Up close and personal, with COVID

For over a year now, I got used to working at home and barely leaving the house unless it’s really necessary. My life has been online chatting, Zoom webinars, online courses, and a few civic and social activities that needed physical presence.

I got more comfortable after getting my second vaccine shots but I continued to limit going out just once a week and still with face masks on.

I was overly careful because of my comorbidities and because my granddaughter sometimes stays with me.

But over a year later, the inevitable happened. COVID invaded our home and infected half of the people in our household.

It all started when my brother, Nonoy, needed a medical procedure. Since he lives quite a distance from the city center, he and his family transferred to our family home, where I stay, to be near the hospitals. That was June 6.

We started calling up hospitals but were turned down as they had no rooms available. In one of these, we still signed up even if we were told we were number 171 in the reservations list.

Day 3, one of the hospitals called that they can take us in but my brother needed to be swabbed first as a requirement for the procedure and so that he doesn’t have to go through the isolation area anymore.

We immediately went to a private drive-thru RT-PCR testing center, but we were turned away because we didn’t have a previous appointment. The long lines of cars ahead of us and behind were an indication that there were many suspected cases, and on their own, people go for testing even if they pay out-of-pocket.

Day 4, my brother turned worse and a mobile swab team was dispatched to our home. Day 5, my sisters from Manila flew in. That evening, results came in and my brother was positive for COVID. Day 6, we waited with bated breath for a hospital to accommodate him, and luckily, CLMMRH agreed to take him in.

My brother’s transfer was just in the nick of time as he was in pretty bad shape when he reached the hospital. From the emergency room, he was transferred to the ward but in hours, Nonoy had to be moved to the critical care unit.

Medical Director, Dr. Julius Drilon, personally told us that he and his staff will do everything to reverse Nonoy’s situation within 72 hours. Thankfully, Dr. Drilon made good with his promise and we are very grateful to the medical staff who took care of him.

It wasn’t until later that I realized what Dr. Drilon meant of that period when he told me “the first 72 hours was crucial and if we can’t reverse, he will go downhill.”

Indeed, on the fourth day of his hospitalization, Nonoy was able to muster the strength to give us a call but he was not out of the woods. He was still logged in as “severe” and they were doing their best to treat his pneumonia and correcting his other vitals.

“Our team was fast in recognizing the correctible problems and I have faith in them,” Drilon said, adding that they are “aggressive and have tons of experience.” This I don’t doubt because we knew CL has the best medical experts on board and we were assured of Nonoy getting optimum care.

Medical updates of his condition were shared in our family group chat and we had to rely on our sister, May, who is also a doctor at CL to further explain to us what it meant.

But even if May works there, along with two other nieces who are nurses in CL, they too were not allowed to go near Nonoy as CL has a full isolation policy for COVID cases.

Clearly, being isolated bothered Nonoy and he got depressed. So we thought it best that he would not find out that his wife, Lenlen, son Daki, our cousin Lourdes and her daughter, Lulu, and our cook, Buday, were also infected and had to be moved to Circle Inn to serve their quarantine period.

On his tenth day, Nonoy was released Tuesday, June 22, and will be joining his family at Circle Inn to finish their 14-day quarantine. They will be home soon but it will be another week before we can be with him as we will have to move out so the rest of them can finish seven days more of additional quarantine.

Now I understand what helplessness means. But I, and the rest of our family, also understand what support is, and what hope is – knowing this province has some of the best and brightest medical professionals who can pull men and women from the brink of death.

Our profound thanks to Drs. Julius, Joan Cerrada and Bambi Bonaobra (infectious disease specialists), Maricris Araneta (nephrologist), Norman Cabaya (oncologist), Peter Andrew Reyes (gastroenterologist), and the other doctors for we were told there were nine in attendance. The CCU and Dialysis Center nurses, and all the CL staff, madamo guid nga salamat!

Just a note: Because we are a family that comes together during crises, four medical professionals also had to take COVID isolation leaves even when they tested negative. So I can’t help but think of the risks all our health workers face these days, even when they are not on COVID duty, but especially if they are.

We know vaccination can lessen the risk but is never a guarantee. I can only hope our local government officials, especially in Bacolod City where the bulk of the province’s COVID cases come from, listen and take the good advice of our health professionals. They’re not doing it for themselves, you know. They’re doing it for the rest of us.*

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