Another therapy schedule for my (functional) scoliosis, lumbarization, and sacralization (translation: back problems) gave me a greater appreciation of the kind of work physical therapists do. I marveled at the patience of Terry Fetalvero, an intern at the University of Baguio PT unit as he methodically did the therapeutic ultrasound on me, massaged the nodules (muscle spasms) in the region between my shoulder blades, assisted me in my neck stretching and hamstring exercises, applied hotpack and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) treatments from my nape to the small of my back, and had me go through a 15-minute spinal traction.
During most of each 2-2 ½ hour therapy session I'd snore off to sleep, thanks to the lagaflex prescribed by a good friend Dr. Nick Suero (those in Baguio with bone-related problems who wish to engage the services of this respected orthopedic doctor may see him at Notre Dame or Benguet Lab-SM). Each session gives me much relief and makes me want to lie in bed the rest of the day and the days thereafter. But there are classes to teach, books to read, articles to write, kids to care for... -- "miles to go before I sleep...miles to go before I sleep."
Occasionally, Terry and I get to talk about his profession. He once said that at times it gets really "toxic" (a term in PT lingo which I understood to mean being physically taxing primarily due to the overwhelming number of patients to treat in a day). One thing good about him and his colleagues in the rehabilitation room, though, is that they never forget their sense of humor. As I sometimes laugh with these PTs, I'd wonder how the thousands of Filipino caregivers in the US, Canada, UK and other countries have been coping with homesickness, back-breaking work and whatever stressors there are that come with their jobs. I'd wonder how many mouths are depending on their hard-earned pounds, euros or dollars. I'd wonder how many of them ended up weeping as they fell prey to street crime, illegal recruitment, and physical and verbal abuse by their bosses or peers. I'd wonder how many success stories have been formed, and how many dreams have been shattered...
Many in the country take PT, Nursing and other related courses hoping to find greener pastures (where the water bill is higher too, as Frank Mihalic once wryly noted) mostly in western countries. Many a columnist or policy maker in the country has harped on this brain drain phenomenon and some of them have been critical of doctors who would go to the extent of studying nursing to qualify them for work as caregivers abroad. But come to think of it, it's easy dismissing the pains of people whose tsinelas (flip-flops) you have never worn because you've always strutted along well-paved streets in your classy shoes; it's easy casting stones at people when you haven't really experienced their having to nearly eat stones as they start scraping the bottom of the barrel.
With the rising prices of rice and other commodities as well as the low salaries even for the most dedicated form of work performance, many of us can't help setting our sights on working in any of the 1st world countries where, though you may be compelled to wipe asses and clean toilet bowls to survive, you get better chances of earning more money and helping your family and friends back home. Call that pathetic, but for a PT here who gets a pittance for a toxic day that would be practicality. Call this unpatriotic, but for the feisty OFW it may be the ultimate sacrifice.
I don't have the time, money or interest for schooling in any of the medical and allied courses, but perhaps one of these days, even with an achy breaky back, I'll find myself once again being swept by the river of necessity into the ocean of diaspora where 8-10 million Filipinos are either frolicking or are struggling to keep themselves afloat.
And most likely, skilled and smart people like Terry will be there -- PTs who won't have to content themselves with a pittance from our government or from some private company, nor suffer being regarded with pity by friends abroad.
More power to the PTs!!!