PART of Filipino culture revolves around close family ties, with family reunions and gatherings being a common practice, especially during special occasions like Christmas and New Year's Eve.
However, some family members, due to various reasons, cannot attend these gatherings, and among them are healthcare workers.
Dr. Mark Paderanga, a trainee in trauma and critical care at the Southern Philippines Medical Center, shared his unforgettable experience of spending Christmas Eve on duty during his fourth year of medical school.
"I was a medical clerk then, a 4th year medical student. It was my OB-GYNE rotation then on a Tertiary Government Hospital in Northern Mindanao. Hindi ko namalayan ang (I didn't notice the) time actually that Christmas eve na pala because of the busy time delivering babies. Na realized ko na Christmas na because my mother visited me sa hospital and dinalhan niya ako ng dinner and greeted me "Merry Christmas!". Naiyak ako nun, sa pagod, lungkot and happiness na nakita ko mama ko. A very poignant moment. Hindi ko talaga makalimutan yung day na yun (I cried at that moment, overwhelmed by fatigue, sadness, and happiness upon seeing my mother. It was a very poignant moment, a day I really can't forget)," he said.
While Paderanga had mentally prepared for such moments when he chose to become a doctor, he acknowledged the sadness of missing important milestones and significant dates like Christmas Eve with loved ones.
In contrast, Dr. Kent Antolin, chief resident of the Emergency Department of the SPMC, admitted that he had underestimated the challenges and obstacles in the medical field when deciding to become a doctor.
"Even though I was naturally drawn to health care and desire to assist others, it took some time for me to fully comprehend the enormous responsibility that comes with becoming a doctor, even after my experiences in nursing, medical school, and through interacting with other medical professionals," Antolin said.
He highlighted missing several vital family events and personal milestones, such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and parents' birthdays. Despite the difficulty in prioritizing professional duties over personal celebrations, his family adapted by finding significance in smaller, private festivities.
Both doctors underscored their passion for helping others and providing excellent patient care as the driving force behind their pursuit of a medical career, despite the sacrifices and celebrations they might miss.
"When duty calls on holidays, my attention naturally turns from the celebration of the day to making sure my patients get the best treatment and quality of care. Even in the middle of the holiday rush, my ultimate priorities will always be providing great care, earning back the confidence that has been placed in me, and making every patient feel supported and cherished," Paderanga said.
For aspiring individuals entering the medical field, both doctors stressed that sacrificing special occasions like Christmas with family is part of the commitment they make after passing the Physician Licensure Exam.
"That is one of the OATHs we promised after passing the Physician Licensure Exam. But it is a BLESSING when you are in the position of giving service rather than receiving a service," Paderanga said.
Antolin highlighted the importance of technology in bridging communication gaps during special occasions, allowing virtual connections to spread holiday cheer.
"Even if we may not be there in person to celebrate, technology allows us to connect with one other virtually and spread the cheer and the excitement of the Holidays," he said. CEA