Volume XVII NO. 33 (June 7-13, 2014)

I was seated in a clinic receiving room in Quezon City a few days ago   waiting for our turn to meet the doctor, a certain “DOC LEAL” who was supposed to be an expert on non- invasive treatment for body pains.  Then I spotted on the wall of the reception area  a full-spread front page clipping  of last year’s SUN STAR Davao  April 2013 issue. Featured in a full banner story written by  its Editor Stella Estremera was Dr. ISAGANI S. LEAL from Magpet, North Cotabato , now  a musculoskeletal expert with whom we had an appointment for consultations that afternoon. He is supposed to be the only one of his kind in the country today. His photos with  sports stars, even one with businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) and senators and other celebrities  in Manila  were collaged on the wall. Seated in the reception area were mostly “senior citizens” with walking canes and one young lady in wheelchair evidently injured.  I was there with Beth for her recurring neck pains that had been troubling her for years whose medications evidently caused her kidney ailment. Truth to tell, it was Davao Mayor Rody Duterte who mentioned to Beth during the wake of our brother-in-law in Davao City to see a “Dr. Leal” in Manila after both of them exchanged notes about their common recurring neck pains and headaches. But I had no way of contacting him as I failed to get his cell phone number. By some coincidence last week,  former Gov. Manny Pinol picked up the phone during coffee at Starbucks in SM mall in Davao City and linked me up with the DOC LEAL  who was actually a native of Gov. Manny’s province. My wife and I promptly went to Manila to meet this doctor in our continuous search for relief from her recurring neck pains to further nurture her improving kidneys.

NON-CONVENTIONAL — When we entered his small clinic, he immediately told me in Cebuano: “Kaila man ko nimo , sir. “ (I know you , sir) although I barely recognized him.  He used to work as a doctor at the regional health office in Cotabato City when I was handling Mindanao for Malacanang. I would visit his area during calamities like bombings, shooting incidents and outbreak of  epidemics. He recalled seeing me often during the “ war” ( with the MILF)   in Pikit, North Cotabato as he was involved in community – based medical services attending to the evacuees. Even as a medical doctor, he was more fascinated with the “unconventional and the unorthodox”. He dawdled with  herbal medicines, therapy, “ hilot” and other alternative procedures. He even authored a manual on alternative herbal medicines that up to this day is being used by the regional health office. An opportunity came when he was sent on a 3-month training in Israel on a new method called musculoskeletal medicine. After his  3-month scholarship, he decided to stay and personally paid his way to more training and immersion in a pioneering medical field. He “moonlighted” as a part time doctor in TelAviv ( usually pro bono to his “kababayans” ) and even worked as contributor to a medical magazine. His meager earnings as a part- time writer and practitioner were used to finance his frugal life there just to learn some more. He gave free medical assistance to Pinoy OFWs in his spare time. It was while he was in Israel that he lost his wife who was left in Cotabato due to leukemia.( His only daughter  is now 18 years old. ) He trained in Tel Aviv, Israel for 4 years on what can be described by western medicine as an “unorthodox” or alternative way of treating  body pains and ailments.

CLINIC — Upon returning home,  he eventually opened in 2009 a clinic called CENTER  FOR MUSCULOSKELETAL SCIENCE —ASIA,  now known for its innovative and  alternative mode of treatment, located along West  Ave in Quezon City ( tel. 09179404762; www.cms-asia.net). It provides minimally invasive image-guided treatment for back pains, arthritis, shoulder pain, spinal problems and sports injuries using arthroscopic, fluoroscopic and ultrasound- guided interventions and regenerative medicine. ( He treated my recurring knee problem  — due to high uric acid —and in a matter of minutes, it erased the numbing pain just like magic. I swear! ) But that’s going ahead of his boyhood story.

POOR BARRIO BOY —Doc Gani, 48 years old, grew up as a poor boy in Magpet, North Cotabato   where he had to walk about  seven kilometers daily to school. His father was a passenger jeepney driver and his mother a public school teacher. He was featured in that SUN STAR article because his father, a lowly driver was a surprise graduation speaker in a local college  to inspire the graduates about how hard work could give deliverance to poor families like theirs. Chatting with him briefly brought me back to my own memory lane. I immediately had an eerie-feeling of familiarity with him, my own father being a passenger bus driver too  and my mother also a public school teacher and having spent boyhood days in our barrio. He first wanted to become a priest and entered the seminary ( I too almost entered the Brothers of the Sacred Heart juniorate in high school) but he shifted to the medical school by supporting himself , during pre- med days, as waiter and dishwasher at  the “Tropical Hut”, a resto chain. Then to finance his medical course proper, he worked as a roomboy  at a drive-in  motel  called Anito  Hotel in Manila. ( No, I didn’t work in trysting hideaways but in a newsroom.) He was lucky to get scholarships due to his exceptional grades to finish medicine.( I had scholarships for academics and as a band member during pre- law but had to pay for law school tuition even after becoming a lawyer due to outstanding  promissory notes with the Ateneo finance office. ) He told of hard times when unable to have decent meals, he would just have rice with “salt” with some splice of “sarsi” — a cheap cola —  for taste.  (I was lucky my aunt in the city took me in for free board and lodging  and settled in a small corner under the stairs but I had to leisurely walk a kilometer away to Ateneo from the  house.) After becoming a doctor, he worked at Region 12 Health facility in Cotabato. It was from there that he got the chance to get special training in musculoskeletal medicine in Israel . He stayed there for 4 years, training and at the same time attending  to Pinoy  OFWs there giving free medical services.

ISRAELI TECHNOLOGY — He described his instruments and techniques  as “ Israeli technology”, not practiced by traditional western medicine. For example,  after some preliminaries, he put Beth in a “balancing machine” that electronically measured and examined her body  ”balance” . To our surprise, we learned for the first time that her left side was shorter by .25 centimeters compared to her right. Simply,  this means an imbalance that triggers the recurring pains that had been troubling her  for as long as we could remember.  He used a skeletal scale model in explaining  how the pains were triggered if one side was shorter than the other. To correct this, he simply recommended that Beth’s left shoe or footwear  be “padded” with a .25 cms. shoe padding. A cushioned  portable seat with the same padding thicker on her left side every time she would sit down  was also prescribed. Then Beth had to go through a 9 – day therapy session that normally consisted of therapeutic ultrasound, extra corporeal shock waves therapy, acupuncture , physical therapy, traction and muscle relaxant injections in the neck guided by ultrasound imaging shown on the screen. Every daily session lasts for an hour. Now Beth hopefully need not agonize taking painkillers that will further threaten her already precarious kidneys that had bounced back somehow after her fresh  stem cell  treatment in VILLA MEDICA in Germany two years ago. ( As I write this, Beth is on her 6th day therapy session. I will continue to track her treatment and share updates from time to time.)

PAYBACK TIME —A simple man with simple dreams, Doc Gani is now bringing to his hometown in North Cotabato  what he as a young boy always dreamt of: seeing in person PBA basketball players in flesh and blood. No doubt, PBA player-patients whom he treated are just too glad  to visit his hometown barangays in Cotabato  in appreciation for his “magical” treatments that keep highly paid basketballers who are injured or in pain back on the hard-court in a jiffy. Being the resident sports doctor of MVP’s AZKALS TEAM and TALK & TEXT, he makes arrangements to have PBA players visit his native town to do clinics and exhibition games. Boxing Champ Manny Paquiao, I was told,  had consulted him  on some muscle-related concerns.

Still determined to help his fellow Mindanaoans who could not afford to travel  to Manila,  he agreed to meet with patients  at the ALEXIAN WELLNESS CENTER in Matina, Davao City once a month during a  weekend before he motors to his hometown three hours away. He said he is in solidarity with the missionary zeal of the Alexian Brothers who run the Center in Davao. Someone describes his medical fees as “de lastico”, meaning socially elastic to suit each one’s capacity to pay.

Here is a local boy who surmounted poverty and now the only musculoskeletal expert in town doing “payback” time for the less fortunate.  He remains to be a simple down-to-earth “provinciano “with his “unorthodox” methods of healing.

SICK PHILIPPINES — One last “hirit” if I may: We must all still continue to search for that “unorthodox doctor” to treat our country’s AILING BODY POLITIC that is so sick today that conventional ways will definitely no longer work! Are you with me on this? Let us know.
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