Nurse Rowena “Weng” Alba
Contributing to the success of the Saleaflor Foundation Medical Mission was the presence of U.S.-based nurses Weng Alba of Bellevue Hospital and Joeralin Lim of Amsterdam Nursing Home in New York, and Ann Moreno of Kaiser Permanente in California. The nurses interviewed patients and did intakes, took blood pressure and diabetes tests, and diligently helped out in areas which needed their assistance.
“It was a medical mission with a heart,” said Weng. “It was very well organized and had the support of Sally’s family, old classmates (‘85 high school batch mates and ’89 BSN batch mates from Colegio de Sta. Isabel, now called Universidad de Sta. Isabel), the parish and the community.” Sally Nunez is the chair and CEO of the Saleaflor Foundation, which organized the medical mission. The other foundation officers are Florida Lucas, VP for Finance; and Lea Batomalaque, secretary.
The nurses were not exactly surprised at the turnout. The mission was expecting about 500 people and had giveaway bags ready for them. More than 800 with a variety of physical conditions came, some of them parents with children asking to get in by early evening. The mission started at 9 a.m. and ended by 8 p.m.
Like most medical missions, organizers need to be prepared for bigger-than-expected turnout, said Ann, who has participated in about seven medical missions during her nursing career. “When you expect 200, more often than not about 400 will show up,” she said.
Joeralin began doing intakes and ended up assisting with pharmacy dispensing medications and explaining prescriptions. “I heard all kinds of conditions like weakness in the legs, severe coughing, high blood, etc.”
Ann and Weng were at the beginning stage also doing intakes, testing for diabetes and blood pressure in adults, and weighing children, among other duties. Towards late afternoon when the children continued to arrive, they offered to assist the pediatrician because of their pediatrics experience. Weng had training as a midwife.
As in most missions, some of the patients came for the free meds, especially maintenance prescriptions that they are currently taking. Others came for the giveaways. “It’s the culture,” said Ann. Many of course came to see the doctors and seek help on why their conditions do not seem to be improving.
It would be the ideal if the services provided by medical missions would also be provided by health care centers and hospitals in small towns like Caramoan, which has a population of about 45K. The sad fact, according to the nurses, is that the government itself is stretched thin in its resources and so medical missions serve a vital need.
Being part of the mission was a “rewarding” experience, said Joeralin. She saw how the organizers reached out to the community, and how the community responded enthusiastically, putting their faith in the health care professionals and workers.
“They were looking at you so you cannot let them down,” she said.