By Ana Allen, Pacific Regional Medical CommandApril 10, 2015
TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii (April 7, 2015) -- It's been 20 years since Col. Cirilito Sobejana, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Philippine Army G3, visited Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC).
During his first visit, a then Capt. Sobejana, wondered if doctors here would be able to save his nearly severed right arm.
He recently got to shake hands and extend his thanks to TAMC staff for the medical treatment that allowed him to continue his career in the AFP and the use of his arm.
Sobejana is a recipient of the AFP's equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor for actions taken against a terrorist organization in January of 1995.
After sustaining gun-shot wounds during a five-hour fire-fight, Sobejana was medically evacuated to a local hospital in the southern region of the Philippines and remained for four days until he was stable enough for transfer to a medical facility in Manila.
Sobejana was then informed by his military superiors that he would be sent abroad for advanced medical care at TAMC. The U.S. military hospital provided his care because of the U.S. and the Philippine alliance with over 70 years of deep military-to-military ties.
"[My arm] was nearly severed. It was shattered ... At that time, our hospitals didn't have that capability yet to treat my injury," recalled Sobejana.
After landing on Oahu, Sobejana was escorted via ambulance to TAMC.
Sobejana spent ten months receiving care at Tripler where he received almost a dozen separate operations, to include reconstructive surgery, which ultimately saved his hand.
Sobejana light-heartedly recalls being very well known among the surgical staff at TAMC and says he was often greeted with a "welcome back" from staff just before undergoing his later surgeries.
"I was very impressed with the care and the way they treated me as a battle casualty," he said.
Sobejana then received post-operative care at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), in San Antonio Texas.
The transfer allowed him to continue care with his primary physician who had since transitioned to the major medical facility there.
"I reported to the hospital every day, Monday through Friday for my rehabilitation ... for four months."
After undergoing rehabilitation, Sobejana eventually regained his strength and his competitive edge.
"Now I can do pushups. I can do 50 to 60 pushups in one minute."
Sobejana, who was in Hawaii as part of a high-level planning conference between officials from the U.S. Army Pacific and the AFP, says he has enjoyed his 39 year career and looks forward to the next seven years before mandatory retirement. "I am happy now. I am happy doing my job, serving the people and securing the land.
During the visit to TAMC, Sobejana toured Vascular Surgery, Orthopedics and other clinics.
Although much has changed since his stay at TAMC, there is one thing he says is exactly as he remembered. "The color is still the same. It's still a pink hospital."
He says he hopes to convey to the medical staff at TAMC and BAMC the deep gratitude he feels for the care he received." I will not forget them. I always treasure the things that they did for me just to save my arm."