Sunday, March 16, 2008

Isolated... Not

How would you feel if you were a small fish in a river thrown out into the sea, alone?

Whatever it is that came into your mind, that is how I felt 16 months ago, when I was deployed in this barrio. Name it – fear, isolation, excitement, apprehension, I felt it. But the scariest part, as a physician, was being isolated from your seniors or colleagues, whom you can turn to, if you were in the city, anytime you have doubts in your mind.

Thanks to the Internet, because despite the lack of land line and fax in this remote area, the fear of isolation was instantly gone when I realized that I can actually use my phone to connect to the Internet. Yahoo! Or should I say, Yehey?

Professionally, the Internet saved my neck a lot of times in this remote upland municipality in Ilocos Sur.

I remember that time when I was giving a seminar to BHWs (barangay health workers) and I totally forgot the exact meaning of health according to the World Health Organization. I don’t want to be accused of giving false information so with just a click of the mouse, I got the exact meaning, word by word. Or that time when I couldn't remember if MMR (maternal mortality rate) is maternal deaths per 1,000 or 100,000. WHO and CDC sites are great websites for knowing these public health information. Let's not forget our very own DOH (Department of Health), or my boss will kill me.

I had a case once of a 48 year old woman with bilateral lower limb paralysis, who has seen several doctors in Baguio, Benguet and La Union. I wanted to tell her that how in the world can I help her, me, a starting GP, when she has already seen several specialist and nothing happened? But the look of faith in the woman’s eye pushed me to find ways to help her. Thanks to UP’s National TeleHealth Center, headed by Dr. Eloy Marcelo and their BuddyWorks Team, I was able to refer this patient, through email. In two days, they helped me diagnose this patient.

Isn’t that amazing? I didn’t have to go out of this barrio, I probably only spent about 10 pesos for the Internet connection, and the patient didn’t even have to go out of her house to be diagnosed. That is something priceless for the people in remote areas like this because going to a hospital is costly. The nearest primary hospital is 11 kms away and tertiary hospital is about 50 kms away. Did I say nearest? :)

These are only 2 of the many stories I have on how Internet saved my life, or other people's lives, for that matter. There are more.

As a newbie physician deployed in place where I don't know a single soul and don’t even speak the dialect, I was worried that I might go insane with just a few days of being here. Luckily, it didn't go that far because of Yahoo Messenger, Chikka and those community sites like Friendster, Facebook, Multiply, etc. These connected me to my family and friends and even to strangers. I can go online, buzz someone, refer, chat or just simply vent out my frustrations either through forums (Pinoy MD) or blogging.

I cannot overemphasize how being connected with people helped me get through my rough and lonely times here. In fact, just knowing that I can buzz anyone anytime or that someone is reading my experiences here gives me confidence to cure and save lives. That alone makes me a better person, if not a better clinician.

Has Internet saved lives for me? Definitely. Has it made my life easier as a doctor to the barrio? No doubt. I am still just a small fish swimming in this wide ocean. Thanks to the World Wide Web though, I have learned to navigate through it and come out alive and clicking, err, kicking.


Bone MD said...

Ha,ha! I can certainly relate with your simple joy of having internet in the hinterlands. Aside from climbing mountains and badminton, the net had definitely made my life as a physician quite bearable and fun.
The last time I was in some very distant and isolated place like your barrio, I am already happy with a signal on my cellphone. Now, the internet? Really amazing.

Bone MD said...

I almost forgot doc, you might want to host the next edition of TBR come tuesday next week. Please inform me ASAP.

Keep blogging!

Prudence said...

Whoa, this is a nice article. Something that a lot of our fellow medical bloggers would like to know more of. I've never been a physician in a far-flung area (though I practice here in the province). Can I link this article to this week's TBR since it also follows the TBR theme?

MerryCherry said...

Doc Tess, i wrote this piece for the TBR hehe.

Sent you an email, di yata nakarating :) Blame my connection Hehe