Nine months since the pandemic brought the entire world to a screeching halt, we are still on tenterhooks. Vaccines from three big pharmaceutical companies have shown promise, but as Dr. Daffy Morales of Manila Doctors Hospital sees it, “COVID-19 will never disappear from our lives. Never.”
The internal medicine (IM) and adult cardiology specialist says the only goal is to get a reliable vaccine to 60 to 70 percent of the human population “at warp speed.”
Until that actually happens, we have to accept the fact that nothing will ever be the same again. It’s a bleak picture but a true one, nonetheless.
“This virus stopped us in our tracks and made humanity shut up. The crux of the matter relies on us learning how to deal with it, how to avoid it, and how to live with it,” Morales says. “And as we try to do so, who would have thought that putting a cloth sheet over your nose and mouth, and a clear plastic sheet between your face and the outside world, would make you appreciate the world better?”
How they manage
We asked several medical front-liners how they have managed and what they now know, nine months in.
Shannon Nicole Primavera, a nurse at St. Bartholomew Hospital in central London whom we profiled in April, says the situation is slightly better but not yet back to normal, as new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases are on the rise and restrictions have been tightened.
“We are quite fortunate that we had a few months when restrictions in the United Kingdom were lifted. I made sure to see friends and unwind while taking all the needed precautions. This helped us relieve the stress and burnout that we felt from March to June,” Primavera says.
In the hospital where she works, programs and training sessions were developed to ensure that they would be more prepared in dealing with the pandemic.
“What I’ve learned from this experience is that looking after yourself and others goes a long way. It’s very important to check on your family and friends, your colleagues, and yourself, too, as we are in a very unique circumstance. We front-liners have been very brave and resilient, but not without the support of each other and our families around us,” Primavera says.
Never let your guard down
Dr. Aicah Galang, IM pulmonary medicine specialist at Manila Doctors Hospital, says that months spent battling the virus has made them more capable, “but we never let our guard down.”
“Adjustment would be the biggest theme of my 2020. I now feel naked without a mask, as if the mask has become part of my OOTD (outfit of the day). Safety is my utmost priority because it is not only my health at stake, but the health of the people I go home to,” Galang says.
“I have learned that a pandemic brings out the truest in each one of us. I have encountered so many good-hearted people who have reached out to those who risk their lives on a daily basis, but I hope we do not always wait for end-of-the-world scenarios before deciding to lend a hand,” she adds.
Dr. Ryan Shaun Sy, outgoing chief resident at Manila Doctors Hospital, can vividly recall the day the hospital had its first COVID-19 patient.
“Despite spending years studying in medical school and doing clinical work for training, it was still a daunting encounter. Amid the confusion during the initial wave, there were two points I told my fellow residents to focus on: Take care of your patients, and take care of yourself,” Sy says.
“The hardest adjustment of all was distancing ourselves from our loved ones to protect them from our occupational hazard. Thankfully, we had help from our administrators, consultants, fellows, nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists, housekeeping, dietary, security, and other hospital personnel that worked tirelessly toward a common goal during the pandemic, which was to provide the best care for the patients.”
As the weeks and months passed, they were able to overcome their initial anxieties brought about by the pandemic.
The power of a kind word
“Eventually, our reactions became anticipatory and systematized rather than intuitive. Seeing the community reach out to help us by donating medical supplies, delivering food, and sending goodwill messages has continued to warm our hearts better than any tight-fitting PPE (personal protective equipment) suits. Their genuine words and actions have been truly inspiring and have continued to fuel our passion up to this day,” Sy says.
Morales, likewise, realizes the power of words. He says the pandemic strengthened his faith, but it also instilled in him a newfound appreciation for simple things he used to take for granted, like engaging in small talk.
“Despite the advances in technology, there is still a universal need and appreciation for sincere human interaction. A simple ‘nice to see you’ or ‘ingat’ (take care) is a welcome morale booster. We have to learn to take care of one another, directly and indirectly,” Morales says.
“The pandemic has taught us to be more mindful of the things that matter most: one’s faith, family and friends.” INQ