This year’s annual mission to the Philippines was comprised of the largest team ever. Our Philippines missions, especially ones of this magnitude, would never be possible without the months-long preliminary work of our Domestic Team and the weeks-long efforts of our Board of Directors to inform local communities and prepare facilities for our arrival. Ten guest vasectomists and four helpers from six countries shared their skills and knowledge with the needy families of Cebu, Danao, and Tuburan, with the medical students of Southwestern University College of Medicine, and with six vasectomy doctors visiting from Davao, Mindanao.
This year, we enjoyed the variety and convenience of 3 different mission sites all on one island. We stayed at the Mandarin Plaza Hotel in Cebu on all but the 4th night of the mission, when we stayed in Tuburan. We all had cameras (at least phone cameras) and we all took and shared many photos. It was very difficult to select those which capture the essence of such an uplifting mission, but below is a sample.
Day 1: Tuesday February 3: Mission begins at Sacred Heart Hospital in Cebu
Day 2: Wednesday February 4: Press Conference
Southwestern University Medical School, the alma mater of the NSVI Board, is proud to partner with Sacred Heart Hospital as hosts of the important work of NSVI in a country of over 100 million people.
After a second busy day at Sacred Heart Hospital (SHH), Dr. Alex Lemkaking, a Filipino-American urologist from Maryland (kneeling beside Dr. Suarez), treated NSVI to an elegant dinner at a local country club. Alex has been so supportive of NSVI missions over the years that he has become an honorary member of the Team.
Day 3: Thursday February 5: Vasectomies in Danao, BMA Party in Tuburan
The provincial hospital in Danao has been a vasectomy site of the Domestic Team for over a year, but they had not prepared us for what an ideal facility it would be for a team as large as ours. The room was bright, spacious, and filled with narrow procedure tables perfect for vasectomists working in pairs.
One of the best aspects of having a large group of vasectomists from many backgrounds is the opportunity to work together to share ideas and techniques. NSVI missions are learning experiences for all of us. Special praise must be bestowed upon Elizabeth Davis (lower left and second from left), Dr. Sarah Miller’s right hand in the USA, who, along with Felidity, Lucy, and Debbie) NEVER failed to keep us supplied with trays of sterile instruments faster than we could perform vasectomies.
Dining in the Philippines is always a cultural and culinary treat. Danao’s fishport is a delightful place to sample fresh seafood just caught that morning. After lunch, our patients and local staff were delighted to pose a few NSVI team members.
After Danao, our two vans took us to Tuburan where we joined the Bisaya Medical Association for their own end-of-mission party. NSVI is grateful to the BMA for allowing us to partner with them and for handling NSVI temporary medical licenses.
Day 4: Friday February 6: Vasectomies in Tuburan; Zipline Adventure
Our overnight stay in Tuburan was at a seaside resort full of character.
Day 6: Sunday February 8: R & R: Tour of Cebu; Swimming with Whale Sharks
While touring East Asia with his family, Dr. Michel Labrecque, the world’s academic authority on vasectomy and one if its best trainers, joined NSVI for the last 3 days of the mission, a wonderful surprise to all but the NSVI Board members, who kept his secret. During a less busy Monday morning at SHH, word came that Frohnie’s husband Edgar had offered NSVI vasectomy services, through the warden, to inmates of the local prison.
During lunch, we learned that 72 inmates wanted to avail themselves of the free service, as condoms were not allowed during conjugal visits and the pregnancy rates are high among the partners of the inmates.
Through a temporary misunderstanding, the inmates initially expected to be given a stipend for lost income and transportation costs, but that would have been improper since they are unemployed and live at the prison.
… and share techniques and ideas. Here Laurel Spooner, England’s lead vasectomy trainer, observes Jay Sandlow, the most enthusiastic promoter of vasectomy training in American urological residency programs.
Day 4: Tuesday February 10: Final Vasectomy Day at SHH; Farewell Dinner
The visit to the prison was such a new and successful experience for NSVI that Drs. Spooner and Alesna returned to the prison for followup visits. The inmates were very receptive and grateful, there were no regrets or problems, and NSVI was encouraged to return next year.
Jay Sandlow expressed our collective post-mission sentiments best:
As I sit in the airport in Seoul, I am reflecting back on the last 10 days with great fondness. This experience was one of the best of my life on multiple levels. I signed up to try and accomplish something positive doing one of the things that I feel I am good at (only to be shown quite quickly that I wasn’t as good as I thought). However, I think I got more out of this trip than I gave. Meeting all of you was a phenomenal experience. I cannot express what a wonderful time I had. The fact that we were giving something to the people of the Philippines was of course the primary mission, but the friendships that were formed run a close second.”