I went to the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) last Saturday with a few of my coursemates as volunteers of Kythe, a non-profit corporation that provides psychosocial support to pediatric patients and their families.
As we drove into EAMC I was dismayed to see that the hospital was in horrible condition — the outer walls were peeling, at some places even bricked up. It looked like every other government-funded place here in the Philippines. It was depressing, and the interior was just as bad.
After a quick briefing of dos and don’ts, we split into pairs or threes and given specific rooms to visit. We picked out our toys (I was armed with clay, a coloring book and crayons) and trooped on up. In the room I was assigned to was Kimberly, age 6, and Rheinzelle, age 1.
Rheinzelle’s head was huge — it was shaped like a heart, and at the center her skull was caved in. Her mother had to support her head the whole time. Kimberly was standing by the bed, her two legs as thin as sticks and wrapped in bandages. Her mother explained to us that there was a fire accident and her legs were badly burnt. They brought her to a different hospital and the doctors bandaged her left leg bent, so when it healed, the flesh was stuck together. Then they brought her to EAMC to have her leg cut so that she could finally stand and walk straight.
Kimberly is one of the bravest people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. Throughout the whole session she remained standing, stubbornly refusing any aid and generally getting by on her own steam. She was all smiles, frequently laughing and making jokes. She clapped her hands in delight when I handed her something as simple as clay shaped into a dog, and burst into peals of laughter when someone mentioned that she looked like a character from her favorite television show.
When the doctors came to check up on Rheinzelle, the baby started wailing uncontrollably. Kimberly explained to us (in a matter-of-fact voice) that Rheinzelle disliked doctors and wouldn’t stop crying until they left the room. One of the girls with me asked why and she replied, “Eh buong buhay niya, puro injections and surgery nalang ginagawa sa kanya, kaya tuloy, takot na siya. (‘All her life, she’s been given injections and surgeries so now, she’s scared’)” And when I playfully mentioned that she didn’t look scared she answered, “Sanay na ‘ko eh, ok lang ‘yan!(‘I’m already used to it so it’s okay’)”
Kimberly was amazing. When the time came for us to put away the toys, she straightened away from the bed she was leaning on and limped over to the tower that we built earlier on. We tried to help her, but she asked us to let her do it by herself. We had no choice but to stand aside and watch as she limped from disassembling the tower to the toy box.
The place might have been depressing, but seeing children like Kimberly lightens my spirit. Her courage and optimism is beautiful and reminds me that not everything is hopeless.