POSTSCRIPT / June 30, 2016 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Buko juice removed from Duterte menu

IT IS heartening to see that on his first day in Malacañang today, President Rodrigo Duterte will serve his inaugural guests a frugal fare of native pika-pika — but at the same time we are disappointed that buko juice was scrapped from the menu.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told the press days ago: “Finger foods (will be served) pero yung maruya yung pinaka-main dish dun. Finger foods, cocktails, at yung cocktails naman, yung inumin ay, if I’m not mistaken, ay buko juice.”

We were elated to hear of the plan to serve bukojuice to the 500 or so guests. (For the information of foreign diplomats who still do not know, buko is the young coconut as opposed to niyog which is the mature nut. Pika-pika is finger food.)

Helping complete the picture, our friend Jimmy Gil Live of dzBB and, I suspect, a Duterte fan, said the Palace pika-pika will include pandesal and kesong puti. Good choice, we said.

But just before deadline, another source gave me this rehashed menu: Lumpiang ubod, pandesal with kesong puti, Vigan longganisa grilled on the spot, monggo soup with tinapa and alugbati in small cups, fried saba banana slices, and Durian tartlet. For drinks, guests can choose between pine-mango cooler and dalandan juice.

For personal reasons, it was a letdown for me to see buko juice dropped.

According to write-ups in the Internet, buko juice is low in calories, naturally free of fat and cholesterol, has more potassium than four bananas, and is super hydrating. That could be mistaken for market hype, so I will share instead my own and friends’ experience with buko.

Weeks ago, the core of a .7-cm stone in my right kidney passed out with my urine after being eroded by my drinking buko juice for months. For one week before that, I had very painful urination – until the stone dropped, to my relief.

My brother Cesar had the same experience years ago of having his kidney stones worn-down and flushed out by daily glasses of buko juice. Our family seems predisposed to forming stones.

A friend suffering from kidney stones spent a summer with her lola in Quezon where they have a coconut plantation. Every day her cousins would crack open young coconuts for her so she could have her fill of buko juice.

Then one morning she was screaming in pain as tiny particles spilled out with her urine. Back in Makati after her vacation, a scan showed her kidney stones gone.

These are mere anecdotes of how some people were rid of their kidney stones not by surgery but by the daily intake of fresh buko juice distinguished from coconut water and coconut milk.

Perhaps this natural relief from kidney stones which seems to work for some people should be studied more methodically.

• Laparoscopy removed my first staghorn

IN 2006, a scan discovered that I had a stone in my right kidney that was more than an inch in diameter with antler-like branches, hence the name “staghorn calculus” for it.

The first urologist I consulted said he had to operate on me in three months. I did not go back to him, because I have this theory (don’t laugh) that whenever one is opened up, he loses five years of his life.

A second urologist suggested his breaking it up by shock waves. I asked how they would evacuate the debris. He said the tiny particles would flow out through my urethra when I urinated. I balked.

Then I resorted to this talked-about natural method of degrading and washing away the stones by drinking apple juice with virgin olive oil. I stopped taking the concoction after noticing that my room was starting to look like an apple juice bodega.

Going to the US the following year, I consulted American doctors about my staghorn. They told me basically what their Filipino counterparts, also Western educated, had proposed to do.

Probably sensing my growing desperation — while refusing to undergo surgery — one of them gave me the name and phone number of a urologist in New York Presbyterian who did nothing but stones. Lugging my medical records, I went to see him in his busy Manhattan office.

Listening for some 15 minutes to him describe his novel (at that time in 2007) mode of removing kidney stones without the invasive surgery that I dreaded, I knew this was the doctor I was looking for. His method was called laparoscopy-something.

How his team did it: Through small holes in my right back side they inserted a tiny camera and spindly instruments, pulverized the staghorn, and vacuumed out the debris through the same small openings.

Within 24 hours (which qualified me as an outpatient) I was discharged with the only prescription being three 500-mg antibiotic pills taken one a day for three days. The holes in my side were plastered with a big band-aid that allowed me to take a shower.

The only restriction was not to lift heavy things. Except for reddish urine for a week, there was no indication that a staghorn had been extracted. A follow-up check showed my kidney cleared of stones.

That was in 2007. Five years later (2012), a routine scan revealed a .7-cm stone that had formed in the same kidney. That was the stone that I said had been worn away and washed down by buko juice days ago.

I am sharing this information with those who want their kidney stones removed, but are afraid of being opened up. Laparoscopy is now common, and I suppose the procedure has been improved and its cost reduced since I had it nine years ago.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 30, 2016)

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