Albert Dy—In Memoriam
Jean Pierre F. Leung, Edward H. M. Wang, Ivan Concepcion
“ADy is my Daddy”
I cannot tell the whole story of Ady’s life—of his younger days as a medical student or a resident in orthopedics, of his fellowship in arthroplasty with Dr Gustilo in Minnesota, or even as a junior consultant at the Department.
I cannot speak of how he started his family with ma’am Pilar and their 3 wonderful children.
I can only relate my experience and relationship with him since I entered the Department in 1995, and how he became a part of my road to being an orthopedic surgeon.
When I entered the Department in the last 2-3 months of 1994 as a pre-resident, I remember not knowing much about any of the consultants of the Department. ADy was part of the group that interviewed me in my application process, and I was happy to see another Xavierian-UPCM alumni among the ranks in the Department of Orthopedics. I remember assisting ADy during my pre-residency, we did a PVNS of the knee, and remember him handing me the rongeur halfway thru the procedure saying, “Here, have some fun!” I was surprised that he would let a lowly pre-resident touch and do part of the procedure on one of his private patients. But that was ADy.
In my first year, during my elective rotation, he asked for a volunteer to spend 3 weeks in a UP Pahinungod program to Lubang, Occidental Mindoro. Having spent a year prior to residency as a volunteer physician in Mindoro, I gladly volunteered. He spent a week with us there, doing clinics for the locals. I remember a particular case, who presented with a large, lower abdominal/flank soft tissue mass, which looked daunting for a first-year resident like me. I referred the case to him, asking him if we could refer the case to PGH. He looked at me with a laugh and said, “Kaya natin yan!” We did the excision of a huge lipoma under local anesthesia and under 15 minutes, in a shanty in Lubang Island.
He was our unofficial batch adviser as first year residents, even inviting us to his house for a home-cooked supper of his famous baked salmon. In the Trauma service, if you subscribe to the “Good cop-Bad cop” interrogation methods, he was usually the good cop. Easy to call and refer to, and easy to call to the OR to assist with a case. ADy assisted my first IM nailing, my first Partial Hip, and my first Total Hip case. He was a non-threatening presence in the OR, and was our favourite consultant to call for assists.
In my fourth year we were doing a revision hip and I remember cementing the stem in a retroverted position, which led to an unstable dislocating hip. It was perhaps the only time he talked disapprovingly to me—saying “Hai yah! Retroverted yung stem mo, kailangan natin ulitin” which we then proceeded to revise at the same sitting, removing the cement mantle and recementing a properly positioned stem before calling it a night.
Towards the end of my senior year, our batch had gravitated to individual consultant “mentors” as consultants. Tony was loved by Dra Tacata, Tammy by Dr. Caro, Genie by Dr. Recto, and Nick by… someone else I guess, but in our batch “ADy was MY Daddy”. He started asking me to cover some of his outside clinics and I was surprised, at the end of the clinic, his secretary would hand me the PF for the day, saying “sa iyo ko daw ibibigay sabi ni Dr. Dy”. I also assisted him in several cases in Tondo Gen.
I attended an AO Course in Switzerland, December of 1998, and when I arrived was told by my batchmates that ADy had undergone open heart surgery for an emergency bypass. They didn’t tell me earlier, not wanting me to worry. I visited ADy in his home in San Juan and remember tearing up seeing him sitting in a rocking chair with a long midsternal incision fresh down his chest. He was actually the one who was more upbeat then, eager to recover and get back to work.
A year later, in between fellowships, I visited the Department. ADy was there, and said, “Samahan mo ako mag swimming mamaya” “Sir, wala akong dalang trunks”, I said. “Meron akong extra” he said. And so I joined him at the Century Park pool, where his “extra” pair of trunks was not, as I was expecting the usual baggy board shorts, but rather a skimpy pair of speedos. But since “ADy is my Daddy”, I gamely joined in and swam. (No choice)
As Ewang remembered it, “We remember a different time almost 15 years ago, when we heard that Albert had been admitted for MI and had to undergo open heart surgery. A year later, he was one of the healthiest orthopaedic surgeons around—jogging along Ortigas Avenue and swimming his laps in Century Park. Soon he was giving instructions on Tai-chi and lecturing on healthy lifestyles.”
When I returned home to Baguio, ADy was still my go-to referral for joints. He came up and assisted me on a few of my difficult arthroplasty cases, and even refused payment for the cases he assisted. On one of the cases we were doing, a difficult Total hip on a Dysplastic Hip, I asked the scrub nurse for a tag stitch to tag the short external rotators and piriformis, he said “Wala nang tag stitch, tag stitch, consultant ka na. Pang resident lang iyan” Sorry ADy, I still do my THA’s with tag stitches and using the cutting templates like you taught me. We finished the Total Hip in 45 minutes. More importantly, ADy taught me the value of “paying it forward”, looking out for the next generation of orthopedic surgeons and giving them their opportunities to grow. This has been one of my guiding principles in my career as an orthopod
ADy became more than a consultant or teacher, welcoming a lot of us into his family as well. His wife, ma’am Pilar, became our family OB, and delivered all 4 of our children. ADy asked me to be the confirmation-godfather of his youngest daughter, and even after he had passed away, to be one of the godfathers at his son’s wedding.
When we had learned that ADy had CA, I visited him again at his house in San Juan. We had a long talk at his kitchen table, where I again ended up being the emotional crybaby and he was the upbeat one telling me he would fight this and still have many things he planned to do.
“Even with drainage tubes attached to his sides, Dr. Albert Dy continued to work. This Klatskin’s tumor was just another everyday irritant. Albert continued to see patients, he continued to do major hip replacement surgeries, he continued to work and contribute to the Philippine Orthopaedic Association, of which he had already been President in 2011, dropping by meetings and helping sort out problems.”
- Ewang, 2013
In his last year, he kept a journal, which he titled “My journey of hope”. I would like to cite some entries from his journal. The entries focused on the things important to ADy as he faced the biggest fight of his life.
On his illness—
There were medical entries on his symptoms (pain, fever, chills), which, as the months progressed, continued to worsen. His treatment--going for surgery, being advised that his CA was unresectable, eventually going for alternative treatment. And although in public he would keep a brave face to all of use, in his journal he revealed his frustrations:
“I went around hugging everybody after my speech. What did I say? Slide show showed me jogging. I told them I missed running this morning, 5 k should be very easy but not anymore. Swimming one hour should have been easy too—Sigh!”
- ADy, May 2, 2013
On his friends—
He mentioned and kept track of his various visitors and colleagues from high school and college, the Department, who came and visited, spending time and giving assistance and support. Dr Rey Ang, Ida and Ted Tacata, Ed Lim, Pebbles and Tinggoy, Rey Lopez were mentioned. He was also very thankful for the assistance received
“But becoming ill you become acutely aware of life. Life is to help fellow travellers and having Cancer I thought I will suffer this alone. …These fears were washed away by your show of support!”
- ADy, May 2,2013
“ I am truly blessed with so many friends at 60. I count my blessings
Bucket Lists—go fishing in Siargao, have a day or two in Lubang, Finish cookbook, See Hawaii”
- ADy 5-11-2013
Even while suffering he was thinking of others, including his colleague Dr. Mario Geronilla, who was facing a similar battle with Cancer.
“Visited Mario Geronilla, looks in pretty bad shape, lung effusion, 4 pillow orthopnea, decreased O2 sat. Will pray for him”
- ADy 8-17-2013
“ Popoy visited me. We talked. Prayed for Mario, Kate, myself.”
- ADy 8-25-2013
Later, after Dr. Geronilla passed away, Ady texted me from NKI. “Have you heard of Mario’s passing? Nobody told me but I found out from the nurses and staff. I guess they don’t want to dampen my spirits further. Please pray for his soul”
On his patients, residents, and trainees —
Despite his illness ADy documented the cases he continued to do and his continuous desire to keep helping his patients. Ady regularly mentioned how he continued to teach residents who assisted him, mentioning Pierre, Ilian, Brian, Tinggoy, and a couple of others whom he worked with at this time.
“On the plus side my illness made me more aware of who’s important.
Treat our patients humanely, assuage their fears not only their broken bones”
“Pay it forward. I have been blessed w/ distance vision and from afar we all aspire for the same things: a better future. I will continue to do things for the Department”
“Try to go to clinic, saw 6 patients only. Endorsed to Tinggoy”
- ADy 9-12-2013
Although he initially tried to continue regularly seeing patients and teaching residents, this was becoming more and more difficult as his illness progressed.
“His biggest frustration must have come around a month ago. Albert came to one of our Department conferences - he wanted to give up his item, in other words, return his plantilla position and salary to the College so that our Department could give the sweldo to younger faculty. He felt he was no longer contributing to the Department and that the forearm surgery he had just performed was going to be his last surgery. We told him, Albert, we don’t necessarily have to learn from you through surgeries or rounds; we all have learned by just looking at the way you have lived this last year.”
- Ewang, 10/2013
Ivan Concepcion, a fellow orthopod and runner, remembers Ady:
“I REALLY do not know the man–except perhaps to recognize him in public as a former President of the Philippine Orthopedic Association. Briefly, I joined him in one Educational trip to Kuala Lumpur for an arthroplasty meeting. He struck me as seriously dedicated to learning his specialty: as if absorbed in the knowledge that is being passed on or perhaps, humbly reinforcing what he already knew by heart–by this he impressed me as a decent professional. He visited us once as part of the Hip and Knee Society doing an outreach program for the North Luzon POA. He was passionate in this regard to impart his knowledge and expertise without any pompous display of boast or know- all – by this he impressed me as a decent teacher and colleague. In his brief tenure as president of the POA, I have experienced him running a business meeting of the usual “rowdy” bunch of orthopods, pacifying all sides and keeping his cool (and even giving out a POA shirt as a remembrance!) – by this he impressed me as a decent leader. But what impressed me the most was my distant but common connection with him as a RUNNER. On several occasions, I have seen him coming and going to the convention site, as I did too, to sneak in a run and keep a program of physical activity going or fueling his passion for the run – by this he impressed me as a decent runner. All in all, he comes through as a simple, unassuming, humble, well-loved person – by this he impressed me as a decent human being.”
This is how we remember Ady. Perhaps put best by Ewang:
“Dr. Albert Dy is one of those people who have touched so many others by just being himself—his gentle soul, his non-judgmental self, his selfless nurturing of younger doctors (no strings attached), his easy friendship. The lives of all of us in this room have been made so much fuller by our association with Albert. On behalf of the Department of Orthopaedics, which he so loved, we thank you, Albert, for sharing with us the best years of your life. We thank Ma’am Pilar and your 3 children for the learning and the wisdom that Albert imparted to us in these past 35 years. And yes, as you have requested, Albert, we promise to try and give your item to young, deserving faculty. But even as we bid goodbye, your memory, your way of life will stay on in the Department, your Department, for eternity. Godspeed.”