New Traditions

by Paolo Nico A. Rogelio, MD

Holidays are a time for family. As the case probably is in yours, it’d been a tradition in our family to come together on the eve of Christmas to have dinner and welcome Christmas day at home with food, dancing and merriment. Christmas eve in our family is an event - busting out our best outfits, playing the biggest music hits, and sharing the best memories of the year. In 2010, however, that unblemished tradition was disrupted.

My sister - then a medical intern - had not been successful in negotiating her way out of being on duty for the Christmas eve. Now it might sound inconsequential to some, but in a small family of 5 members, the absence of 1 member felt like a gaping hole. After a brief phase of denial and bargaining amongst members of the family. We came to terms with the reality that for the first time in 20 years, we’d be ushering in Christmas day one good Judy short. Out of this circumstance, however, a new tradition arose.

On that day, my mom, brother and I spent the morning preparing a Christmas care package. We made tuna lasagna, baked chicken parmigiana, and honey lemon iced tea from scratch to send to our sister that evening. Realising that this would probably not be enough to tide her over our first Christmas alone, we prepared food for the entire duty team - a feast good for 20. I hadn’t had a Christmas so memorable in so long. We drove to the hospital, food in tow, and met her at the lobby of the ER. She greeted us with the biggest of sighs. It had been a hectic day, she said. We were quick to present her with the basket of good eats for the duty team. This boosted her spirits.

For a while, her exhaustion was extinguished. We all drank a few gulps of iced tea. She told us about how busy the day had been. My brother and I teased her a bit about her unkept look. We laughed. We took a photo and my sister was quickly called back to attend to a patient. All-in-all, the entire celebration lasted no more than 15 minutes. Before leaving, my dad gave my sister a kiss on the forehead saying, “That’s a doktora’s life, anak”

He was right. For the next 6 years, this would be our life. Holiday attendance diminished, weekend get-togethers cut short, all because of our call of duty as physicians. As medical practitioners, we are often robbed of weekends, holidays, and special occasions in our call of duty. While at first this might seem like an unfortunate situation, my experience has showed that these are opportunities when we can extend our love in greater concentrations - where an entire day of celebration is bundled up into 15-minute get-togethers. These are opportunities to create new traditions.

About The Author

an Ophthalmology resident at the Philippine General Hospital