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  • This Nurse Who Survived COVID-19 Says, 'I Want To Work Here And Come Home Daily'

    Plus, an ICU nurse who felt vulnerable and helpless when she contracted COVID-19
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
  • Patrick Oteyza and Alyssa Marie Lungca are frontliners who contracted COVID-19.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of the author

    COVID-19 has opened many of us to a world of extraordinary sacrifice and bravery from our medical frontliners. Their lives are on the line every single day, and yet, they still wake up each day reporting for duty.

    In fact, some who recovered from COVID-19 return to the battlefront to help save more lives, like the two nurses below. They contracted COVID-19, recovered and plan to continue serving on the front lines. But they also reveal they are not coming out of this pandemic the same people they were before.

    A nurse gets COVID-19 and makes a crucial decision for his family  

    Patrick Oteyza works as a nurse at the Region II Trauma and Medical Center in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. A post-graduate course in Pulmonary Nursing at the Lung Center of the Philippines and his experience as an isolation nurse at the same hospital since 2019 had made him a natural choice for a posting at the isolation rooms designated for Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and COVID-positive patients.

    Patrick was already there in January 2020 when the province identified its first batch of Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) and PUIs. "This was something I've never done before, but I thought if I wouldn't do it, who would?  My wife and I talked about it, and we were prepared for [the consequences and challenges that come with it]," he says.

    "There are times that duties can be very toxic due to the number of patients that we are attending to," he reveals. "We feel the shortage of manpower, especially during times when some of us have been identified as PUMs and PUIs." 


    Patrick took on 12-hour shifts and practically lived in the hospital, sometimes even on his days-off to protect his family.

    "I always bring clothes with me. I take a bath at the hospital and change into new clothes before going home. I put my used work clothes in a separate hamper. When the number of cases increased, we worked 12 hours a day and were not allowed to go home."

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    More than just a COVID-19 patient number

    In March, Patrick learned he tested positive for COVID-19. His symptoms remained mild, but his mind raced with questions. "I immediately thought, what will our neighbors say? How will social media react once they find out? Did I infect my family? How will my kids cope with this? I was overwhelmed," he recalled.

    Still, Patrick's sense of duty prevailed. He and his wife made the decision to share his condition on social media.

    Patrick says of his wife Xane, "I admired my wife's strength and courage. She informed everyone of my case. She did it to lessen the negative comments from others and for the speculations to stop."
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Patrick Oteyza
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    Being on the front lines, getting infected, and having to overcome negative comments have given Patrick a clearer perspective of what is more important in his life.

    "Just thinking of the time we frontliners spend away from our families makes me value it even more. Before, I wanted to work abroad, but now I just want to work here and be able to come home daily. Money is less important than time for me now," he reflects. 

    With his unique vantage point, Patrick thinks the country can rise above the crisis. "The virus is not really the problem, it's actually the attitude and the discipline of people in this situation," Patrick says. "If we only we focus on following the rules, being thankful for how much we have while supporting each other and taking care of ourselves at this time, then I guess we will be on our way to the end of this battle."

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    A nurse thought she took all the necessary precuations. COVID-19 still came for her  

    "All ICU nurses are frontliners," says Alyssa Marie Lungca, a 25-year old nurse serving at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of The Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

    Alyssa works five times a week on a 12-hour shift. Although she can go home after three to four days of duty, she prefers to stay at the accommodation provided by her hospital to keep her parents and siblings safe.

    She is already at the hospital by 5 a.m. She eats breakfast once she arrives, which will probably be her only meal for the day until she finishes her 12-hour shift. "We can't eat and drink while in our PPEs because that means breaking a closed system and increasing our chances for infection," she says.


    Skipping a meal and avoiding bathroom breaks mean saving on the already limited PPE suits, which consists of a suit, N95 mask, goggles, gloves, face shield, and booties. It takes around 30 minutes to put everything on.

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    Knowing what awaited her as a COVID-19 patient 

    Three weeks into her new assignment, Alyssa, tested positive for COVID 19 on April 1. Her first thought was: "I do not want to die."

    "[The virus] can infect anybody. I consider myself a healthy adult, and I have no known diseases. I don't have vices. 

    "I wore the required PPE, practiced hand hygiene, isolated my belongings, and limited my contact with other people, especially my family, but still, I acquired the disease. From whom, where, and when I got infected, I don't know," she narrates.

    Knowing the cycle of life and death of the most vulnerable COVID positive patients at the ICU did give Alyssa any comfort. "It could take a fully awake patient just 24 to 48 hours to be suddenly intubated. I saw how patients fight for their lives because of this virus, and most of them have not survived."

    Alyssa, who had flu-like symptoms that she initially attributed to the long hours at work, was quarantined for four days at home and was admitted to the hospital for another four days.

    Alyssa (right), shown here with her family, felt vulnerable and helpless when she bid her family goodbye. "I know my mom wanted to hug me, but she couldn't. I wanted to kiss them goodbye, but I couldn't.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Alyssa Marie Lungca

    As of this writing, Alyssa received the good news she was now COVID-19 free. She will have to report back to work at the end of another 14-day quarantine period. "My faith in God became stronger," she shares. "Now, I understand why my mom always asked us to pray with her. God is indeed the only healer." 

    Alyssa adds she doesn't want to be just another statistic. That's why she was willing to tell her story of faith and her journey to recovery. "[I want people to know that] in all the lives lost since we had the COVID-19 outbreak, there are recoveries, and there is hope."

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