When I’m on call, a typical day involves receiving endorsements or the list of patients to see, who to watch out for…I start doing the rounds, reviewing labs and X-rays.
What makes it tedious is the donning and removal of personal protective equipment per patient, making sure you do not miss one step. That goes for the entire day, covering all the units until we finish seeing to all of them.
In the afternoon, we have a video conference with most pulmo and infectious diseases doctors and other concerned subspecialties, discussing our standardized protocol in managing our patients, new drugs or therapies, streamlining our workflow.
The first challenge is overcoming fear. Yes, we come in every day with some tightness in the chest, not knowing if we would encounter this invisible enemy much closer than we should today. We fear having to lose a patient or seeing them worsen. And we fear not being able to go home anymore.
But when I reach the hospital and I see the guards, the elevator assistants, the respiratory therapists, nurses, residents and colleagues, I breathe better, knowing that I am not alone. We joke around, we try to make the situation lighter. And then the sigh turns into a smile.
Away from my kids
My other challenge is being a mom away from the kids. They have online school and I cannot supervise them. I also do not have the time to do grocery shopping for them, the simple things. Sometimes I envy the stay-at-home parents. I am also away from my 80-year-old mom who always worries about me.
I do not usually take supplements, but this time I take vitamin C and zinc just to make sure I have enough, since we do not exactly get to eat on time and hardly sleep. My household is also on vitamin supplements now.
I try to distance myself from my kids, especially the day after a 24-hour shift. Thank God for video calls and SMS. Even at work we practise social distancing.
What gives me strength is seeing these passionate people, especially my infectious diseases and pulmonary colleagues, and the supportive management of our hospital. We have to research every day to get updated on the new therapies and tests, and we check on what’s applicable here.
We form teams to create protocols and collaborate with foreign counterparts if needed. We are also formulating how to maximize the digital platform for patient consults, conferences and teaching. Our Viber is literally abuzz 24/7.
I draw strength from people who send messages just to tell me that they are praying for me.
I draw strength from people who offer to bring food to my kids, who anticipate what I need and try to assist in our daily struggles.
I draw strength from my core group of friends who are also busy in other hospitals, but they never fail to check on me and laugh with me when I get overwhelmed. I am deeply encouraged when my non-medical friends help source supplies for the hospital.
And what sustains me are the promises of God, which I share to our team so that they themselves will be encouraged.
We can only hope that this won’t last too long, but we just live one day at a time.
I am so thankful I was able to do some grocery shopping the other day. That was my break—one day without having to be in the hospital, having a devotional and prayer time with kids.
As of now, no time for Netflix or K-drama yet.
Guinevere Dy Agra, M.D., is a specialist in internal medicine-pulmonary medicine at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City.