When I was on my residency training for Pediatrics, I once encountered a mother that looked so filthy at the emergency room. She was carrying her son through a blanket hammock sling around her. Dutifully, I interviewed her upon settling on a chair. Her son had been having diarrhea for almost a week and there was no nearby health care facility in her place. She came from Bakun, a municipality of Benguet. She hiked from her place for almost a day to reach La Union. She slept there overnight (where? I dont know!) and from La Union, took a ride going to Baguio City, searched for the hospital I was having my training. It was a pity to look at her, much more hearing her story. She must have been exhausted and hungry. So I asked her, why travel all the way to Baguio when there are already hospitals in La Union. It cost her several pesos, which she could have used in buying the prescriptions for her son. But she said that the hospital where I train has a reputation that heals sick people; it melt my heart and moved me.
*** Red line is the trail she hiked, while the black line is her ride towards Baguio City.
Upon assessing her son, I highly considered admitting him. But judging by her looks (pardon me), I think she will not be able to afford the cost of hospitalization. She didn’t even had enough money to buy all medicines and buy a ticket back home. She has a relative in a nearby municipality where they could probably stay overnight but I wanted to keep watch on her son, who was weak-looking from a week of illness and not having received any medication or home-remedy at the least. I had to be resourceful. First, I took her and her son to our Outpatient Unit where there is a big crib for her and her son to lie. I asked the nurse at the Emergency Room to find me extra IVF bottle for me to use to hydrate the infant, and gladly there was a liter. I called the Pediatric Ward to find me an extra IV line and it seems the universe conspired to give me all the things I needed to start a line. Then, I gave my dinner ration to her, went upstairs searched for medicine samples to last for entire week of treatment, monitored her son throughout the night.
In the morning, I saw that the child was already up and about. I again gave the mother my breakfast ration and she was already smiling. I know I haven’t done enough but her smile and the child’s alertness gave me already the sign that the child is alright. Mother and child already went to her relative with a light heart before the morning shifters and the hospital administrator arrived.
Oh yes, I was a bad “employee/trainee” for I have caused the hospital one less admission. Should I have admitted the infant as a charity case instead? The mother will still be paying charges even as a charity case and I already learned that she cant afford to. Did I do this because I had to uphold the reputation of the hospital according to her expectation? No, certainly not. It would be an instinct for one to do something good, even at times it may be against some odds. Surely, I am not the only resident or physician who has done matters such as this; we have our own Robin Hood stories to share. Thing is, should we always follow the rules to do good for others?