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The Man in White Garb

By Gregorio O. Pelaez III

The author is a nurse from Cagayan de Oro City and hopes to be in Ireland in October to practice his profession.

The author

After graduating from high school I had nothing in mind but my ambition to become a lawyer and I was ecstatic about it. It was a grand plan that I laid down for my future, and I was convinced that going through four years to get a bachelor’s degree and another four for law school is never a pick-and-shovel undertaking. I was young, full of vigor, and was up for the challenge. With my parent’s backing, I was certain of the steps to take ahead to become a lawyer. But, the inevitable adverse event unfolded on May 11, 2003 when my father died of Hemorrhagic Stroke just a month before the school year opened. Consequently, my dream of going to law school remained just a dream and the financial constraints and hard choices that followed were the biggest impediments I had to endure throughout my college years.

After my father’s demise my mother became the breadwinner who is a very practical woman in every sense. When she decided that I should take up nursing to get a good paying job abroad, my world suddenly turned upside down, and the reiteration had a wearying effect that had caused me to lose appetite for anything. Apart from my father’s death, it was one of the saddest moments of my life. Honestly, I found nothing lofty or meritorious in wearing the Nurse’s white uniform and I was quite sure I would never be garbed in one. My impression was that nurses only do dirty jobs, hence, facing the fact that I’d be bound to this kind of job for the rest of my life only worsened my already dampened spirit. Being a nurse was never on the list of my possible principal calling in life but our situation left me with no choice.

Amidst the uncertainty, I was fully aware that my family, especially my mother, would be very disdainful if I didn’t get to finish a college degree. I decided to take the bitter pill. I set aside my personal aspirations and became a go-getter to succeed, not for myself but for my family. Only when I entered the gates of the University that I realized I had lost my volitional power to choose my own career path and had to put my grand plan in total oblivion.

Somehow in my second year in Nursing I was able to adjust quite remarkably in the career path chosen for me. In fact, Nursing had aroused my competitive interest. The arduous training had indeed prepared me for the volatile and grueling situations in life and work ahead. After I became a full-fledged Nurse I got accepted into one of the hospitals in the city where I live. Then, the life-changing events began.

Gregorio (front row, leftmost) with colleagues in Maria Reyna Xavier University Hospital, July 2009

Seven months in the Medical-Surgical ward was no picnic. Day in, day out I did the treadmill of endorsing patients, apportioning doses of medications, feeding patients through gastric tubes, etcetera. Oftentimes, the overlapping tasks ate up my time for meal breaks. Nonetheless, I was lucky enough I didn’t develop ulcers in my gut. But, the demands of the work and the volume of admissions per day were overwhelming and exhausting. It is no exaggeration to say that countless times bladder break was almost not an option for nurses in a bustling hospital environment which I bet my colleagues would nod in agreement. Notwithstanding the back breaking tasks and the potential implications on my health, I still stuck to my mantra, “play hard and win the day”. At the day’s end, I just patted my back and thought, “God must have a greater purpose why He puts me here”. This thought alone consoled me.

Then the most unforgettable event in my entire Nursing career took place on Christmas Eve in 2010 which has completely changed the way I view life, death, and my profession. Christmas is a time of gladness and cheer but not for the family of a 5-year old child, who was diagnosed with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. On the 5th day of confinement she was in the stage of the disease in which an abrupt change, either for better or for worse, may be expected. With all the life saving devices attached to her helpless body and the various medications to sustain her and keep her vital signs up, one could not think of anything that could save her but miracle alone.

To lay eyes on a suffering child is emotionally overpowering. For the entire week that she was under my care, the emotional distress had taken its toll on me. Indeed, empathy is being able to understand and share the feelings of others in whatever situation they may be in, good or bad. Towards the end of the week of the child’s confinement, the situation was precarious, but the family, particularly the parents were laudable for their courage and auspicious disposition throughout the ordeal. I’ve seen people who were dauntless beyond measure, but there is none that I can equate to the undying faith, courage, and loftiness of spirit of parents for their children, especially in times of suffering. These parents were one of them. When the child died on Christmas Eve 2010, I was at her deathbed bludgeoned with grief. But amidst the loss I saw life sprouting out from the family as members came together reconciled and healed. Their faith in the Lord sustained them throughout the ordeal.

Gregorio (middle) with friends at an HIV Awareness Campaign, Cagayan de Oro, March 2015

Today, I am more than thankful to God that I had partaken in the suffering of others. Through them, Nursing, which once I considered inconsequential has become a symbol of the true essence and value of the noblest professions in the world. It is a profession that does more than dirty jobs; a profession that partakes in the sorrow and bliss of others; and a profession that does not only tend to the physical maladies but serves as an instrument of God to touch people, share love, help others and give hope. What I expected to be just another work experience became an eye opener and the seedbed of the greatest lessons I learned in life.

In retrospect, I saw my whole life evolving to outclass my old self and become better in my professional and personal life. I am profoundly grateful to my dear mother for being the instrument who led me to this noble ministry of caring for the sick and the dying. Five years have passed and I am still a nurse at heart, always ready to serve as a nurse, and I am proud to be the man in white garb.