Death of a family member is already painful. Losing a family member from COVID-19 leaves a lifetime worth of emotional trauma.
It all started when my father complained of loss of smell. Nanay was alarmed and instructed me to purchase all the necessary medicines. My paternal cousins immediately assisted by setting up my father’s isolation area. The sad news came, my father tested positive. We coordinated with the LGU and soon enough, the remaining members of the family were tested. Me and my PWD brother were spared. Unfortunately, Nanay emerged positive.
Both my parents were fully vaccinated. Aside from Sinovac, they have flu and pneumonia vaccine. This was the main reason why initially, I was confident that my parents will overcome everything. My father was coping well. He was only complaining of mild cough, colds and chills. My Nanay’s case was different. Unlike usual COVID-19 patients, Nanay never manifested any of those symptoms. Instead, we were alarmed by her low blood oxygen level. It started on the day we learned her positive result. I immediately checked her oxygen level and was alarmed by the oxymeter’s reading. Her usual reading oxygen level was between 80 to 88. With the help of my cousins, we administered immediate treatment from an oxygen tank. Nanay was not improving so we decided to acquire a larger oxygen tank at 2 am. She initially responded well, which allowed everyone to sleep. Come morning the next day, the oxygen tank does not seem to provide enough help.
There are only three hospitals within Marikina accepting COVID-19 cases, all have declared full capacity. I opted to avail of an online medical consultation, only to be rejected by two doctors. Help came in the most unexpected way. I found a pulmonologist from a blog friend. My cousins worked hard and eventually found a bed at Assumption Specialty and Medical Center in Antipolo. Part of me was relieved that proper care will finally be given to Nanay.
Nanay was initially admitted at the isolation facility. Her first days started our darkest and painful journey. She wanted to rest and sleep, but the medical personnel kept coming to extract blood and pull her out for laboratory tests.
I stayed with Nanay a few more days and left her at night. Eventually, the hospital personnel discouraged this practice. With a heavy heart, I lessened my stay in the hospital. The nurses assured me that they will update me via SMS. I stayed in the hospital’s lobby waiting, praying and hoping to see Nanay’s pulmonologist.
My greatest fear started when I learned that Nanay is becoming unresponsive. I kept coming back and forth the hospital only to receive the worst news whenever I reach home. Nanay suffered from stroke and was declared on comatose status. I was only able to meet Nanay’s pulmonologist when decisions have to be made.
I talked to my Dad and decided to place everything in God’s hands. I lost all the hope. I decided to prepare Nanay in her last few days. I called a priest for her final blessing. We were storming the heaven with prayers, but God wanted to end her suffering. On September 4, 2021, Nanay joined her two younger siblings, who also passed away last July and August.
Death of a loved one is already painful. But losing someone from COVID19 leaves a lifetime worth of emotional trauma. My Dad was still recovering. Nanay’s siblings and friends never had a chance to see her. We depended on that short video call, the nurses’s kindest assistance and the PPE gifted by my friend E. I’ll never forget those few minutes I talked to Nanay and thanked her for everything. Even if Nanay was declared unresponsive, I prayed and thanked her for everything. In return, Nanay made movements every time she heard my voice. Nanay fought to her last breath.
The succeeding days were filled with endless tears, fears and anxiety. All I wanted until this date is to sleep and avoid people. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten used to people avoiding us. In return, I developed this unconscious behavior of distancing myself to people within our community.
I still feel nervous whenever I receive calls, especially from numbers not in my phone book. I start to associate hospitals as a place for death and suffering. I fear the presence of doctors, seeing them makes me feel that I’m about to receive another death sentence. My Dad has already recovered, but I’m afraid that the virus has deteriorated part of his system. Consulting a doctor still scares me. The experience was way different during the pre-pandemic times. Whenever my grandparents are hospitalized, a doctor will always take time each day to explain everything to my family.
I’m thankful to some of the nurses who took care of Nanay, but a different story for the doctors. The first time I talked to her doctor was through a phone call, I felt she was irritated and stressed. The second time we met, she was asking me to make decisions and sign a lot of waiver forms. My Nanay’s cause of death was hypoxemia, no one even bothered to explain. The attending physician, who performed CPR to Nanay, only explained that they performed the maximum of 10 attempts.
While I understand the bulk of work experienced by doctors, patients and their families are life in a desperate and helpless situation. If the pandemic does not end, medical professionals will be overworked and more families will experience our painful journey.
I used to love the scenic views of the roads leading to Antipolo. These days, everything reminds me of helplessness and desperation.
Unknown to my family, my tears also include pain inflicted by other people. The entire experience made ma realize that oppression is inevitable for people with financial constraints. Me and my Dad have been painfully manipulated. If I had the means, I will rebuild our lives away from them.
I’m afraid to leave home, not because of the chance of contacting the virus. I fear that another tragedy will hit my family while I’m away.
I wanted to end on a positive note, but I’m still consumed by grief and fear.
I wanted to stay home and constantly be with my father and brother. But I have other responsibilities to fulfill. I have to attend to my Nanay’s SSS benefits. I have bills to settle. I have to look for a doctor to check on Dad and consult for possible vaccination to my PWD brother. I have to work because it remains our lone source of income. All these happen while I’m still adjusting living in a home without Nanay.
My family’s COVID-19 story ended in the most painful way. I wish to create something meaningful from this experience. I thought of writing some useful blog posts. I wanted to offer help, I started by lending Nanay’s oxygen tank for free. I wanted to be the compassionate friend or stranger to any family sharing our experience. But behind everything is still, my devastated self praying for emotional healing and the strength to keep life going.