The Novel Coronavirus put our programs and our surgical outreach mission on hold. But our speech pathologists made sure that our patients still had access to much-needed speech therapy.
Sheryl A. Sibug – Wong, one of our longest-serving volunteers shared how “Teletherapy” allowed them to continue providing therapy sessions to OSP patients especially for those living in areas where speech therapy services are not readily accessible or available.
The program started when they realized that these patients will be going on for a long time without any post-surgery therapy they badly need. After identifying the online platform most patients are familiar with, they started reaching out and providing FREE speech therapy sessions to OSP patients.
The program included Direct Patient Care, Parent and Patient Training, as well as Provision of Home Program. As they moved through the initial struggles that his new approach brings, they are positive that the Teletherapy Program will create a positive impact in the lives of these kids and their families as well.
At a time when Operation Smile activities (missions, speech camps, activities in the cleft centers) are put on hold because of the pandemic, when some of our volunteer doctors, nurses, biomedical technicians are risking their lives in the frontline providing life-saving care to our fellowmen.
Are you wondering what are our volunteer speech-language pathologists doing? Well, while one on one speech therapy sessions are suspended, our volunteer speech-language pathologists continue what they do best, by providing opportunities for better communication by creating and distributing communication boards (Commboards).
What are communication boards? These are picture laden boards with functional words used by individuals who have difficulty talking because of some physical limitations. They have words like “pain”, “yes/no”, “hungry”, “thirsty”, words that can convey direct needs like the ones below;
The commboards have been translated into several languages such as Kapangpangan, Cebuano, Filipino, and Chinese. These are used by patients who have been intubated and are hooked to a ventilator which makes it difficult for them to talk. These boards become their mouthpieces to communicate their needs to the doctors, nurses, and caregivers.
Our speech pathology volunteers together with the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP) AAC special interest group, the Speech-Language Pathologists of Cebu (SOC), volunteers from Davao, Pampanga, and Manila have distributed over 200 kits of communication boards in hospitals in the following hospitals:
Metro Manila (Chinese General Hospital and Sta. Ana Hospital)
Cebu (Cebu Doctors University Hospital, Cebu North General Hospital, Cebu South General Hospital, Mactan Doctors Hospital, Cebu Velez General Hospital, Chong Hua Hospital – Fuente, Chong Hua Hospital-Mandaue, Perpetual Succor Hospital, University of Cebu Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and ARC Hospital)
Davao (Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao Regional Medical Center, Integrated Provincial Hospital office, Maguindanao, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, and the Metro Dave Medical and Research Center) and soon in the province of Pampanga.
As of April 18, 2020, the Cebu group has distributed 115 kits, the Davao speechies have distributed 156 kits, while around 30 kits have been distributed in both Chinese General and Sta. Ana hospitals respectively.
It is not easy to be in quarantine at home to avoid getting COVID-19. But what if you had to go to the one place you know you are at most risk – every single day? That is what RN Summer Evangelista has to go through on a daily basis.
Summer is one of the longest-serving Operation Smile Philippines’ (OSP) nursing volunteers. She has been donating her time and talent since 2003 for the organization. Needless to say, she has touched and changed the lives of countless children who underwent much-needed cleft surgery. She has seen lives transformed tight in front of her countless times.
At the frontlines against COVID-19
At present, Summer is a Unit Supervisor at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. She heads a staff of 16 people right at the heart of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This is no easy task as she has to constantly be on top of her game. Not only does her staff rely on her leadership, but lives are also at stake with every medical decision she makes. Then the COVID-19 virus hit the country and she suddenly had a lot on her shoulders.
Much like most of her fellow OSP volunteers, Summer bravely faces the pandemic head-on. This is part of her sworn duty to practice her profession faithfully. Trying to stay at home is what most of the Filipino people are doing to try and flatten the curve. Summer suits up every day to report for work at the hospital to care for patients in need of urgent care.
It is a tough job
Being a nurse on a normal day is a tough task on its own. They have to face people who are probably having one of the worst days of their lives. When the novel coronavirus landed in the Philippines, their job became a lot more difficult. As much as PPE is needed, it is not easy to be wearing them the whole day. It is not uncommon to have it on for hours at a time. Summer mentions how she has seen her share of days where she is soaking wet from wearing PPE the whole day.
A close call
Risk is one thing she has to come to terms with as part of her job. With that, Summer recalls how a COVID-19 positive patient came through the hospital doors. This forced the whole ICU wing into self-quarantine for two weeks. More than taking care of herself, she made it a point to regularly check on her staff and reassure them that she is there if they need her.
Dealing with the mental stress
Summer shares also that one of the most challenging parts about the whole situation is the mental toll it brings. There are even times where she finds it hard to sleep at night knowing she has to report back for work the next day. It is not easy to push away thoughts about the possibility of getting infected. It has a way of getting to her emotionally, mentally, and physically.
One advantage Summer has is that she believes in the power of prayer. Praying is already a part of her daily habit. She never forgets to ask for protection and thank the Lord also for keeping her safe from the risks that her job entails. Before heading off to work, Summer always pauses for a moment and says a prayer.
Another thing that keeps her mind occupied when at home is baking. It helps keep her mind off of the stress and the fear of getting sick. It also helps her pass time and kill boredom as well. Checking up on her staff on how they are doing also helps fill up her day.
Think of WE
Summer also wants to emphasize the importance of staying at home for other people. She mentions that this is not about keeping one person safe but preventing a whole community from getting infected. Every action made by one person can have an effect on a lot of people. The concept of thinking about “WE” is crucial in helping flatten the curve.
“The realization of how life-changing Operation Smile’s mission can be resonated with my own personal experience and reinforced my belief that no child with a cleft lip and/or palate deserves to feel voiceless.”- Julia de Ocampo
Marcelito “Mars” Pomoy is a Filipino singer known for his ability to sing in both tenor and soprano and switch instantly from one to the other. He was the winner of the second season of “Pilipinas Got Talent.” He also appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” where he wowed the audience and received a standing ovation for his rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Pomoy’s success on PGT led to his being a contestant on the second season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions.
But here are at home, he spends his time helping wherever he can. This time, he helped distribute and hand out PPEs to medical frontliners at the Calauga Municipal Hospital with Operation Smile Philippines.
These are troubling times but Operation Smile Philippines (OS) is up to the task.
The organization continues to have an active part in changing the lives of people who are at the most need. This mission does not change even as the pandemic sweeps through the country. The Novel Coronavirus has changed the way we live from the ground up. It has disrupted society as we know it. But for OSP, it has only strengthened its resolve to continue reaching out and making a difference in the community.
Refocusing medical efforts
As part of a global movement of empowering communities to help those in need, Operation Smile globally has refocused its efforts to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. All while keeping true to its commitment to its pattens worldwide.
In the Philippines, OSP has been actively re-channeling its medical inventory to help different partner hospitals deal with the surge of patients. On top of the list is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As our frontliners and even volunteers take on the virus, they need all the protection they can get.
The same is true for Operation Smile Vietnam and Guatemala. they have already redirected equipment and supplies over to medical frontliners. Global Operation Smile countries are providing gloves, masks, gowns, and even ventilators to areas where they can be of best use.
In the Philippines, one of the biggest and most immediate needs of our healthcare workers are PPE. It is a crucial part of being able to provide care to patients afflicted with COVID-19. Through the help of Operation Smile Canada, OSP was able to provide PPE to our partner hospitals through our medical volunteers.
Some of the hospitals we helped are Sta Ana Hospital, Marikina St Vincent General Hospital, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, San Juan Medical Center, Valenzuela Medical Center, and even Southern Phils Medical Center. We also sent PPE to East Avenue Medical Center, National Kidney Transplant Institute, and Rizal Medical Center.
With the Cebu medical mission put-off, the medical cargo that was sent ahead was also donated to City. This was made possible with our partner foundation, the Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung (MSY) Foundation.
Operation Smile Philippines remains committed to our mission of providing life-changing surgery. As our focus at present is helping in the fight against COVID-19, we also know that there are patients who are waiting to get the chance to have a new smile.
We are letting our patients know that as soon as it is safe to conduct our surgical missions, Operation Smile will resume cleft surgery all over the Philippines.