My Family’s COVID-19 Story

Death of a family member is already painful. Losing a family member from COVID-19 leaves a lifetime worth of emotional trauma. 

I lost my Nanay (my mother) from COVID-19. 

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. 

Quarantine Chronicles # 3 – A typical day

Even before the community quarantine was implemented, I have been an advocate of work-from-home (wfm) arrangement. I believed that some work can be done in the comforts of home. Employees are spared from the troubles of traveling. They can eat cheaper and healthier home cooked meals. They don’t have to dress up. For working parents, they can have additional time with their children.

When the community quarantine was imposed, everyone was forced to drastically embrace wfm system. I’m sure, everyone has struggles. Stability of internet connection, smaller spaces, distractions from family, undefined working hours, lengthy remote meetings and difficulty of arriving with the best consensus. Unfortunately, we all lean to one option. We need to make everything happen at all costs. Everyone needs to get the job done.

Like all wfm employees, I try to follow a routine. While some start their work in the morning, my system does not work that way. I’m alive and functioning around 10 pm, when everyone else is about to end their day. I find my working pace from night time till dawn because I love the silence of the entire environment. I don’t get disturbed by calls, messages, delivery services and anyone from the family. It also helps that internet connection is faster during night time. More importantly, the weather is more forgiving in the evening. Me and my wfm devices cannot bear the summer heat.

I start my day at 10 pm and usually finish before sunrise. In as much as I try to become consistent with this arrangement, people within my environment do everything in the morning. There are days when I have to wake up earlier and join remote meetings. Sometimes, meetings are scheduled in the sweltering afternoon. In the end, I’m left with a ruined body clock.

In my wishful and ideal world, the best wfm days happen when

  1. I finally completed a grueling report.
  2. I hit that send button with the report that consumed me and my sanity
  3. I found supportive colleagues from other departments
  4. When I’m able to successfully assist another colleague
  5. My skin still looks decent and my eyes are not puffy after days of not sleeping well
  6. I get undisrupted sleep after submitting a report. This meant no calls or urgent concerns.

My worst days include

  1. Teammates don’t comply with deadline
  2. On top of not complying with deadlines, they will keep their silence and I will be forced to wear the shoes of someone begging for updates
  3. Delayed and substandard reports
  4. Unresponsive teammates
  5. Alarming news and changes from top management
  6. Unexpected directives

and the list goes on….

Aside from work, I think everyone finally managed to have more time at home. In my case, with my family.

Looking back at my life before the community quarantine….

On a usual work week, I will drag myselt to report for work on Monday. I’m lucky if there are no meetings or presentations. Once in a while, we meet my friend T for pizza and coffee. Never mind if it’s midweek and I needed to report early for a meeting. Like everyone else, I look forward for Fridays. I’ll wear my casual clothes and count the hours before another work day ends. On some days, I drag my friend A for dinner. If I have additional money to spare, I drop by Uniqlo or SM Department Store. I usually arrive home a liitle late on Fridays and savor the rare times I have more than 8 hours of sleep.

During weekends, I do some freelance works. If luck is on my side, I have freelance writing works that entail academic research. A former superior is my favorite client because she refers me to decent and well paying clients. On weekend afternoons, I exercise my self-taught photography skills. I provide content for a small online business. If resources can still afford, I avail of food delivery via Grab Food. On Sundays, I’ll try my best to do nothing. Sleep, read and watch some series. On the rare times, my cousins invite me for dinner or a mall date.

These days, half of my life is still about work.

I still advocate for wfm arrangement. Unfortunately, I would have preferred that wfm happened way before covid19 and poor governance messed up our country. The wfm arrangement I envisioned entailed working on my pace, while still abiding with deadlines.  Problem is, not all colleagues can make it happen. Added to this, even friends from other companies are complaining of undefined working hours.

I always thought that wfm is leaning to output based arrangement. Apparently, there are unexpected concerns. I thought conflicts and politics will be lessened. Turns out, another set of struggles come along the way.

I still have a lot in my mind I wish to share. But my thoughts are all scattered. In another post, I’ll probably write what I have learned from this crisis.

Quarantine Chronicles # 2

When the community quarantine in my country started, I thought I would be fine. I will work from home, submit my outputs and continue receiving my salary. I thought everything will be simple and easy. As days progressed, all the worries and struggles started to escalate.

Back in April, my superior gave a major task. It will be my first attempt to prepare this critical document. It took me several days to gather my working pace. As usual, I work from night till dawn. I submitted my output, my superior accepted and I thought, it was mission accomplished. As days progressed, issues emerged. I had no choice, I shrugged it off and moved on. There were other concerns to attend.

Soon enough, I discovered problems within my department. It was my first time to hire. I trusted someone believing that the person was competent to fulfill the responsibilities. Turns out, I planted another problem. Both skills and work attitude were problematic. It was a tough decision. On top of this global crisis, I will remember 2020 as the first time I hired and fired someone.

Meanwhile, another colleague remains unreachable. The last time I heard from her was April 18. I exhausted all means to reach out. I even asked a former colleague, who lives within her place, to check her condition. I learned her family was fine. I just can’t understand why she refuses to send a single SMS. I’ve done my part. I respected her silence.

A few more weeks, my employer implemented cost savings measures. Everyone was forced to use their leave credits. Non-tenured employees experienced reduction in their salaries. I heard complaints and other stories from colleagues. The tensions and worries were becoming stronger.

In between struggles, my sanity is saved by friends. I’m thankful for friends who made their presence felt, albeit online. Facebook Messenger has become my sanity platform. I wouldn’t survive half of the past 65 days without them.

On top of work, there’s also my growing worries about my family. I don’t wish anything grand for my family. The fact that everyone is healthy and I have the means to support them is more than enough. Though admittedly, I have worries for myself. What will happen to me when they are all gone? If my parents and brother gets hospitalized. I keep imagining the worst, which only contributes to my level of unnecessary stress.

It may sound petty but minor concerns such as the sweltering weather did not contribute anything good. My work from home devices are overheating. Purchasing another electric fan does not solve the problem. Fellow Filipinos knew how electric fans work during the summer season. It emits an equally irritating heated air. As much as I want to purchase an air-conditioning unit, resources do not permit. Likewise, it’s inconvenient to find someone, who will install the unit. I bought an air cooler instead. I was pretty contented except that the expensive device started malfunctioning as I type this post. Phew! I hope it doesn’t totally malfunction. I even wrote a great review in my other blog. In a few weeks, lengthy zoom meetings will start again. The air cooler is my petty source of comfort. 😦 Also, I think my wfm arrangement will continue till the end of the year. This air cooler is my only investment for that much needed comfort.

More than health concerns, the economic implication of the global crisis has become the common struggle of both government and private sectors. Companies are losing earnings. When the national government announced the one-month quarantine, I was fully aware of its economic effects. Though in my mind, one month is a manageable time frame for everyone. Unfortunately, we are hitting 60 days. I knew a businesses resorted on the most drastic measure of closure. I hope the few businesses I patronize will never cease operations.

Some businesses tried their best to impose survival measures. I appreciate companies finally embracing e-commerce in a short span of time. Some established brands even sell via Facebook. Restaurants shifted to deliveries. I’m quite amazed on how businesses are responding to generate sales. But these actions only qualify for the reactive phase. In times like this, broader strokes and long term actions are direly needed.

This crisis has diverted everything. Plans, decisions and outlook in life. It’s day 60+ in the Philippines. Wuhan had it for 76 days. I thought Philippines will be better. I thought we can address this in a span of one month. Sadly, it looks like Philippines will exceed the lockdown period of the place that started everything.

ECQ Chronicles # 1

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How do I describe life these days?

My quarantine story started several days earlier. The City Government of Manila decided to suspend all classes for a week. Admittedly,  I considered this as a blessing. I have been chasing deadlines since January. I sleep at most, two hours everyday. Added to this, I have pending reports, which always get interrupted at work. Calls, meetings and other urgent concerns. I can’t seem to get my working pace in the day. I took the suspension as a much welcomed opportunity to work in the comforts of home.

I stayed at home for several days. I planned to go out and attend to some errands on weekends. But Thursday came, my social media accounts were flooded with advanced reports of a possible lockdown in Metro Manila. I felt alarmed so I forced myself to go out and have an unplanned grocery shopping. Much to my surprise, everyone shared my reaction. Everyone flocked the supermarkets, hoarded canned goods, instant noodles and other necessities. What was usually an hour of errand took me five hours. I booked a Grab Car and was able to reach home before the President made his Official Announcement.

It started as a community quarantine, became enhanced community quarantine (ecq). No one was prepared, not even the government. Hence, it’s not a surprise that everything came so disorganized. What caught my attention was fellow employees stuck in military check points. Since most employees work and live in different cities, most of them cannot reach home. Added to this, the government implemented a curfew. Not all companies dismissed their employees before the government’s proclamation. Since everyone rushed home, availability of public transportation and traffic worsened. I feel fortunate because I never had to undergo all these inconveniences. I felt grateful, but worried for fellow members of the working class.

There are contractual employees under no work no pay arrangements. There are BPO employees still required to report for work. Same goes with employees from the healthcare industry, supermarkets, military personnel, banks and food manufacturing companies. Most of them depend on public transportation. Not everyone has their own car. On the succeeding days, I heard stories of employees having to walk and cross several cities to report for work.  I’m worried for senior citizens living on their own.  Some of them are financially capable. Some of them have means that can only afford their daily needs. How can they support themselves? In some cities, senior citizens are not even allowed on public places. I also remember a fellow Grab Share passenger. She lives on her own and completing her series of chemotherapy sessions. She depends on Grab for her hospital check ups. I keep wondering how is she coping now.  There are also the informal sector workers, who depend on foot traffic for their livelihood.  Their means can only afford their daily needs are suddenly, taken away.  I have entrepreneur friends forced to stop their operations. As much as they’d like to provide for their employees, they are likewise faced with financial constraints.

My list of worries goes on. I settle with the best I can do, stay home and continue whatever work I can contribute. The school where I work for was considerate enough to continue paying our full salaries. The least I can offer is to return with good service, by continuing my reports. Everything seemed to be working well. I have supportive and responsive colleagues from other offices. Unfortunately, it’s a different story within my own department. I’ll write this on a separate post. But really, this is testing my patience.

I still have stories to relate, a lot…. I’ll take this unexpected break to write again.