Saturday, November 15, 2008

Corruption in the Philippines (Nov 15 08)

While in bed at the hospital, or resting at home after my hospitalization, I had occasion to watch the entire proceedings of the Senate inquiry into the Agriculture Undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante's "Fertilizer Scam" and Police Controller De La Paz's "Euro Contingency Fund". I have come to the conclusion that we are NOT the most corrupt country in the world. Corruption happens everywhere, even in the United States of America, and we are not any better or worse than the U.S.A in the matter of corrupt practices of government officials or their friends. What we are well-known for is the ability of our media (radio, TV, print) to expose in a grand scale corruption, no matter how big or small, and blow that issue out for the world to see and to label us as the most corrupt country in the world. The Senate, of course, is contributing to enhancing this popular image of the Philippines as the most corrupt country in the world, by its addiction to TV coverage of all the lurid details of its investigations in "aid of legislation", which also happens to provide free advertising for the presidential wanna-be's in 2010. In our desire for "transparency", which is a "good thing", we give the impression to the world that corruption is everywhere, when in reality, we are just successful in exposing corruption in many more cases here, than the rest of the world. But is that not a good thing?

Journey into Myself (Nov 15 08)

The past few weeks have been terrible for me. I was hospitalized in Medical City in October 22-26 for extreme allergies to antibiotics, to rule out Steven-Johnson syndrome. Then again I was hospitalized in St. Luke's in November 11-13 for vertigo, and to get cardiac and colonic check up. For several occasions this year, I had severe vertigo attacks, requiring me to assume a restricted positioning of the head when lying down or sitting up, for otherwise, the world literally spins, causing extreme dizziness and nausea, and preventing me from doing the normal work of a teacher. Carotid ultrasound revealed that circulation to my head was normal, and so the vertigo could not be due to bad circulation to the head. The vertigo must, therefore, be vestibular in origin, that part of the inner ear that contributes to sense of balance and spatial orientation. Dr. Allan Carpella prescribed Serc 24mg two times a day, an increase in dosage from the old magic of Serc 8mg three times a day. Furthermore, he prescribed head rotation exercises, which seem to be doing some good.

During this interlude at St. Luke's, Dr. Canlas did a colonoscopy, a detailed movie-camera exploration of my large intestines, to check if the irregular bowel movement of this 62-year old man is colonic in origin. To prepare, I was starved from 8:30 PM of the evening before the colonoscopy up to the actual colonoscopy itself, which happened at 12:30 PM of the following day. Which means 16 hours NPO -- no food or drink. I was given 4 tablets of Dulcolax, and two 250 ml bottles of liquid magnesium citrate -- and these constituted the enema to flush out the colonic contents. When I was a small boy, my mother accomplished this enema by using one bag-full of lukewarm soapy water to flush out colonic contents, which, by the way, is many times more effective than Dulcolax plus magnesium citrate. By 12:30 PM, I was so hungry and so weak, that all I wanted was for the procedure to be over. Dr. Canlas was assisted by anaesthesiologist Dra. Estrella. I requested Dra. Estrella if I could be kept awake so that I can watch the colonoscopy on the TV monitor, and she agreed to use only the smallest dose of anaesthetic. As Dr. Canlas performed the colonoscopy, I kept asking questions. Have we passed the transverse colon yet? Why is the pechay that I ate still intact and undigested? Is that mucus from my congested nose that I see in my colon? And Dr. Canlas was saying: I see a polyp, but it looks benign, but I'm going to take it out, nevetheless - for biopsy. And so on. Watching a journey into your own colon, complete with tour-guide explanations from the doctor, can be a very enlightening experience. How many people that you know have experienced such scientific adventure? I have.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Murphy's Law in My Life (2008 Nov 07)

Since my last post a month ago, a lot of things have happened to me. We had final exams for the first semester at Ateneo de Manila University, and I had to struggle through grading my students' exam papers. I accompanied the Ateneo programming team to the ACM-ICPC Asia-Jakarta regional programming contest, where we came out at rank 19 among 49 teams of collegiate programmers, our most dismal performance in a regional contest since year 2000. I got hospitalized in Medical City for four days in October 22-26, as soon as we arrived in Manila from Jakarta, for severe allergy to Flucloxacillin and Cefuroxime. I had diabetic foot infection, and Dr. Tongson of Capitol Medical Center prescribed Flucloxacillin when I told him that I did not have any allergy to antibiotics (which is the truth at that time in my life). Fluxcloxacillin is so new and as yet untried by me, and I did not know that I would have such severe reaction to it. When I showed Dr. Tongson allergic rashes on the upper surface of my hand, he immediately changed my antibiotic to Cefuroxime, another antibiotic that is so new and untried by me. The Cefuroxime only aggravated my allergy, and I did not know what to do except to write emails to Dr. Tongson, since we were already in Jakarta. I could not even buy the anti-allergy medicines that my wife was suggesting for two reasons: (1) I do not have a doctor's prescription since Dr. Tongson did not check his emails. (2) Even if I produce a fake doctor's prescription, I do not know how to get the prescription filled in Jakarta. I had to wait until we got back to Manila before my allergy could be treated. Since Medical City was the closest to where I live, in Antipolo ibaba, near Sta Lucia mall, my wife decided to bring me there for consultation. The emergency room doctor recommended confinement to rule out Steven-Johnson syndrome (sounds like Murphy's Out-of-Luck Syndrome). Dr. Kasala, endrocrinologist-diabetologist, and wife Dra. Kasala, allergologist (I did not even know that such specializations existed, foot-diabetologist?) eventually ruled out Steven-Johnson syndrome. I was given intramuscular injections of steriods until both left and right arms would not accept any more injections. I was given insulin to counter the increase in blood glucose that is a by product of steriod therapy. I was given isotonic intravenous drip where a host of other medicines were injected. My hospital confinement was the most unpleasurable four days of my entire life, and add to that the fact that the hospitalization cost me PHP37,000.00, after senior citizen discount. I had to pay this amount from my personal funds, since Ateneo took away my HMO card when I retired in 2006. Why is the Philippine HMO system and Ateneo so unfair that you are not entitled to HMO benefits when you need it most?

Why do Filipino doctors today prescribe the most expensive medicines, in a country (the Philippines) which sells the most expensive medicines in all of Asia? Do Filipino doctors and pharmaceutical companies have a conspiracy to kill patients by prescribing medicines that patients can not afford to buy? Dr. Tongson prescribed Flucloxacillin and Cefuroxime, probably the most expensive antibiotics in Manila. Dr. Kasala prescribed Actos 15mg, an antibiabetic pill that sells for about PHP188.00 each pill (the cost is so much it can kill you).

Now I believe in Murphy's Law, and it applies when you least expect it.