SIX months into the pandemic and the struggles of medical frontliners continue.
The community’s movement restrictions are less tight now compared to a few months ago. Heavy traffic in the city is back, malls are occupied again, dining-in is now allowed, and local travel is encouraged for as long as health safety protocols are observed. The “outside” world is indeed showing signs of the old normal, but inside hospitals, especially in a Covid-19 facility, the tension and fear remain.
For Dominic S. Dejillo, a nurse in Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) assigned in an isolation facility that caters moderate to severe Covid-19 cases, every single day is a battle.
What makes their work more challenging is the inescapable scenario of watching a patient succumbed to the disease.
“Patients who succumbed to the virus were painful to watch. When all the medical interventions fail and you witnessed that last gasp of air--the only thing you can do is to alleviate their sufferings,” the 30-year-old nurse shared.
He said knowing that patients die alone without their loved ones by their sides is heart-wrenching.
“And that’s when you realized the magnitude of what the virus can do to your body. They take lives,” he added.
A day in his life
Dejillo starts his day early for his usual 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. He exercises and always takes his breakfast meal.
“It’s important,” he said.
Going to the hospital, he usually walks or takes a cab as he avoids riding jeepneys to limit his exposure to people. He always assumes himself as a carrier, that way he becomes more careful.
Inside the hospital, it’s a whole different vibe.
“The then-crowded hospital has become less dense due to restrictions in people getting inside. The environment became more tense and calculated. Being assigned inside an isolation facility that caters moderate to severe cases of Covid-19, entering the vicinity makes me feel anxious knowing the threat is there,” he said.
After months, being obsessively clean became their lifestyle.
“Some of us got burnt hands due to excessive hand washing and others got headaches because of the fumes from alcohol and other disinfectants,” he added.
Dejillo also shared that wearing personal protective equipment (PPEs) for hours is also a challenge. It means balancing how to protect themselves and, at the same time, how to deliver the best nursing care to patients.
“For eight hours (or more), we attend to the needs of our patients with our PPEs, looking nice outside but we are dripping with sweats inside. We change our PPEs every time we enter a patient’s room. We don’t use the same PPEs for a different patient,” he said.
After his shift, he and his fellow nurses take turns in taking bath in their anteroom. As soon as he arrives home, he takes another bath and sanitizes his belongings before calling it a day.
On being isolated from family
One of the hard ways that he has to continue on living is being apart from his family. It’s lonely. A hug or any personal contact with family members is one of the many things the pandemic has temporarily stolen from frontliners.
“Our way of life is entirely different from the comfort of our own homes. Right now, I am living in a nearby condo. I have to separate myself to them for safety purposes,” he shared.
But when the feeling of loneliness strikes, Dejillo immediately direct his attention to other things.
“Our work is challenging both physically and mentally. Both need to be in check and shape always to continue fighting at the frontline. That’s why I communicate constantly with my family and friends. Psychosocial support is important to me,” Dejillo emphasized.
On getting exhausted
Dejillo posted on his Facebook account on August 1 about their physical and mental struggle as frontliners. His post was in support of the recent medical professionals’ call for a “time out.” His post went viral with over 4,000 shares as of writing.
“I just want to air my concern regarding the influx of patients infected with Covid-19. Our work is tedious itself and we are outnumbered. Several health care workers who are infected with the virus are also on the rise, thus totally affecting our dwindling working force,” he explained.
He said when frontliners are physically and mentally drained, the quality of service is also affected.
But he also recognized that the issue of exhaustion is not only limited to medical frontliners. He said cooperation is key in achieving a flattened curve.
“I am not an expert in public health or epidemiology. But one thing is certain, it requires a collaborative effort from the government and its people. We need to adhere to all health safety protocols mandated by the government,” he said.
What keeps him going
When they started accepting Covid-19 cases, Dejillo said most of them were not mentally ready. But, eventually, they rise from the challenge and evolved professionally.
He said he is willing to fight the pandemic until he still can. He commits to continue to work tirelessly to attend to the needs of those who are infected. He added he will be in this battle up until the last recovered patient will be sent home.
“It’s our calling to serve those who are sick. That’s our basic oath. That’s what keeps us going and will continue to do so even after this pandemic,” he promised.