‘Testing COVID-19 positive as welcome rest’
Inquirer news report (Inquirer.net, 1/11/22): “A total of 6,595 health care workers in Metro Manila are under quarantine due to COVID-19, an official of the Department of Health said Tuesday. This comprises 7.2% of the 91,838 health workers in Metro Manila…”
Some health care workers (HCWs) are saying among themselves that their testing positive for COVID-19, during these days of the unprecedented surge of cases, means welcome rest, if not a blessing in disguise. This is because of extreme exhaustion that puts their physical and mental health at risk. I certainly concur after I learned from an ER nurse who had tested positive three times (and recovered) in these two years of the pandemic and who has been on 12-hour backbreaking duty in the past days. With many of them testing positive for COVID-19, the staff reduced and the increasing number of patients admitted, the heavy burden is on those who remain standing.
My unsolicited advice: Resign if that means saving your life. Meaning, it is all up to you now. Are you on the verge of a meltdown? This reminds me of the unwritten reminder for us journalists: No story is worth dying for. Not that we have not risked our lives but the risks have to be calculated. You can’t tell your story if you’re dead.
But with the Omicron variant supposedly milder in its effects despite its being more infectious, government officials seem to be conceding to clamors that tight quarantine measures be relaxed. Despite 33,169 new cases and 46 percent positivity rate three days ago, the highest since the pandemic began in 2020? Now HCWs who test positive can only go on leave for five days instead of the 10 to 14 days required in the past. Does this mean that even while the HCWs remain infectious they should be back to their duties?
How many times have we seen photographs of HCWs slumped in corners, catching up with sleep at odd hours while sweating profusely underneath their PPEs? Rarely have we heard their lamentations, only pleas to one and all to observe health protocols because they can hardly keep up. And yet there are the so-called “Poblacion girls and boys” of this world, new arrivals whose sense of entitlement takes precedence over other people’s health. They circumvent ordinances and quarantine measures and even flaunt them on social media. For the likes of them: No mercy. My heart goes out to the hardworking folk who find ways to earn for their families while every detail is squeezed out of them in checkpoints to prove they are “essential.”
In honor of our HCWs, may I share “There is no more honor” (author anonymous):
We wanted to help people/ We were smart and driven/ We loved science and physiology, humans and disease/ So we made a commitment/ We signed up/ It was an honor/
We read thousands of pages/ Attended hundreds of lectures/ Pulled all-nighters/ Took more exams than we thought possible/ Finals week felt insurmountable/ But it didn’t break us/ It made us stronger/ We learned statistics and biochemistry/ Immunology and pathophysiology/ We mastered genetics, virology and pharmacology/ We read scientific papers and learned how to dissect them/ Papers, not videos/ It was an honor/
We came running when you needed us/ Literally, running down the hallway/ To the ICU, the trauma bay, labor and delivery/ I need help, you said/ We can help, we said/ It was an honor/
There were moments that we thought would break us/ Moments that drove us to journaling, to therapy, to nightmares/ Broken babies/ Paralyzed children/ Dead pregnant mothers with three kids at home/ The wail of a mother whose son just died/ We bent but we did not break/ We returned because you needed us/ And we could help/ It was an honor/
Then there was fear/ Fear of walking into our place of work/ Fear that we’d be killed by going to work/ Fear that we’d kill a loved one because of our work/ There were tears and sleepless nights and anti-anxiety medications/ But you banged your pots and pans/ You sent us pizzas and called us heroes/ You needed us/ We could help/ So we wore our masks, and our gowns, and our gloves, and our goggles/ We decontaminated ourselves before going home and isolated ourselves from our families/ We almost broke/ It was an honor/
How quickly the joy turned to defeat/ Elation to rage/ You’ve learned to do your own research now/ You know better than we do/ Gaslighting is your language/ Your selfishness is astounding/ You don’t want our help when we ask you to stay healthy/ Yet you arrive at our doors begging for help at the end/ You stole our resources/ You hobbled our ability to help those who did what they were supposed to do/ You killed our patients by filling our beds and using up our ventilators/ We can’t help any more/ You broke us/ There is no more honor.
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