HEALTH: Saving lives of those with dengue

While three journalists from Davao City (ABS-CBN’s Ruben Gonzaga, Department of Agriculture’s Noel Provido, and myself) were receiving awards at the recent Binhi Awards in Makati City, another Dabawenyo (a physician) also got his coveted recognition at the Third Health Exemplar Awards also in Makati.

Dr. Richard T. Mata was named as one of the five recipients of the Health Exemplar Award given by the medical advisory board and editorial staff of Health and Lifestyle Magazine.

Dr. Mata, whose clinic is in Panabo City, was cited for his significant contribution “in raising awareness on dengue and how it can be prevented at the community level.”

Dr. Juan Dela Peña Sanchez Jr. was honored for introducing “innovative means of healthcare delivery, particularly with his Mobile Surgical Unit and soon-to-be-developed Hospital on Wheels.”

Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Nguyen Dorotheo was recognized for his active participation “in various campaigns against smoking here and abroad” while Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan was given the award for harnessing “the power and reach of the internet and social media to enhance awareness on endocrinological problems like diabetes and thyroid disease.”

The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine was commended for its “zealous commitment in serving the marginalized has led to life-changing improvements in the health and wellness of these people.”

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Mata thanked jokingly the mosquitoes, particularly the dengue-carrying species, because of them, he was given an award.

“There are simply too many dengue deaths worldwide that I do believe could have been prevented,” he said seriously.

According to him, dengue could be the most misunderstood disease in this planet today. “In my years of practice, I have discovered a lot of things that are so important about this disease but it’s not yet written in medical textbooks or in any website, thus I made it an advocacy to teach it in the simplest way possible as (Albert) Einstein said, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’”

Most people are terrified of dengue because when the blood platelets decrease, it causes severe bleeding and ultimately death. This thinking, he said, is very wrong.

“That’s a misconception maling akala, ayun nga sa Eraserheads, maraming namamatay sa maling akala,” Dr. Mata pointed out.

In his speech, he cited another disease called ITP, which stands for idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. “It is not dengue but it also has low platelets as less than 5 but I noticed patients are just playing around far from dying.

“So, that proves the point, the low platelet is not the main cause of dengue deaths,” he said. “As such, tawatawa and papaya has no much role because platelets is not the issue. What really kills dengue patients is dehydration.”

Dr. Mata paused for a moment and then explained the whole thing.

“When the mosquito bites you, the dengue virus will enter your blood vessels and it will cause plasma leakage, or what I call as butas ang mga ugat. It’s like you have thousands of pinpoint holes in your blood vessels that causes it to leak with water that will cause dehydration.

“Para kang supot na may tubig na may butas butas. It’s like a secret diarrhea. And that’s why it’s dangerous because you cannot see the fluids that comes out of the vessels unlike in loose bowel movement where it’s obvious. So, it’s easy to estimate the needed amount of hydration in diarrhea than that of dengue. All the worst if you don’t even know its dehydration.”

Dr. Mata said dehydration causes shock: “Dahil naubos na ang tubig, wala ng pressure. Kaya nga tinawag na dengue shock.”

Dehydration also causes intestinal ulcer that causes bleeding. “And because the platelets are low, the bleeding becomes severe. But if there was no dehydration, there will be no ulcer and thus no bleeding – even if the platelets are low just like in ITP. So, it still boils down to dehydration.”

Dehydration also causes kidney failure, which result from the decrease in urine output. “This causes the water to be retained in the lungs thereby creating congestion that can kill the patients,” Dr. Mata said.

Many people believe congestion is caused by over hydration. “But the truth is, it is caused by kidney failure due to dehydration,” he said. “That’s ironic, right?”

Dr. Mata suggested that doctors should focus on improving the knowledge and the management on hydration. By doing so, he said, “we will save thousands of patients from those complications of dehydration and even from dying.”

If only the scientists got it right from the start, it should have been called dengue dehydration fever and not dengue hemorrhagic fever. “Imagine how many people we could have saved by proper understanding,” he pointed out.

“So how will you know if you are well hydrated,” he asked. “I leave you with this note: ang ihi ng ihi wagi! Dengue patients must be well-hydrated with Oresol and dextrose. If the patients are well hydrated, they will always urinate. With an almost clear color (of the urine)!

“Those who urinate small with longer intervals and with dark colored urine are in danger of severity. The good news is that the quality of the urine can warn us before the blood pressure drops and thus can be hydrated early and save the patient,” Dr. Mata concluded.

During the awarding, Dr. Mata also brought his whole family to witness the event.

“I thank my wife Erika and my kids Patricia, Amanda and Rich for all the support,” he said, “and to our Lord Jesus Christ for this adventure of opening people’s eyes and saving lives!”

The Third Health Exemplar Awards also bestowed plaques of recognition for the commendable efforts of: the Hepatology Society of the Philippines, which provided “remarkable impetus for research on Hepatitis B and enlightened the public to significantly reduce the unfounded stigma suffered by individuals who are carriers of the Hepatitis B virus” and Dr. Faith Go for her continued support in “serving her hometown and other areas in Misamis Occidental through lay forums and preventive programs on cardiovascular diseases.”

Rosamy “Jing” Castañeda-Velasco, a veteran news personality and celebrity mother, was also recognized for extending “her influence and that of her network (ABS-CBN) to help people in dire need of medical assistance; and through her television program, she helps address various family issues on health and wellness.” – ###