Healthcare Blog of Dr. Remo Aguilar

“To heal is to make patients smile”

in Medicine by
Hope the greatest smile...Terry Fox

In all my years of practice as a physician and orthopedic surgeon, it dawned on me that I get the ultimate satisfaction  from patients’ “‘smiles” at the end of their treatment program. There’s no doubt also that I get extreme satisfaction from technical masterpieces of orthopedic work that came my way during the course of my practice. But there’s none yet so far, as equally as pleasurable and satisfying as seeing your patients beaming with a smile on the last day of your rehabilitation program.

One time, when I was alighting my car on a parking space near a fast food center, I almost had a misstep after a short, muscular guy shouted, “Doc A!!!!” . The guy is sporting sunglasses,  a Lakers bull cap,  city shorts and tennis shoes.  He was beaming with a smile and was waving his hand frantically while moving towards me. I stopped for a moment standing near the stairs, totally confused at who this stranger is coming towards me. I didn’t recognize him even if I tried so hard to remember his face. When he was an arms length away from me, he extended his right hand for a handshake and is now smiling and laughing at me. “You don’t remember me now doc?!” said this stranger. “I’m Mr. B!, the one of your patients who had this below knee amputation after that bombing incident near our marketplace, remember?” I looked down his lower extremities, I barely recognized his prosthetic leg despite  the city shorts he’s wearing!  “You’re Mr. B?!” I blurted surprisingly. “But you look and walk so “normal”!  “Thanks to you doc. If it weren’t for your help, I’m probably be  some useless person, begging my ass in the streets by now”. For a moment, I felt like a big man beaming with pride. I smiled back and offered a tight handshake and a hug.I was so damn happy he was smiling and was walking like a normal person again!

I treated Mr. B in the hospital for more than a month, trying to save a mangled lower extremity brought by an exploding improvised explosive device( IED).  Undergoing several operations, I was hoping I could save a few inches more of an amputation stump, so it wont be an above knee amputation. It’s relatively easier to rehabilitate below knee amputees than patients with above knee amputations. But there’s more than to amputations and surgeries for this patient. I was trying to help a person recover from a traumatic experience and help him become functional person again, contributing to his community. I was giving him hope that even with prosthetics, even if without money for prosthetics, he’ll live a normal, life again. That was the challenge.

Together with his family, we inched our way, through rehabilitation and difficult obstacles along the way. Finances were dwindling and prosthetics are almost always costly and difficult to obtain in this part of the world. Rehabilitating patients with prosthetics is even harder. Most patients complain that it is far more eassier for them to just throw of their prosthetic leg and use crutches instead for the rest of their life. But me and Mr. B is pinning our hopes on, hope. We annoyed many agencies with our persistence – foundations, prosthetic centers, rehabilitation centers. When Mr. B finally got into an in house rehabilitation for the differently abled person, I lost contact with him for more than 6 months. He was in another place the last time we talked on the phone.

Then this unexpected meeting happened.

You mean, you are really Mr. B?” I was asking him again and again out of disbelief. “Opo, doc!” his huge smile is most viral. I can see the very happy, lively and “normal” guy in him now. It was as if nothing happened in the past. This guy, who was at the brink of depression months ago, is one very happy, one very normal person again.

I tell Mr. B’s story to all my patients who are at the brink surrendering to their afflictions. He even serve as a model for my patients that has had amputations. Even such traumatic experience couldn’t erase one of man’s hallmark of ” humanity”- hope.

As for me, I smile with pride and confidence telling this story to all my other patients. I always take pride in my patient’s stories of hope and how’d they’d live through years despite their predicaments. That was always my mantra in this profession. Hope for my patients, smiles in their heart. I’d be one very happy doctor if I can at the very least achieve that…

Lift your head, baby, don’t be scared
Of the things that could go wrong along the way
You’ll get by with a smile
You can’t win at everything but you can try. “With A smile, Eraserheads”

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is previously Chief of Clinics at St. Louis Hospital in Tacurong City and a consultant in Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).

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