Five more patients, all of which were children below fifteen years old, successfully received the heart operation they needed in this year’s Project OPERA held last February 9 at the Philippine General Hospital.

Project OPERA is a project of the Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity spearheaded by Dr. Jose Jonas Diño Del Rosario, Φ1986, that involves giving select patients with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA; a congenital heart defect consisting of a communication between the thoracic aorta and pulmonary artery) a free operation to remedy the defect. Patients are selected based on referrals by fellow doctors, and are from provinces all over the country.

Brothers of the Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity cooperated with Dr. Jonas in order to provide care for the patients before, during, and after the operation. Not only were they able to assist in ensuring that the five pediatric patients received their operation and, along with their family members, be rest assured that procedure will turn out alright, the brothers of Phi Kappa Mu also enjoyed a learning experience.

Gabriel Paulo (GP) Orosco Φ2017, shared his first-time experience in the operating room: “Nervous yet excited, this is what I felt the first time that I volunteered to assist in Project OPERA. I have never set foot in a PGH Operating Room or Cath Lab before, so this was an all new experience. When I arrived at the Cath Lab, brod Jonas del Rosario welcomed me and oriented me with the different parts of the Cath Lab, the machines and computer programs.” He also had a first-hand experience with a patient. “During that time, a catheter was already inserted into the patient however the intervention was not complete yet. So brod Jonas made me listen to the heart sound of the patient with PDA before the stent was to be placed. The patient has a continuous systolic heart murmur. Then brod Jonas referred me to the fellow in-charge of performing the operation which at that time was preparing the stent to be placed into the patient's PDA. It was also at that point where I learned that the instrument itself for the catheter procedure costs around 65,000 pesos excluding the operating room, the doctor's fee etc. So I was very amazed of the generosity of one of our brods who made donation enough for the operation of five lucky patients.”

Being a witness to the procedure itself, GP shared his learning experience. “After the stent was tested, it was ready to be placed. When placing the stent, it was guided by a wire and visualized using fluoroscopy which is a kind of radiation. In fact, we were required to wear lead aprons due to the high amount of radiation we were exposed to. After the stent was placed, the wires were withdrawn and the patient was sent into the recovery room.”

After the activity, brods who had a one-on-one interaction with the patients or their families, also shared their thoughts. These brods learned of their experience with PDA or with having a child afflicted with the defect and how Project Opera would be an impact to their lives.

Carl was one of the patients of the project. Being that Carl was only a year old, Safrollah (Saf) Guinal Φ2017, heard the story from Carl’s parents. According to Saf, the operation provided by the project was indeed an experience. In his reflection he says: “Surgical operations have always been dreaded by patients and family members alike, and for Carl’s family, it was especially draining, both physically and emotionally. Carl is a cheerful and playful child just like how a 1-year-old baby would be. He eats a lot and is regularly breastfed. However, he tires easily, has a weak immune system, and is underweight for his age.  According to Carl’s mother, just 3 months after birth, Carl was suffering from frequent colds. He was then brought to MCU for a check-up. Routine examinations and diagnostic tests confirmed that baby Carl has a patent ductus arteriosus. For the follow-up checkup, Carl’s mother had to go home to Albay for personal health reasons. Then, during their stay in Albay, Carl caught pneumonia and was rushed to the hospital. During this time, she found a Facebook page, called Heart Warriors Philippines, whose aim was to help children with Congenital Heart Disease. According to her, the administrator of the page referred her to Dr. Jonas del Rosario. This was the how Carl got into Project OPERA, and was successfully operated on February 09, 2017.”  

Meanwhile, Armando (Ram) Chiong III Φ2017, had his interview with the parents of an even younger patient. “At the Pediatric ward, 12 month old E.S had been waiting for her operation the next day. Accompanying her, as she soundly sleeps, is her father, a 31 year old carpenter, and her mother a 29 year old housewife. Unlike many other babies her age, she faces what some would describe an uphill battle. When she was born, her parents had already noticed something amiss with her being easily tiring in feeding. Aside from a congenital heart condition , she is also diagnosed with down syndrome as well as mild hypothyroidism. Yet despite this, she is blessed by her parents who ,despite understandably having worries about her, have shown full support for her future. Aside from consulting doctors and securing her medicine as well as planning future treatment in the midst of financial concerns, her parents already have high hopes for her and are currently doing what they can to bring to her what so many strive to find, happiness, even at such an early part of her life. Thus, as tomorrow dawns, her parents keeps their hopes strong for their little angel.”

On the other hand, the eldest of the patients was interviewed by Jeune Keith Mabanag Φ2017. “KS is a 13 year old female patient who was diagnosed with a patent ductus arteriosus since she was only 6 years old. Despite knowing this and upon the advice of a doctor, who would be doing an open heart surgery to correct the disease, her parents still did not proceed with the operation since they assumed that it will close through time and due to financial constraints. She is now currently on the waiting list for the children who will undergo minimally invasive surgery to correct her heart defect. She was able to participate in the surgery because, as reported by her dad, they were contacted by a doctor telling them about the program. They were only asked to prepare P10,000 and the rest will be shouldered by the program. KS is a very energetic girl and is looking forward in her heart surgery.”

Christopher (Chris) Estrada Φ2017, described vividly his experience with the next patient. “Outside the Admissions Office of PGH sat a meek little four-year-old, wedged between her mother and father, preoccupied with her phone app. Upon greeting her, I had noticed she was startled, and immediately hid behind the familiar comfort of her mother’s arm. Quickly, I introduced myself to her mother, and quickly reassured both she and the child that I would interview them regarding the patient’s condition, history and personal thoughts. The mother agreed as did the child, albeit reluctantly. I took them aside, to the more quiet part of corridor, and began my interview. The patient’s name will be kept in anonymity, and given the placeholder Nene.” Chris then shared what he learned about the patient’s condition. “Nene was a four-year-old child living in Rizal. She was diagnosed with Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), a disease wherein the Ductus Arteriosus, an opening found only in fetuses that connects the aorta and pulmonary artery does not close even after birth. Her disease was first detected when she was having her monthly check-up at a health center. The doctor had noticed a murmur in Nene’s heartbeat, and recommended the parents bring her to a hospital. Due to a lack of funds, the parents of Nene had nowhere to go. Recently though, a neighbor of theirs had recommended that they bring Nene to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center to have her checked by the renowned Cardiologist Dr. Jonas del Rosario. Dr. del Rosario had concluded the presence of PDA. They were then referred to the Project OPERA program, a program that offers sponsorship of their operation. The rest, as they say, is history.”

The last patient was a little girl who showed spirit that Jian Kenzo Leal Φ2017, did not expect to see from a patient with PDA. “As I was looking for the patient I was assigned to interview, I remember noticing this very active, young girl that was standing and moving about in her bed a lot. I remember thinking ‘Wow! This girl couldn't possibly be a patient.’ I thought that, maybe, she was just accompanying a relative that was confined. To my surprise, the girl, named AD for confidentiality, was the patient that I was tasked to interview, and that she was scheduled to have a heart operation the next day.”

Having talked to AD’s family, Jian was able to know more about her and her condition. “Patient AD was a typical 8 year-old girl. In fact, she's so typical, that you wouldn't expect her to have a congenital heart problem if you saw her elsewhere. She was with her mom then - her dad had a meeting and just dropped them off at the hospital. AD had two (2) siblings, one at 10 years and another at 14 years, making her the youngest in the family. The family was from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and were relatively well-off, relative to most of the patients in PGH, seeing as they have their own car. AD was a Grade 2 student, who apparently was at the top of her class academically, and was also taking Taekwando lessons on the side. At this point, you could imagine the disbelief I had knowing that AD had a congenital heart defect, which normally should have caused limitations in the amount of physical activity that AD could do.”

Jian continued to elaborate on AD’s condition and how it was diagnosed. “According to her mom, it was the result of a check-up due to UTI or urinary tract infection, a completely unrelated condition. The doctor had heard a murmur, which led him to suspect a possible heart problem. With this, the doctor then recommended a 2D-echocardiogram and an ECG to be performed, which confirmed his suspicions - AD had PDA, or patent ductus arteriosus, which was still small so as to not have adverse manifestations. Nevertheless, the doctor recommended that the PDA be corrected, so as to prevent it from worsening in the future. This led them to a cardiologist, which was the one who suggested Project OPERA to them.” He then proceeded to explain what Project OPERA meant to AD and her family. “Upon asking the mom as to how she felt, she mentioned that she felt very lucky and was extremely thankful to the project. Finally, I asked about the operation. The mother said that, expectedly, she felt scared at first; but, upon seeing another patient who was successfully operated on by Brod Jose Jonas Diño Del Rosario Φ1986, the same pediatric cardiologist that would be operating on AD, her nerves were calmed. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit AD and her mom during the operation the following day; but, with the expertise of Brod Jonas, I was sure that they had nothing worry about.”    

Project OPERA indeed was an experience to tell for both the patients and the brothers of the fraternity. Not only had it been an opportunity for healing, it had also been an avenue for learning. On his final statement, GP expresses his fulfillment after the success of the operation. “Even for just a brief moment of time, I was able to experience what it feels to be in an OR or Cath Lab, how they worked inside and most especially, how they were able to treat the patient with their skills and talents in interventional pediatric cardiology. I learned a lot from this first time experience and I am looking forward to more high-yield learning and experiences from Phi Kappa Mu service projects.”

 

Established in August 1933 by the UP College of Medicine's best medical students, the PHI KAPPA MU (Fraternity of the College of Medicine) continues to uphold its tested tradition of Excellence, Leadership, Service and Brotherhood in the College, University and in our country.

Through the Fraternity's ideals and pillars, her Loyal Sons continue to lead, innovate and excel in the practice of medicine worldwide and in preserving the honor and integrity of the medical profession.

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