Weekend read: Some Days You Can't Save Them All

If hospital walls could speak, what kind of stories could they tell me, I would often wonder during the lonely afternoons I spent in the ICU many years ago. I figured it must be fascinating to hear stories of triumph over death, and of course heartbreaking to hear tales of defeat. Years later, I stumbled upon this book, and surprise surprise! It somehow resonates with what I was thinking. Reading it was like listening to one of the walls that surrounded me when I was seemingly counting my every breath. And I should say the stories were all so vivid that I could smell the smells (disinfectant mixed with detergent). I could see the faceless crowd walking back and forth in the hospital's dim corridors. I could hear the hush voices of the nurses drowned in the beep of the vital signs monitor.

From the doctor's point of view

If I am to write a non-fiction book, I'd write about my myasthenia gravis journey. I'd write about my hospital misadventures - the horrors of misdiagnosis, the fear of hearing the straight line not knowing if I'm next (well I do not fear death but I still want to enjoy life as long as I can), the excruciating pain of intubation, and maybe even the kind of banana that'll be served for lunch depending on the patient's socioeconomic status (I meant for this to be comic relief but it's not funny). Some Days You Can't Save Them All is almost the same for the most part, except that it's coming from the perspective of the other party. It's what the other side of the coin looks like. It's the part that made me understand that maybe I shouldn't have hated it when there used to be med students during my consultations, asking me questions I've already answered three times that day (please, I'm sorry). It's the side of the story that made me realize that doctors can only do so much, and I am fortunate enough to have met amazing doctors that made my MG journey bearable. It's the side of the story that says patients are not the only ones frustrated when procedures aren't done and meds aren't taken due to lack of funds. And somehow it's an apology, for there are times when doctors say things that shouldn't be said (tiis na lang muna, talagang ganyan ang MG) and it's too late for them to realize it and eventually be ashamed of themselves. Well, I guess not all doctors realize it when they're at fault but maybe most of them do. 

This is what the Philippine healthcare system looks like

The banana thing for lunch is true - if you had nilagang saba you're probably from the charity ward because lakatan (the ones you can buy from 7-Eleven) is served to the pay ward patients. This might be trivial for most people (saging na saba has more health benefits, I think?), but I wondered, why can't we all have the same type of banana for lunch? The part of the book when Dr. Baticulon really "can't save them all" leaves us in pieces. There must have been countless times when maybe, he could have done something for the patient had there been enough resources. Perhaps unnecessary deaths could have been avoided. For the low-income class, a scheduled operation meant at least three months of PhilHealth contributions and guarantee letters from politicians and some cash that's probably loaned. I couldn't even begin to imagine how is it gonna be for those who live below the poverty line and this book gave me an idea and it's beyond disheartening. It's unacceptable when a person chooses death just because he's broke. 

Despite the woeful condition of the Philippine health care system, it also has success stories. I smiled upon reading the stories of Cely, Juliet, and Bella - their stories somehow reflect my own. Dr. Baticulon may not know it, but his name will be etched in their minds and hearts forever. You cannot forget your hero just like that, can you? And their stories will always be a reminder that even if it's too hard, that doesn't give us enough reason to stop trying. 
Some days you could not save them all, but my patients - with their promise of a good story - reminded me that I should never stop trying. - Ron Baticulon, Some Days You Can't Save Them All