, October 26, 2021

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We Survived Hand-to-hand Combat with Covid


  •   5 min reads
We Survived Hand-to-hand Combat with Covid
by Janina Ignacio

At the onslaught of the first lockdown, my mother equipped our household with all the new normal necessities: everything from foot baths to an endless supply of heavy-duty vitamins, soap, and hand sanitizers. But, ever the wise woman, she knew it would be easier to keep the family in than it would be keeping the virus out. So, she turned our house into a haven so that there was never a good enough reason to leave.

WE WERE RESPONSIBLE. For the high school graduation of my brother Matt in April 2020, we did our own ceremony, handed our own medals, and we all dressed up for it.

Corners of our house became makeshift studies and offices. Our balcony became a thriving herb and vegetable garden. The pantry and fridge were filled to the brim, more than enough for my dad & brother to let their culinary imagination go wild. Our living room was turned into a home gym (anyway, we won’t be entertaining anyone for a while). By all accounts, she did everything right. When I think of how we spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I never would have thought we’d have our own brush with the virus exactly a year after.

Of the ten adults living in our house, five tested positive and two developed symptoms after initially getting negative results.

Dad was the first to fall ill, we thought it was just another one of his asthma attacks as diagnosed by a family doctor. Since he struggled to move, mom had to stay and help him while we waited for their COVID test results. But dad’s oxygen levels continued to falter, it was apparent he needed hospitalization. Dad was driven around in our family van (hooked to his oxygen tank) around Metro Manila for half a day. Those of us left at home called hospitals and government channels to see if any of them could help us out. Each time we were rejected or told to wait but we knew we did not have time to spare.

In the midst of our frantic search, our parents’ results finally confirmed our worst fears. Both our parents had COVID-19. After hours of phone calls, a friend (to whom we’re forever grateful) advised us to seek help at the Philippine Lung Center. The next challenge was getting dad to agree to hospitalization because he was afraid he would not make it back home. I still remember him making his way down the stairs, entrusting the household to us and our helpers. He waited another day in the makeshift ER before he was given a room in the “hospitainer”.

Two days later, mom had to be admitted too. Since five of us developed symptoms and the whole house had to undergo strict isolation, she drove herself to the hospital (I often run out of words to describe how strong my mother is). Only my younger siblings were spared.

When all of this was happening late last March, we were in the midst of one of the deadliest COVID surges in the city, so we had to source dad’s medicine ourselves. Dad’s cousins and siblings found a relative in Cebu that shipped it to Manila via air freight. My siblings slept little over the next week trying to keep the medicine viable with nothing but an ice box and a steak thermometer as the vial was very sensitive to light and had to be stored at very specific temperatures.

We’ve all lost something to this pandemic. It is one thing to try regaining some normalcy but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking this is as good as it will get.

That’s how bad governance endures.

We were all lucky to have survived the ordeal and it is not lost on us how extremely fortunate we were to have received the help that we got when it mattered most. But we’ve been living with this virus for almost two years now and it is completely unacceptable that access to emergency health services remains a question of privilege. It is maddening that we continue to hit record-breaking numbers of new COVID cases while our medical frontliners’ calls for help remain unanswered. Every Filipino deserves a fighting chance. But COVID-19 will continue to be a death sentence for a lot of our countrymen if our leaders allow misinformation to propagate unchecked and continue to leave every person for themselves.

If you’ve gotten this far relatively unscathed, I won’t tell you how to live your life. We’ve all lost something to this pandemic, I won’t judge you for how you choose to cope and move forward so long as you do it responsibly. However, I need you to resist accepting things the way they are. It is one thing to try regaining some normalcy but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking this is as good as it will get. That’s how bad governance endures.

When the storm has weathered, remember who dug the hole we’re in and let’s hold them accountable. Do it for everything and everyone we lost to the virus and the negligence of those who were supposed to lead us through the darkest of days. Only then can we truly heal.


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