MICHIGAN-based Kapampangan George Samson, a much sought-after personality in humanitarian missions not just in the Philippines, was in town for a short visit. In fact, for just about nine days I was told.

But the top honcho of World Medical Relief Inc. (WMRI) could not just resist not getting into meetings for (medical) outreaches even for what is supposed to be a vacation for himself. At some points during his stay, he chose to sacrifice some time for his family and met with very important people instead. This is how dedicated this man is to the mission of the 64-year old organization to “help God’s sick poor.”

One of those he held meetings was with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel in Pasay City. The meeting was arranged by the senator’s senior adviser Abel Manliclic and another missions-oriented fellow Dr. Irineo “Bong” Alvaro. The latter is relentless too in his medical missions in Magalang and Concepcion towns and at the same time awarding scholarships all over to deserving students under the tutelage of Bridges for Benevolent Initiatives Foundation.

The meeting with Senator Pimentel centered on bringing aid to Mindanao and help rebuild war-torn Marawi City. Samson told the Senate President, who himself is from the underserved region, of the 20 containers he approved as donations. They are being facilitated by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), a revenue-laden government agency. In one of Samson’s homecomings recently, no less than Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo has sought audience with the former.

The containers will be loaded up with various hospital equipment like x-rays, cardiac monitors, operating room tables, surgical tools, beds, scopes as well as assorted medical supplies.

They are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the next few months. One 40-foot long container could carry hospital equipment with value ranging from $300,000 to $500,000. I hope that the Philippine government would immediately grant tax exemption on these donations.

One of the focal points in the almost two-hour meeting is another noble undertaking. This is the official launching of the distribution of rehabilitated heart pacemakers under the “My Heart, Your Heart” program in cooperation with University of Michigan Cardio Vascular Center. Samson personally invited Senator Pimentel to that milestone event in November in time for WMRI’s 64th anniversary.

WMRI is set to distribute to indigent patients all over the world some 63,000 recycled pacemaker units. Mind you, the costs for brand new pacemaker vary from $10,000 to $25,000 each when purchased in the United States (US).

In the Philippines, those devices are more than just a luxury insofar as costs and functionality are concerned. What may be considered as already useless in the US can be turned into life-extending, life changing donations especially for poor countries like Philippines whose citizens’ minimum daily wage does not even reach $10.00.

In that meeting, the good senator from Cagayan De Oro requested donation of medical equipment and supplies for Northern Mindanao Medical Center which Samson immediately approved.

Part of previous WMRI donations to the Philippines are much needed dialysis machines to Ospital Ning Angeles (Ona) under the tutelage of Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan who has set-up a Renal Care Center at Ona.

Those dialysis machines now benefit hundreds not just in Angeles City but also those coming from nearby towns and cities like Mabalacat and Pampanga’s capital San Fernando.

I know how it is to be squeezing precious pesos from personal pockets on dialysis as my late mother died from renal failure in 2004. During those days, there were no government centers that offer subsidized hemodialysis. We coughed out several thousand a month for a thrice-weekly sessions.

Unlike in the US, dialysis – whether hemo or peritoneal – can be shouldered fully by the government. One person in New York City that I know to be benefitting from this health care program for years now is considered an uncle (read: very good friend). His name is Samson Sanchez, uncle of PH Ambassador to Baghdad Elmer Cato, my former editor-boss in Today Newspaper.

In spite of his renal failure and daily peritoneal treatment, Uncle Sam is fast becoming a favorite of nurses and doctors in hospitals he goes to. Why is that so? It is because of his positive outlook in life despite the life threatening illness.

Primarily because the US Government pays for his medical bills. If it were in the Philippines, he could have long suffered severely from the debilitating disease not because of the renal failure alone but because of depression and stress. Who would not suffer that especially in trying to come up with money that would pay hefty expenses on dialysis. I should know that because of our family’s experience when my mother suffered the disease in the early 2000s.

The situation has somewhat changed now, with some government hospitals getting donations of dialysis machines like those being given by WMRI. Somehow the cost has either gone down or subsidized because of these donations.