Dr. Mark Austine Fabian Gawaran is a self-described adrenaline junkie. To some degree, you have to be, he said to Lifestyle, if you enjoy working in the emergency room.
Gawaran, chief resident of emergency medicine at Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed), said choosing to be an ER doctor means rushed meals and toilet breaks. A typical 12-hour shift barely gives him time to sit down. He thinks on his feet, knowing the first 15 minutes could be crucial to saving a patient’s life.
“A lot of us will work out for happy hormones, eat healthy food to boost our immune system, and get a real good night’s rest,” he said.
Pre-COVID-19, the ER saw around 400-500 patients a day. Today, the ER has been turned into a hot zone where all patients are considered to have COVID-19-related disease until proven otherwise, he said.
By showing up at work each day, he exposes himself to the virus. Gawaran is cautious and, like all doctors working closely with COVID-19 patients, is often fearful for his life. He wears four layers of personal protective equipment (PPE) every day, not just for his safety but for the protection of everyone he might encounter throughout the day.
“There’s always fear that we might get infected. We’re not just in the ER for a certain number of hours; we stay for the entire duty time,” Gawaran said. “Forgetting one step in the PPE could make us prone to get an infection and start infecting other people.”
The face of death
Fortunately, MakatiMed provides psychiatric support to its front-liners. He said they also have a support group on Facebook.
“What worries us is a lot of young people are dying in front of us, even after we’ve tried our best with the evidence provided,” he said. “We may have seen the face of death so many times in our profession, but we still get affected every time we lose a patient. But we can’t get too emotional because it clouds the judgment.”
What keeps him going, like most of us, is the hope that it might get better someday.
In the beginning, he said, patients come in with their relatives. Patients always request to see their loved ones. Sadly, patients pass away without any goodbyes.
“Maybe I can comfort more patients today… Being a doctor is a commitment to yourself and your loved ones,” he said. “I always pray today would be kinder, even if the inevitable happens.”