Rose Wascher’s parents immigrated from the Philippines to Chicago in 1970.
“I was 5 at the time,” Wascher said. “My mom (a nurse) was recruited to come to the U.S. by St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago.”
Her mother was her role model.
“While I grew in Manila, I always wanted to follow my mom and become a nurse,” said Wascher, who moved to Highland in August 2014.
She did — a surgical nurse.
And she has become a hero to scores of children, herself, helping to bring many into the world and fixing maladies the world had encumbered onto others.
She recently returned from a mission trip to her country of birth, helping residents of one the archipelago’s most impoverished areas with their health care needs.
Wascher spent two weeks in Borongan, the provincial capital of the province of Eastern Samar as part of The Partnership in Mission program of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
About 64 percent of Borongan’s 450,000 live at or below poverty level, Wascher said.
“We are so blessed here compared to other countries,” she said.
The island province has also been ravaged by typhoons in recent years — Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and last December, Typhoon Hagupit. Conditions mean residents must rely heavily on missionaries to assist them with their medical needs.
“These poor people have lost their homes and families,” she said. “That’s why I was drawn to them.”
During her two-week mission trip, Wascher was part of an 18-person medical team who performed more close to 200 surgeries and saw more than 2,000 patients.
“I knew we would not see all of the patients during the mission,” she said.
Wascher worked primarily in the hospital’s OB/GYN department, where she helped to remove a number of ovarian and abdominal cysts almost on a daily basis. In some cases, the growths were the size of basketballs. She also helped a local doctor with Cesarian section (C-section) deliveries.
She worked out of Eastern-Samar Provincial Hospital in Borongan, which has about 60 beds.
“A lot of patients were waiting in the hallways to be seen,” she said.
It took Wascher about 30 hours to get her destination, including a 25-hour flight, and a five-hour bus ride from Manila.
“But once you get there, it’s incredible,” she said. “People will bend over their backs and get you what you need.”
Finding a mission
It was 2004 and the demands of the operating room were starting to get to Wascher.
“I was burned out with surgery and being overworked,” she said.
But then she met an anesthesiologist at Presence St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Ill., who would help give her new purpose when he told Wascher about an upcoming a mission trip to Bolivia.
She was enthralled.
“I told him I admired what he was doing and that was something I wanted to do,” she said.
But she didn’t think she would be qualified to go, because she was only a nurse.
“He said, ‘They aren’t looking for surgeons to make the trip. They are in need of good nurses, too,’” Wascher recalled.
That’s all the assurance she needed.
Without an hesitation, Wascher signed up.
“I didn’t even know where Bolivia was,” she said.
The experience made a lasting impression. So much so, Wascher returned to Bolivia for another mission a year later. The next year, she did missionary work in Colombia, and in 2014, Kenya.
Wascher said she had always wanted to go back to the Philippines someday and give something back, and missionary work gave her the chance.
“I guess it was God’s will,” she said.
While there, she could not help but think about her parents, both of whom passed away in 1990.
“I felt going back was my way giving back to my parents,” she said.
Wascher is now thinking about making another mission trip to the Philippines next year. She credited her families and friends, who have helped to sponsor her, for making the all her trips possible.
“I wish this was a paying job,” she said. “If it were, I’d do it all of the time.”