More than 70 Project HOPE volunteers have provided health care to more than 6,000 people and more than $16 million in medicines and supplies have been delivered since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013. Anita Pazcoguin, RN is a nurse and nurse educator from New Milford, New Jersey. A Filipina American herself, Ms. Pazcoguin spent two months in early 2014 volunteering with Project HOPE in Tapaz, Philippines.
I finally arrived at Roxas City from Manila and 8,860 miles away from home. I felt rejuvenated once I was on my way to Tapaz. We lunched at the “HOPE House” in Tapaz, where I met the rest of the hostess’s family and ancillary help. They were very warm and welcoming; I even got to start sharpening my Tagalog. As a Filipina American volunteer, there were some sighs of relief that I wouldn’t make them twist their tongues trying to speak English, which I found to be pretty funny.
Volunteer Tommy Volk and I went to Iloilo to check on the foam mattresses that Project HOPE had ordered for the Tapaz District Hospital’s stretchers and beds. After a bit of negotiations, we obtained free delivery for the mattresses, since they were being delivered after the promised date. Satisfied with that promise, we went onward to Iloilo City on the other end of the island to buy medical supplies that the hospital and clinic had requested.
Early the following day, we went to the Tapaz District Hospital where I got to tour the facility. I had no expectations and was not surprised at the dilapidated condition of the hospital after the typhoon. What shocked me was seeing a patient sleeping on a bed directly on the metal springs. When I asked about it, I was told that they had to use whatever bed was available when beds were scarce, and that one was one of them. Hence, the mattresses donated by Project HOPE were ordered to replace the missing and really old ones.
As we were touring the hospital, I noticed that indeed we needed those new mattresses. All of the mattresses and metal and wooden beds were in an appalling state of disrepair; rust and peeled off paint were on most of them. And the wooden beds were mostly unfinished and prone to absorbing fluids. I made a mental note then and there that I was going to explore how we could ameliorate that condition. I figured that if we had new mattresses, we should probably match them with better beds. Financially, it was not feasible for the hospital. However, with Ms. Myrna’s ingenuity and Dr. Gloria’s support, Ms. Myrna and I discussed the possibility of repainting the beds.
Tommy left to go home on my fourth day there. Serendipitously, while I was putting my own cash in the safe, I found Tommy’s donation of P3000.00 I took that as an omen, and the next morning I approached Ms. Myrna (Chief Nurse) and asked if she had beds we could do a test run on. One gallon of paint covered 2 stretchers, 1 metal bed and 2 wooden beds. We were all so excited with the transformation of those beds that we couldn’t wait for the paint to dry so we could put them back in their rooms.
The day after paint day, there were beds in the courtyard even before we got there. The excitement of Ms. Myrna and Dr. Gloria upon seeing the previous days’ work had started a momentum.
So far, the early feedback from patients, families, staff and some of the community who had learned about this project has been tremendous gratitude. They said that before, if they could help it, they did not go to the hospital - it was too depressing.
I cannot wait for all of the rooms to get a facelift. We know that the beds are old, but now, they look like someone cared. Ms. Myrna is so grateful to Project Hope. She says that this hospital has been her life, and it feels really good to make the rooms cleaner and “happier” again. Ms. Myrna has a stencil being made that will mark all the mattresses “Donated by Project HOPE.” She also wants it to say “THANK YOU!”
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