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    Paolo Montenegro '11




    Paolo Montenegro ’11 got the call on a Wednesday, notifying him that he’d been selected. By the following Monday, Montenegro was on his way to the Philippines to serve as a volunteer nurse in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The storm, known as Yolanda by Pilipinos, roared into the island nation on Nov. 8, 2013, gusting at more than 150 miles per hour, killing thousands and displacing millions more.

    Montenegro, who celebrated his 25th birthday during the trip, was selected for the mission as a member of the National Nurses United union. He became the first nurse from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center sent to the Philippines to help after the typhoon.

    “I had already been looking for a medical mission,” Montenegro says. “So when I was chosen for this opportunity, it was a blessing for me to go.”

    The trip came less than three years after his graduation from Mount St. Mary’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Since his time at the Mount, Montenegro had earned his first job in the neurotrauma unit at Ronald Reagan, where he now serves in the Operating Room.

    Last December, when he and his fellow U.S.-based nurses landed in Manila, Montenegro’s team joined up with other NGOs from the Philippines and Singapore.

    A native Pilipino who still travels to his native country on a yearly basis to visit relatives, Montenegro says he could immediately feel the sense of loss, “that something really big and terrible had happened here.” But he was also impressed by the resilience of people who were already rebuilding despite downed power lines, toppled trees and roofless buildings.

    Montenegro and his fellow volunteers saw patients in the rural regions of the island of Panay. His team got up around 5 a.m. each day to travel to different towns where they set up triage stations in daycares, community centers, preschools – buildings that had also been devastated by the storm.

    “We usually didn’t have electricity or running water when we tended to people,” Montenegro says. “And it was hot, of course. So without even fans, you would be drenched in sweat.”

    He saw patients with recent injuries, as well as people with chronic health issues who hadn’t received treatment since the storm. Montenegro also witnessed many patients who had developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    “There was a lot of anxiety, insomnia and fear after going through an event like that,” he says. “But there was also so much resiliency. Everyone was so thankful and supportive. There’s such a strong sense of community there.”

    Montenegro recalls how his time as a student at the Mount helped prepare him for an opportunity like the one he experienced in the Philippines. “The College’s emphasis on service, for one,” he says, “and then the education itself was really great. It’s prepared me for all sorts of things I’ve seen in my career. I’m very fortunate I came to the Mount. It was a great experience.”

    He maintains close ties with several MSMC professors, as well as with his fellow male alums. “The few, the proud,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a small, close-knit group of guys that come to the Mount obviously, so it’s great to keep in contact with them.”

    Current students have had the chance to connect with Montenegro, too, as he has returned to the Mount often to participate in nursing career panels at both campuses. Today, he’s looking at a potential return to school himself, as he ponders grad school options such as an MBA program, a certified nurse anesthetist program, and Health Informatics.

    And he’ll also look for chances to go on future medical missions. “Oh, absolutely,” Montenegro says. “It’s such an incredible experience. I definitely want to keep doing these.”
     


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