Dulce Ruelos trained and worked as a doctor in the Philippines before getting married. One December, a patient with triplets prompted an unforgettable Christmas. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Dulce Ruelos
The year was 1962. In March I graduated from the College of Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic University. I took the medical board exam in May.
While waiting for the results of the board exam to be released, I went back to my hometown that was 500 kilometers from Manila. To make my time useful, I went to our town‘s Rural Health Unit (RHU) to gain more insight and experience in actual medical practice.
The Rural Health Unit is staffed by a physician who is the Municipal Health Officer (MHO), a nurse, a midwife, and a sanitary inspector. They are charged with providing basic medical services to the town and village. I was assigned to assist the MHO as she saw and treated all kinds of patients with different kinds of medical conditions.
I had an uncle who was a resident physician at the provincial hospital located at the provincial capital nine kilometers away. He advised me to leave the RHU and go to the hospital instead. He felt that the hospital would offer a wider range of medical experience compared to the RHU.
I took his advice and joined the hospital as an extern. I performed the duties of the resident physician but under strict supervision. The license to practice comes upon successfully passing the board exams.
During this time there were six of us ladies and six men who were all externs. Upon passing the boards, we would become part of the hospital medical staff as positions became available. Although we graduated from different medical schools, working together made us close friends, helping one another and having fun times together.
One particular Christmas season, we had an expectant mother who was admitted as an inpatient. All of us, including the patient, were surprised when she delivered triplets.
She and her husband were very poor farm workers. It was obvious that they could not afford to provide for the triplets in addition to the five children they already had. The babies were all underweight but had no medical problems.
Government hospitals often were not adequately funded and medical supplies were often lacking. This time all of us externs decided to raise money for the babies.
They all needed diapers, blankets, clothing feeding bottles, milk formula, and other supplies. We made a list of people in town and gave them notice that we would go Christmas caroling at their homes. We raised a large sum of money and had fun doing this.
Eventually the parents decided to give up the babies for adoption. One baby was adopted by the hospital pharmacist who was childless. Other childless couples adopted the other two babies.
At this time there was a man belonging to a tribe in the nearby mountain province. He offered to take one of the babies in exchange for a water buffalo. The father turned down that offer.
This particular Christmas is one I’ll always remember. We had fun caroling and we helped a needy family.