I hope the readers of this blog would indulge me as I try to narrate my experience in a recent trip to the U.S. to attend a technology conference that I had always wanted to cover as an IT reporter.
It's exactly a month now since I left Manila to cover Oracle Open World (OOW) 2010 in San Francisco. Although the event has been running for many years now, it was my first time covering it.
Making it doubly significant was the fact that the OOW was being held together for the first time with JavaOne, a developer conference which I had attended in the past when it was still organized by Sun Microsystems.
This year's Oracle event was also eagerly awaited by many people who wanted to see the initial outing of Mark Hurd as an Oracle executive after his controversial departure from partner-turned-rival Hewlett-Packard.
As a writer from the Philippines, I was also interested in finding out what would happen to Sun Microsystems Philippines, which remains in limbo long after Oracle had acquired Sun.
As I have written previously in this blog, the fate of Sun Microsystems Philippines remains uncertain because, unlike most Sun subsidiaries, the company is a joint venture between BT and Sun Microsystems USA, with BT holding the majority share. Up to this day, it's not yet clear if the company is operating as an Oracle subsidiary or as a BT-owned firm.
Also, I wanted to know Oracle's long-term plans in the country, particularly the various programs initiated by Sun Microsystems Philippines and the management team it has put together or is trying to form for both Oracle Philippines and Sun Microsystems Philippines.
All those anticipations and questions I had in mind came to naught, however, when a medical emergency aborted my U.S. coverage. I did reach San Francisco after a long flight, but on the same day that Oracle head honcho Larry Ellison was scheduled to deliver his keynote to start the conference, I felt a writhing pain in my stomach.
I called Yin Yin Boey, the regional PR executive of Oracle, to inform her that I won't be able to hear Ellison's speech. She inquired if there's anything she can do, but I told her I've already taken some medicines.
However, as the hours passed, the pain became more unbearable. I then contacted my college friend Mimi Canceran-Tupaz, who was living in Bay Point, an hour's drive from San Francisco. She, along with husband Rozel and daughter Tatiana, rushed to my hotel room at around 5p.m. on Sep. 19.
As I thought the pain was merely a result of stress and jetlag, I asked Mimi to buy some medicines for hyperacidity. Because my father died from ulcer, I assumed that I might had acquired the same condition as well.
But even as I took in the medication, Mimi noticed that I was still struggling with pain the entire night. As dawn arrived, just before she and her family left the hotel to report for work, she advised me to heed Yin's suggestion the night before and check myself into a hospital.
On the morning of Sep. 20, I agreed to Yin's urging to go to a nearby clinic. There, the doctor was able to determine that I was suffering from appendicitis. As the clinic was in close proximity to Moscone Center where the Oracle convention was held, I overhead the doctor tell Yin that similar incidents had occurred in previous years.
"This is not the first that this has happened. I think an Indian media guy had the same ailment last year," the doctor said. That statement somehow assuaged the guilt I felt on my inability to cover the event.
We were told to proceed to St. Mary's Medical Center in Stanyan St. in San Francisco for me to undergo further tests. Because I had no insurance, I consulted an aunt who is a doctor based in Los Angeles. To my relief, she said since I am a tourist and my condition was an emergency case, the hospital would treat me even if I had no insurance.
Sure enough, the medical staff at St. Mary's didn't ask anything when I showed up at the emergency room in terrible pain. The doctors and nurses, a lot of them Filipinos, were very nice and were cheering me up.
After undergoing several laboratory tests including a CAT scan, I was operated on that same day by Dr. Michelle Li through laparoscopic procedure. A few hours later, I woke up to see my pesky appendix already removed. I was then brought to a hi-tech patient room where I stayed for a couple of days.
On the day of my discharge, Rozel, husband of my friend Mimi, picked me up at the hospital after gathering my stuff from the hotel the day before. I recuperated at their house in Bay Point for the next 10 days while waiting for my flight back home.
Although I regretted not being able to cover the object of my U.S. trip, I'm grateful that I was still able to come out of the whole experience alive. The U.S. healthcare system is truly awesome--well, at least, compared to a poor country like the Philippines. I was fortunate that I got first-rate treatment unlike my father, baby brother and maternal grandparents who all died prematurely because of the inability of our healthcare system to treat simple emergency cases.
Just before I wrap up my story, allow me to thank the great staff at St. Mary's Medical Center. I'd like to specifically mention my fellow Pinoys--nurse Ruth (I forgot her last name), nurse aide Erlinda Zabala, and patient financial advisor Rodolfo Soriano. My gratitude also to my high school classmate Maureen Aquino-Mise, a nurse based in Pomona, California who regularly checked on me and, of course, my friends Mimi and Rozel.