Doctors, we often forget, are human, too.
Nurse Mavinelle “Mavs” Amoncio recalls the last days of Dr. Helen Tudtud in a heart-wrenching Facebook post.
Last week, social media reeled from the news of the deaths of the doctor couple in Cebu City, who died of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a few days apart from each other. Front-liner oncologist Dr. Dennis Ramon Tudtud passed away mere days after the disease claimed the life of his wife, pathologist Helen Tudtud.
Amoncio was Doctor Helen’s sole companion the entire time she was in the hospital. On the fifth day, recalled Amoncio, the day she was intubated, the doctor had requested her to keep on checking on her in the room.
“Inig tulog naku dai, bisita-bisitaha baya ko diri sa kwarto, ha? Tan-awa baya permi akong O2 sat basin ubos na kaayo (When I sleep, please come visit me regularly in my room. Check that the oxygen doesn’t get too low),” she told Amoncio.
“She was afraid,” said Amoncio. “I could feel nga she felt so alone.”
When Doctor Helen was already having difficulty breathing, she called for Amoncio. “Does my husband know na grabe na ko kaayo (that I’m in a bad state)?”
“Murag wala pa, Doc (No, I don’t think so, Doc),” she said.
“Ingna, please (Tell him, please). Call Doctor Dennis, please,” Doctor Helen pleaded.
Amoncio said the truth was, she couldn’t inform her husband, as he was also on the ground floor getting prepped for admission due to COVID-19. But she chose not to give Doctor Helen that information.
Amoncio took care of Doctor Helen’s every need, even getting her bread from the pantry and preparing milk when the doctor refused to eat hospital food.
“Inig makagawas na ko diri, pakan’on gyud ta mo sa among restaurant (When I get discharged, we’re all eating in my restaurant),” Doctor Helen said.
“I was really looking forward to that, na makagawas ka sa hospital, Doc (when you could get out of the hospital, Doc),” Amoncio’s post read.
At one point, Amoncio said Doctor Helen offered her iPad so she could have some entertainment while looking after the doctor. Amoncio was too embarrassed to accept the offer, she said.
The offer was no surprise. Both doctors were known for their generous hearts.
The couple’s son, Dennis Thomas, said his dad often paid for the chemotherapy sessions of some of his patients, “just so their families could spend more years with them. He was generous beyond words,” he said in a Facebook post.
“My sister Deborah and I may never understand why God had to take them both. There are so many questions with no answers. We have a flood of tears. I also ask for your prayers for strength and acceptance,” said Dennis Thomas.
As Doctor Helen fought for her life, fake news of her passing began to circulate prematurely on social media.
“My mother was still fighting to stay alive, but people were already killing her! Do you know how painful it is to have both parents admitted and both in serious and guarded condition, and yet you hear news saying that our mother has already died, when she is still holding on and fighting to stay alive?” said Dennis Thomas.
He announced on Facebook the death of his father.
“Today is my birthday. It pains me that both my parents are no longer here. I cannot bring them back to life, but I can celebrate their lives,” he said. “Please include them in your prayers as they journey together to heaven. Please also pray for those who are still fighting this battle. My parents may have lost, but the Lord won two angels,” he said.
The couple’s daughter, animator and illustrator Deborah, told GMA network that she is “trying to be strong. I think my brother is more level-headed than me. Of us two, I’m the more emotional one. In reality, I’m scared.”
She remembered how inseparable her parents were: “My dad tried to show too much affection for my mom in public, and my mom would cringe. They really loved each other. My dad was a big fan of making grand gestures for my mom.
“My dad is also very friendly, but my mom was over-the-top friendly. She could befriend anyone. All the security guards probably knew her because she knew them. She found a way to get to know who they are.”
To anyone fighting COVID-19, Deborah said, “You’re not alone. If possible, try to talk to someone. I think it hurts more if you keep it inside.”