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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Filipino Heart

By: Keith Andrew Chan, MD

The national elections are fast approaching, and a quick glance at my newsfeed tells me that the in this age of freely available, albeit sometimes dubious information, the average netizen has been transformed from being a personality buried in the masses subject to the receiving end of engineered political propaganda into a well informed, grounded and highly vocal individual not afraid to seek out and defend the truth. Knowledge, therefore, is power – and in the words of Spidey’s late uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility”.
As a doctor, I’ve seen my share of both triumphs and failures in the country’s national health system.  Now, without wanting to sound like a political ad, I’d just like to point out that, yes, our country’s health care has benefitted from several extremely well placed and promulgated policies: the expanded program on immunization (EPI) established in 1976 has curbed numerous childhood illnesses and diseases and continues to do so with ever increasing coverage from urbanized areas to rural health centers,  vitamin supplementation to basic foodstuff and commodities have likewise decreased numerous micronutrient deficiencies in the country, neonatal care in the form of “Unang Yakap” has also significantly lowered childhood mortality and aims to place us in line with the World Health Organization’s standards for proper maternal and child care. All of these and so much more triumphs have – at the heart of each initiative and strategy – one common denominator. That is the grace, strength and resilience that is the Filipino Heart.
What is the Filipino Heart? What keeps us going? What makes us pursue the virtues of charity, unity and nationalism in the face of overwhelming adversity? After spending close to 10 years in the pursuit of knowledge in the field of medicine, one can’t help but notice that we have an innate want and genuine desire to help not just our countrymen, but the desire to help our fellow man. But unfortunately, even a genuine desire to help – in the face of ignorance or the lack of knowledge – equates to nothing more than a bag of good intentions. The Filipino Heart, therefore, needs to be coupled with the spirit to lead, learn and empower.
For the uninitiated, Avelino “Samboy” Lim Jr. was a highly prolific PBA superstar and the recipient of numerous athletic accolades, consistently being chosen to represent in the country in numerous sporting events held globally in the 1980s. One fateful day in November of 2014 – he collapsed after an exhibition game and went into cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, no one present was equipped with the knowledge on the basics of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and, despite being rushed to the hospital in under 25 minutes, Samboy still remains in a semi-comatose state until today. Doctors and health experts all agree that, had CPR been initiated early, the devastating effects of Samboy’s current state may have been minimized or circumvented altogether. Readers, lawmakers, citizens – it is about time that we empower the Filipino Heart.
In an effort to empower and impart us with knowledge, a new law has been proposed to members of congress in the form of House Bill No. 5891 known as “The CPR Training in Schools Act” or “The Samboy Lim Act” in memory of the PBA superstar. This law will mandate the training of students in both private and public schools in an effort to equip them with skills and knowledge necessary to perform life saving CPR. The Philippine heart association’s statements further add to the utility of this bill – stating that properly performed by-stander CPR has been linked to a greater likelihood for survival and better patient outcome. Passing this law will enable us to empower the Filipino people in their genuine desire to care for their fellow man. But with such knowledge comes great responsibility. Although I hardly believe that such implementation will be carried out smoothly and without hitches – I can only hope that such a great initiative will go down in history as one of this nation’s triumphs in the health care sector.  Maybe. Just maybe. That fateful day in November will be nothing more than a distant memory that sparked desire to empower the Filipino Heart.

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