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Friday, October 28, 2011

Allan the painter

Allan just after he arrived in ICU at JBL Hospital
I only have this one picture of Allan the painter. This picture was taken by a person I had asked to hold my camera while I taught the family of Allan how to use the Ambo Bag to ventilate him.

Allan arrived in the ICU of JBL Hospital after a terrible motorcycle accident which left him critically wounded and in a coma. It was a very busy day there in JBL and when they brought Allan in the ICU after surgery the nurses did not have the time to teach the family how to manually ventilate Allan. This is not to insult the nurses there. You have got to experience a public hospital in the Philippines to understand. Chaos is a light term! When I noticed Allan's brother struggling with the Ambo Bag I went over to their bed side to teach him about observing the chest and stomach.

The experience with Allan was very special. As the family tried to cope with the involuntary twitching that comes with the brain injury they were so worried he may never come out of the coma. I told them that Allan could hear them and he just could not speak at that time. I believe the Lord gave me wisdom at that time. I had asked them what he did for a living and they told me he was a painter. I had an idea to buy a paint brush so I went to the hardware and got one. When I returned I said to Allan, Allan I need you to paint my house. Then I put the brush in his hand. As soon as I did that he started to make brushing strokes. The family was amazed. Me too. Then I said to Allan, don't forget the corners and his strokes became circular just as you would do in the corner. This encouraged his family very much and they had a renewed faith that Allan would get better. I gave the family some money to help with the mounting bills and I never saw them again. I pray that Allan had a full recovery. Somehow I think he did! 

In the Philippines the family must rent a ventilator machine if they want to have their patient on life support otherwise they must manually ventilate the patient 24/7. In the case of Allan there were simply no more machines available for rent. He had to be manually ventilated for a few days before the family was able to rent one. I have seen families face this situation many times and my self and others have pitched in to relieve at times.

One of the saddest things I ever saw in a public hospital was a poor mother who had given birth prematurely and after she had given birth she had to be the one to ventilate her baby. She had no family, no one to help. I was taking care of Mila at that time and every time I passed the window of the ward where she was I saw her ventilating her baby with an Ambo Bag. As the days passed I wondered why this mother had looked so tired and she was turning white like she was in shock. Little did I know at that time that she was the one who had given birth to that baby and never got to rest. I passed by that window many times and never did I see someone help her. She was getting more and more weak. She actually stayed awake 24/7 desperately trying to save her baby for 4 days. No sleep and no food from what I heard. And no one helped her! Then on the 4th night she passed out and the baby died. I found out the true story after the fact. If I had known she had no helper I would have hired one for her. This was a tragic but true story.

If any person reading this blog wants to help people on the front lines of poverty, go to any public hospital and offer a hand. It is an unforgettable experience and a real dose of reality too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jun Jun's Story

My street kid friend Jun Jun
Jun Jun was a street kid I met who I hired to wash my truck everyday when I was eating breakfast at my favorite restaurant. He came from a family of like 14 kids and was forced to survive on the street. I learned so much about street kids from Jun Jun.

The very first time I ever saw Jun Jun was when he was taking a pee on a sign that said "bawal umihi dito" translated  " do not urinate here". That gave me a good laugh.  That moment described the rebel character of Jun Jun. Street kids do not trust people easily. They get so used and abused that it takes a long time to earn their trust. But once they trust you, they consider you a friend for life. But you better never break that trust! I had lots of interesting moments with Jun Jun. He was addicted to Rugby (carpet glue) when I first met him. He sniffed it so he would not feel hungry. That is why I get angry at people when they judge street kids that use Rugby. They are only trying to not feel the pain of being unwanted and being hungry. Anyway, by offering Jun Jun the job to wash my car he was able to stop the Rugby and have enough money to buy three meals a day and get some clothes. Yes, I overpaid him on purpose. Jun Jun was 16-17 years old at this time.

One morning when I went to breakfast I did not see Jun Jun who usually waited for me at my parking space. Only a few moments later some other street children ran up to me and told me Jun Jun was hit by a car and laying in the parking lot of a hospital dying. I rushed over to the hospital and found Jun Jun laying in the parking lot in terrible pain. There were no people helping him. I ran inside the emergency room and yelled for help. I told them I would pay for everything. It was then and there that they came out to help him. I want the readers here to know the truth. The emergency room staff knew Jun Jun was in the parking lot but because he was a street kid and had no way to pay and was dirty, no one helped him. This hospital was considered semi-private.  It was ONLY when they saw me ( his sponsor ) that they came out to help him. Before me he was treated like an animal and after he was treated like royalty. Go figure!

They did the usual examination and the doctor told me he was too seriously wounded to be treated there and that he needed to be brought to the provincial hospital. By that time my faithful bodyguard had arrived and we hired an ambulance and rushed him to the larger provincial hospital called JBL.

Jun Jun after surgery in the post op
When we got there Jun Jun was near death. The doctor said if Jun Jun could not urinate they could not operate on him. I begged Jun Jun to drink water and said over and over to him to pee, pee just like you did on that wall with the sign "bawal umihi dito". Jun Jun laughed when I said that! Some urine came out when he was laughing this gave the clearance for him to receive life saving surgery.

The doctor told me that most likely Jun Jun would die from his injuries. I refused to accept that and starred Jun Jun in the eyes and reminded him how hard headed he was and that he can make it.

They operated on Jun Jun for 6 hours. He had a crushed liver and other internal damage. It was bad.  I waited right outside the operating room door and when they brought Jun Jun to the recovery room I stayed there with him along with Romeo. He remained in the recovery room much longer than most other patients because he was so critical. I think he was there for 5 days before they moved him to the ICU.

Jun Jun about 20 days after surgery inside the ICU
For the readers from developed countries you need to know that what is called an ICU in a provincial hospital is not what you might imagine. You need to add a few cats and dogs running in and out of the room. Dead people laying in their beds for hours uncovered. No privacy curtains and people crying and dying in front of each other 24/7. This is where Jun Jun and I spent many days and nights.  Jun Jun had no family, he had no person who could take care of him.  At that time I was building my new house but I dropped that project so I could stay with Jun Jun. He needed help and if I did not help him he would have died for sure.

It was completely self service there in the ICU. Jun Jun had a trach tube to breath from the rented ventilator machine. The patients watchers had to be the ones to operate the suction machine to clear the phlegm and most of the bandage changing is done by the watchers too. There were just too few nurses and way too many patients. This was the reality at that time.

The conditions were practically indescribable. For example, I went to sleep at Jun Jun's bedside and woke up to find a line of ants all around his breathing hole! I am not putting down the doctors and nurses who worked there. They are wonderful. In fact, I would hand pick them to serve me if ever I needed a good medical team. The issue is poverty and an overwhelmed system.

It was a long and tough recovery for Jun Jun. It was a daily battle but he got stronger each day. He began to understand the joy of giving.  Jun Jun on occasion would ask me to help others in the ICU like the grenade attack victim in the bed next to him. These were wonderful selfless acts of love in his own way he was expressing to others suffering.  The Lord used me to help many people there. It was a grand opportunity to show his love.

Jun Jun was eventually moved to a regular ward room where he spent about a week and then his day of freedom arrived. Jun Jun was a changed man. His hardened heart was now soft and he had a new zest for life. We had arrived at the hospital together in an Ambulance and 45 days later we walked out of there together. With faith, love and prayer Jun Jun had overcome all odds to survive.

That experience changed me too. I think I learned more from Jun Jun than he did from me. What courage and faith he has. And I am convinced if he did not have such a tough life on the streets that prepared him for this fight, he would have never made it. 

I had seen Jun Jun a few times since that experience. He's had his ups and downs but I believe he was a changed young man forever. I will always remember the opportunity to help my street kid friend Jun Jun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mila's story

Look at her leg! Bent at the shin!

This is a story so dear to my heart it is hard to write it without tears coming to my eyes.

Mila was a little girl I met way back in 2001 when I was visiting the family of my friend. She lived on a very remote island in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. Samar.  It was a lazy hot afternoon when I was eating lunch that Mila can stumbling in the native house where we were. When I first saw her she had a huge smile on her face. It was quite dark inside the native house but her leg had caught my eye. There was something very wrong with it. Instead of the leg bending at the knee it was bending at the shin and it was the shin that was touching the ground when she walked and not her foot.

I had inquired to the family what happened to her leg and they told me that when Mila was two years old she had fallen out of her raised bahay kubo and broke her leg terribly. When I asked why did she not see a doctor I was even more saddened. I was told that Mila's mom had abandon her and her father was killed at sea as a fisherman. So Mila was left to just go from one aunt to another and basically had no family. Mila never received treatment for her leg. She had to endure the pain of a broken leg and then manage to walk on it for nearly 7 years!

I remember not being able to sleep well when I had returned to the States after meeting Mila. How could this innocent human be forced to continue this kind of life when I had the ability to help? It bothered me for several months until I made the decision to help her. 

It was because of Mila that I had made my first trip to Cebu. I went there to arrange for her to have her leg operated on by Dr. Migi Morales who at that time was a renown orthopedic surgeon. I found out about him by a referral from another surgeon who had operated on my knee in Manila earlier that year.

Painful moments on the road to recovery
It took quite a bit of logistics to get five members of her relatives and her to Cebu, rent an apartment for them and also hired a caretaker. Her medical situation was very complicated. It required two very painful operations and a technique called "Ilizorof" therapy to actually break and lengthen her leg. She had wear a cumbersome device on her leg for almost a year after the operation.

I don't know how she did it. I am so proud of her. She never complained and was so grateful for my help. She had a wonderful spirit and a unique character. She won the hearts of whomever she met. Definitely a gifted child.

I gave her the best I could. What a brave little girl!
The experience with Mila in the Hospital in Cebu led to many more opportunities to help people in desperate need there. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to live my life knowing the meaning to the success God gave me in my business ventures. It was an incredible time in my life. The more I gave to help the poor, the more I was blessed when I went back to the States to do business. This happened year after year for many years. It got to a point where I had pre-planned how I would give away my yearly bonus before I even got it! God is really good!

Years later after my friend got married to a German gentlemen she arranged a meeting with Mila and myself in Manila. It was a great moment because my mother was visiting and was able to meet Mila too. I think there will always be a special bond between me and Mila because of our experience together. I think it would make a great movie one day.

Even now I still pray for her and wonder how she is doing. Somehow with that very special character I am sure she will be successful in whatever she does in life. Mila is a born winner!

The road

This project was definitely a ''road less traveled'' because it was so dangerous. The first time I traveled down this road I was on the back of a motorcycle. We had come around the corner and headed down hill and with the clay and rocks it soon became apparent that we would be crashing in the very near future. The particular stretch of road shown in this post was notorious for crashes. It was steep, slippery and had steep drop offs.

When I decided to make a cementing project on this portion there were already several projects going on in other places. Mostly retaining walls and drainage culverts. I think maybe one of the donated houses was under construction at that time too. In other words the projects were full blast at that time.

The road was made in 2006
When it came time to make this portion of the road I was offered two options by the masons. One was to save money and make the road without steel bars and the other was to make a thick road using the re-enforced bars. There was no second thought. I wanted those people to have the best and be blessed for generations to come. So we made the road to standard. I remember one time in Samar I was traveling and there were so many places where the cemented road was cracked and had holes in it. I wondered why that was? And soon I learned why. The money that was in the budget for the steel bars was used for the personal gain of the local mayors house and so they made a road with no steel bars in it. I remembered that very fact when I had made the decision to use steel bars in the road in Cebu. Would I be like that mayor and give the people a poor road or would I give them what they deserved?           
                                                   A video made in January 2011

I realize it is difficult for some people to understand my intentions in projects such as that road. Why would I be out in a remote place doing things like that unsupported by any organization. By the worlds view it does not make much sense. But if you could see it through God's eyes, it makes all the sense in the world. I was blessed beyond my wildest dreams ( not Bill Gates level ) and instead of spending it on my self I wanted to give back to people who would never have a chance to see that kind of blessing. I wanted to make a way for them to have hope that their lives could and would improve. And the metaphor of the beautiful road was God making a road to their hearts to set them free. This is why I did it.

The bridge

It is so sad to see tragic accidents that could have been prevented if the people had the means. In 2007 I had learned of heart wrenching story in the mountains of Cebu. There was a lady and her two children who had gone into the abandon mining area to collect scrap metal to sell. They had to cross various places where there were gullies (washouts) in order to come and go from their Barangay. One day as they were on their way home a heavy downpour occurred while they were crossing a low area. It was there they were met by a wall of water in a flashflood that swept all of them to their deaths.

I was between projects having just completed a basketball court so I asked the barangay captain if it would be alright if we made a culvert to make bridge for the people to use. I did not ever want that to happen again. Enthusiastically he said "yes" and soon we were mobilizing materials for the bridge project.

I went to Cebu city to canvas the biggest culverts I could find. Five feet were the largest available. So with the use of my Nissan Frontier and our mini dump truck we were able to haul all the pipes we needed in just two loads. The project needs required that I had at least 12 people working there. This provided much needed income for people who rely on vegetables and fruit sales for their financial sustenance. It gave some young men the first opportunity to work with a cement mixer and in general the people felt happy to be able to have a new experience.

The project was quite fun. For me doing my "bulldozing for Jesus" thing made me so happy. It was a challenge too. It took around a week to ten days to complete the much needed bridge.

As we had lacked materials enjoyed by construction companies like booms and cranes so we had to improvise at every turn. This is another wonderful thing about Filipino's I had discovered. How they can improvise and make a way to do something when there was no apparent way. I learned a lot there too.

One time when I was making a road near a spring I got my bulldozer stuck so deep in the mud that it could no longer move. It was buried all the way to the drivers seat. I had tried everything I knew to get it out. And after about 4 hours I had given up. It was then that I saw the wonderful ingenuity of my friends. I had offered four of them P1000 ($20) each if they could get the bulldozer out. I went to eat some lunch and was gone only a half hour and when I returned to my amazement there was my bulldozer out of the mud and already washed! If I remember correctly I had doubled their reward being so happy to see my baby in good condition.

As I reflect on the bridge project I am truly grateful for the experience. It was inspiring to see the communal effort involved. Though I have never seen the people from that area since the last day I do believe they are grateful and their lives have been improved by this bridge.

More Photos

Lining up the pipes in the center of the gully

I was able to fulfill my childhood dreams of driving there

My friend Scott and I discussing the final cementing details

At the end we had cemented both ends like a funnel