wu Che-Kuang, a Physical Therapy student, shared Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen’s constant reminder – to cherish blessings. “After we see suffering, we should create more blessings. We should help and give back happiness to others since we have received so much happiness in our own lives,” he said.

Wen Hui-Ru, a Medicine student, will also treasure this experience. “This trip has made me see from the perspective of the suffering person, and helped me figure out how I can help my future patients,” she said.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Nursing student Lu Pen-Ting vowed, “Seeing that in some areas, there are patients who do not have access to medical services makes me want to be a good nurse in the future not for the money, but in order to really help the needy patients.”

  • Medical students from Tzu Chi University assist Mira Galano in walking. The students will bring Mira to Ormoc District Hospital where volunteer ophthalmologists of Tzu Chi are providing free eye consultations. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Students of Tzu Chi University’s Medical College sings “May Bukas Pa” for Mira Galano (sitting) to ease her sadness about her condition. Mira sings along with the students, saying the heaviness in her heart has somehow been lifted. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Tzu Chi University’s Physical Therapy student Wu Che-Kuang painted a smile on Mira Galano’s face as he tried to give her a massage. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Philippines coordinator Dr. Antonio Say shows a student how cataracts look like on a patient. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Dr. Catherine Macaraig shows the medical students from Taiwan the damage on the eyes of a patient. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Medical students from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan entertain the patients awaiting their turn for the consultation. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • For those who are not in need of surgeries, Tzu Chi dispensed reading glasses. Students from Taiwan assist the patients in finding the right reading glasses for them. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Many patients are advanced in age and could barely move on their own. In addition, they could no longer see. Students from Tzu Chi University, like the rest of the volunteers, seize the chance to assist these elderly patients. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】