Editors Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the topic of this essay that involves a confirmed COVID patient, a health worker-frontliner, and a medical facility, we decided to withhold all names, and have acceded to the request of the contributor to use a pen name.
We hope that by sharing her essay we could come to an understanding of the fears and anxieties that close relatives of frontliners feel and, in doing so, we too can come to an understanding of how to face our fears and worries brought by this pandemic.
On March 20, 2020 Bacolod was shaken by the announcement of its very first CoViD-19 positive patient, a 56-year-old man who was admitted in one of the local hospitals in the city.
I was stunned and found myself sitting down on my bed, staring blankly on my phone.
All I had in mind was my daughter who was currently on duty as a nurse.
Questions flooded. Is she updated about the news? Is she feeling Okay? I wanted to rush to the hospital to check on her. I wanted to assure her that everything’s going to be Okay. But before I could compose myself to send her a private message (PM) on Messenger, I saw a message alert from her.
It was the very first time that I felt so scared in my entire life. Maybe it’s the mother’s intuition or what-not but I just didn’t feel right. I tried my best to stay focused and act rationally to whatever she was about to say.
“Mommy, I’m sorry.”
The very first thing she said.
I was confused; I didn’t know what to think. I said, “What’s going on?”
She was apologizing for putting me and the whole family in danger. Then she explained that she feels guilty because she knew I wasn’t feeling well in the past two weeks and she thought maybe it was because of her that I got sick.
I assured her that it was just a bug and I was totally fine.
“Mommy, I don’t know what to feel. I want to cry but I can’t because I am working.”
I was giving my best effort to comfort her. However, I sensed that there was more to it than her just being plain scared. I had a hunch, a bad one. Could it be that she made contact with the infected patient? Is she feeling the symptoms that might have alarmed her? Waiting for her to tell me more details was like hell.
I wanted to hear what she wanted to say. I can’t take the suspense. I was running out of patience.
“I had contact with the patient.”
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I know for a fact that her station is not designed to cater to even PUI’s how much more a positive one. I felt as if a nuclear warhead landed on my head.
I think my heart stopped for a second. My thoughts were running wild.
I wanted to ask so many questions, I didn’t know where to start.
Overstretched scenarios kept playing in my mind.
Will she be quarantined for being exposed to the patient? Are there test kits ready for them? Will my daughter be able to manage a frontliner’s life, constantly in the midst of an invisible enemy?
How fast will the virus catch up on her? If she does get it, should I drive to the hospital and be confined with her because I want to be there for her no matter what? Should I start packing her emergency bag?
But I took a deep breath and the first thing I said was, “Sweet, everything will be all right.”
I had to remain composed. I wanted her to feel that she can count on me and that I am always by her side so she can go back focusing on her work and finish her shift.
I never thought playing brave could be so exhausting that after a while I started crying non-stop. I never felt so powerless. When she came home from work we sat down and discussed our action plan without much emotional display.
We had to do an intensive reality check. With the situation at hand and everyone is unprepared, the first thing I told her was if she wanted to resign, she definitely can.
“Dreams can wait. It will be useless when you’re dead,” I said to myself.
But I was astounded by her answer.
“You wanted me to become a nurse. Now I want to do my job because the problem is there already and we are needed to take care of the patients.”
I never thought I could be proud and heartbroken all at the same time.
My daughter embraced her profession with the devotion to help the sick, not just to work abroad and earn dollars.
She had no intention of abandoning her post. It was amazing! She’s in it for the love of the job!
Truly one of my goals achieved, for my daughter to love her work, and value others. But I was devastated.
I wanted her to stay at home, review for her exams and honestly, just be safe.
I felt that her hospital can only do much to sustain her needs to have a safe workplace and unfortunately I don’t believe it will ever be enough. I want to place her on home quarantine for not just 14 days but even longer than necessary just to be sure she is CoViD-free.
I am a mother after all.
Dreams can be reconstructed but she only has one life. She can dream again once the world discovers the vaccine. During our talk, she was very objective, such an ideal nurse.
But all I could see is the baby that I used to carry and sing lullabies to. I can’t help but let my thoughts wander. Oh my, she has truly grown. She is no longer the kid who has regular tantrums, who loves her Barbie Dolls and eats lots of sweets. How could I persuade her to just follow my wish for her to stay home?
But, it is what it is. She has decided. She is 27, already an adult.
Who am I to dictate her? As a mother, all I can do as a mother, all I can do is share with her my own realizations during this crisis.
- Life is short. We live a day at a time especially in this pandemic wherein everything is uncertain. Let’s do the best we can in order for it to be truly worthwhile.
- Express your love to your family. We are not into hugs and kisses much. But after March 20, 2020, we felt scared that we may not be able to hug each other anymore. We felt compelled to be physically expressive on the thought that she may not come home after work if she gets quarantined for showing symptoms. Worst if she gets sick and I won’t be allowed near her.
- Always remember that no matter how often we banter, we love one another and we want the best for everyone. It is useless to leave the house with an angry heart and not being able to say “I’m sorry” personally if necessary.
It’s okay for dreams to be set aside temporarily so don’t lose hope. This crisis has definitely caused delays on her time table but hey, better to be safe than sorry. In God’s time, everything will be in place.
Be ready for the worst. Whatever happens we should be prepared when one of us has to go. Yes the family will grieve with the loss but at least if everyone is prepared, nobody is going to panic and not know what to do. I may be morbid but my kids know what my preference is when I die. And I know what my daughter’s preference is too.
Trust in God and do our part. Now is not the time to have a faltering faith. But be reminded that faith should be paired with responsibility. We just don’t pray to be saved from the virus, we stay away from the virus by staying home and just going out when necessary. For me, keeping ourselves healthy and praying constantly for God’s mercy is a perfect combination.
April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday. It was the start of her two-week company-paid leave. Three weeks have passed after the ugly news. I guess we managed to adjust and live the way we’re supposed to and overcame the emotional roller coaster ride from day one. We gave away 100 lunch bowls to frontliners and homeless people. It was my daughter’s way of thanksgiving. She’s healthy as ever, without showing any symptoms whatsoever and so is the rest of the family. God has indeed sustained and protected us.
I know that this has been one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced but somehow it gave us the leeway to reevaluate our priorities, tweaked our proud principles, strengthen our bond as a family and become better individuals.