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Thursday, November 26, 2015

So much to be thankful for*

Thirty-two years ago, I immigrated to the United States of America. My permanent resident visa eventually changed, after five years, to a Certificate of Naturalization---that is, after I passed the U.S. citizenship test and began to pledge allegiance to The Stars and Stripes and the republic for which it stands.

I was already in the U.S. Navy before I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in January 1989. The naturalization ceremony took place in Agana, Guam, Marianas Island, where I was stationed then at U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam, a U.S. territory.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is an American dream that I believe every immigrant U.S. resident aspires for. Having a U.S. passport made me feel at home.

I have had that sense of belonging, but at the same time a responsibility that I have to uphold. Truly, I feel blessed with all the opportunities America offers me. I thank God, everyday, for my being a part of America.

My first taste of Thanksgiving Day in America was in 1983, at the home of my sister Betty and her family in San Jose, California.

New to any national holiday in the U.S., with the exception of Fourth of July, I thought that it was just another celebration with food, family, and friends. That turkey was the biggest one I've ever seen! And that was my first time to eat turkey, too, because we mostly ate chicken, pork or beef in the Philippines.

Along with my three younger siblings who came her, I had a great time with sister Betty and her family as well as the other guests who were present. There were plenty of food on the table, and we feasted while having fun watching football.

Years later, I realized the significance of Thanksgiving Day in America. It is a special day for family and friends to give thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings we have in life: food, faith, freedom, family, friends and peace. Despite all odds, we overcome and we celebrate holidays with others.

On Thanksgiving Day, I pray: "Almighty God, I thank you that we're alive and well. Thank you for all the blessings you've showered upon us: my sister Betty and her family; Aunt Emilia, our families united together in these trying times, our neighbors and friends near or far.

"Thank you for the settlers that inspired us to be brave, strong and hopeful. Thank you for our government leaders, who have worked hard to make America great. Thank you for our religious leaders for inculcating and increasing our faith.

"Thank you for our teachers, volunteers, innovators, scientists, doctors, nurses and caregivers, police officers, and our dedicated and hardworking farmers for all their efforts in making America a great and powerful nation.

"Thank you for our journalists for informing us of what's happening around the world. Thank you for our actors, singers, writers and athletes for entertaining us and reminding us that despite the issues confronting our country and the world, we can still manage to celebrate our humanity.

"Thank you, Lord, for our veterans, our service men and women who have gone or are here and abroad fighting for freedom and peace, and their families for the sacrifices they made.

"I pray, Lord, that our homeless, especially our veterans, will find shelter and comfort
 this cold holiday season and beyond. May your light and love shine before us all, Lord.

"God bless America. Amen."

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, November 26, 2015. For more information, visit

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Colonoscopy can save your life*

Health is wealth. There's no question about that. Even if you're the richest person on Earth, materially speaking, what good your wealth is if you can't enjoy life and have fun with others?

No one is responsible for your health but you. Doctors, nurses and hospital or clinic staff can only do so much. Unless you're completely invalid or incapacitated, the sole responsibility of taking care of your health rests in you.

You have to keep track of and maintain your health by having regular check-ups, especially if you feel something is not right or bothering. A pain that's been lingering on for a long time should not be ignored. If you do, you may end up with more troubles in the long run.

As a retired U.S. Navy veteran who has worked in naval hospitals and clinics for 20 years, I am aware of the importance of taking care of myself and maintaining a good health.

After 10 years, I recently has another colonoscopy. Thanks to Dr. Wilkerson and his team for a job well done.

A colonoscopy is a procedure for the examination of your colon with a colonoscope, a thin, flexible lighted tube that allows your doctor to see inside of your colon for a possible colorectal cancer, colon polyps, tumors, ulcers and other abnormalities there.

Colon polyps are abnormal growth of tissue on the lining of the colon that can be cancerous. The procedure may take half an hour to an hour or more. If your gastroenterologist finds polyps, he removes them with biopsy forceps or cold snare, a specialized tool inside the colonoscope.

The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a screening colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

A week before the procedure, I strictly followed a low-residue diet, with plenty of water or clear liquids so as not to be dehydrated. The success of the exam depends on a clean, empty colon and large intestine.

A day before the exam, I started taking the bowel prep. another prep solution is consumed three hours before the day of the exam. After that I was advised to stop drinking all liquids 3 hours prior to the procedure. The salty prep solution caused frequent trips to the restroom, of course, leaving me feeling drained, bloated, hungry, tired, a little weak.

Otherwise, the procedure was without discomfort. Ready for the exam, I was sedated via an IV (intravenous) that put me to a relaxed consciousness while the gastroenterologist examined my colon.

After the procedure, I felt light-headed, a little groggy but awake. I was glad to have my wife Freny with me, because I couldn't be driving while still having the effect of that sedation. A designated driver is required after colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is a procedure that can save your life by detecting abnormalities inside the lining of your large intestine. so, if you're due for this exam, go see your doctor and set up an appointment to have it.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald. For more information, visit

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Service improves at Hampton VA hospital*

As a retired U.S. Navy veteran with service-connected disability, I used to go to Hampton VA Medical Center. But for the past three years, I stopped going there.

Since retirement in 2005, I've been going to Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth because it's closer to my house, and I'm more familiar with NMCP, where I've worked for 11 of my 20 years in the naval service.

Unperturbed about previous issues at VA hospitals, I've visited Hampton VA numerous times. First, as a curious outpatient veteran, I wanted to experience receiving care there. Like other outpatient veterans, I had to do the required protocol: obtaining a VA ID card, scheduling medical appointments and keeping my appointments.

Despite the VA funding problems, I found a clean and pleasant atmosphere inside the hospital; I didn't see any major problems regarding care and treatment for veterans there.

Recently, after three years of hiatus and learning about VA hospital issues that, I believe, have been addressed by proper authorities, I was keen to go back again for care and treatment at Hampton VA Medical Center.

With a valid identification card, I decided to go to eye clinic in Hampton to have a follow-up eye exam and, possibly, receive new prescription glasses. The ones I'm currently wearing are kind of weak, and I believed I needed upgraded bifocals. I have difficulty reading those fine print in newspapers now.

With my doting wife and consummate driver Freny, I went to Hampton VA Medical Center in August. Freny and I breezed through the hospital and went straight up to the second floor where eye clinic is. Like others, I had to fall in line and wait for the receptionist to call, "Next veteran!"

When it was my turn, I walked to the window and showed my ID card to a receptionist, who asked me if I had an appointment, while glancing at his computer monitor, i said, "No, sir" and asked if I could be seen that day, since I'd already been there before.

Since it had been three years since I'd been there, he said, I would have to start all over as if I were a new patient. I was told go downstairs to Prime 1 and make an appointment to see a primary care doctor. Once seen by a provider there, I could ask for referral to be seen in eye clinic. That's what I did.

After a couple of weeks, I was seen in Primary Care, had some lab tests done, and then visited the eye clinic in September. A resident doctor from Eastern Virginia Medical School's department of ophthalmology examined my eyes after they were dilated.

Before leaving the eye clinic for the optical shop, I thanked Dr. Beste for taking time with me. With a new prescription for glasses and a follow-up appointment with him, which I'm looking forward to after Veterans Day, I was satisfied with my visit. Grateful I am to have new bifocal eyeglasses now.

Thank God for a significant improvement at Hampton VA Medical Center. I'm positive my fellow veterans also appreciate the smooth delivery of health care services there.

Kudos to those behind the positive change at VA. And to my fellow veterans, thank you for your service and sacrifices.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, November 7, 2015. For more information, visit