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A Nurse And A Mom's Sacrifice During A Pandemic: 'I Have To Keep My Babies Away From Me'
PHOTO BY courtesy of Vanessa de Guzman Rivera
  • Most days, Vanessa De Guzman Rivera, 28, an operating room nurse at the Manila Doctors Hospital would come home to her two daughters’ hugs and kisses. But because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the mom of two had to make the difficult choice of relocating her children to live with her in-laws.

    “Everyday ako pumapasok, in and out sa hospital. Two weeks ko na ring hindi nakikita ‘yung mga anak ko,” she tells SmartParenting.com.ph. “Video call lang kami parati at ‘yung Tiktok ng eldest ko na sinisend ng sister ko ang nakakapagpawala ng pagod every time na napapanood ko.”

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    As an operating room nurse, Vanessa does not have direct contact with patients under investigation (PUIs), persons under monitoring (PUMs) or confirmed COVID-19 cases. “Kami po ‘yung one of the safest kasi nasa loob kami ng OR unlike nurses naming sa ward and ER na sila talaga ‘yung pinaka-frontliners na humaharap at na-be-bedside sa mga patients, PUI or PUM.”

    Most of their surgeries have been cancelled, and they cater only to emergency operations. But it does not mean her job is without risk. “Hindi maiiwasan na ‘yung mga taong exposed sa ward na pumapasok sa OR to assist in the operation like our surgeons, anesthesiologists, and mga doctors doing rounds. That’s the time na lahat din kami exposed na talaga,” she says.

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    Work during a pandemic

    Even as an OR nurse, Vanessa is still at risk for COVID-19 because of her duties in the hospital.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Vanessa De Guzman Rivera

    Because COVID-19 has caused fear and anxiety to the public, health workers like Vanessa also get discriminated against. A few days before the lockdown, one of her co-nurses had difficulty commuting to work because FX drivers and passengers refused to let her inside their vehicles after seeing her uniform.

    “Sa LRT nung sumakay po ako pauwi, makikita mo talaga ‘yung tao lalayo sa’yo even if I’m wearing a mask,” she adds. “Others, magtatanong pa — ‘di ba sa inyo ‘yung may namatay.’ So, to avoid discrimination, pinayagan kami ng management to go to work in our civilian clothes.”

    Like other facilities, the hospital Vanessa works in is also experiencing a shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE). “Even kami sa hospital we are using unfiltered masks, ‘yung pang-fashion. Ako, personally, bumili na lang ako ng 10 pieces of cloth mask. Para washable at pag-uwi at papasok may gamit ako. [Sa hospital] ang mask dapat papalitan siya every case, pero sa’min isang mask na lang ang binibigay at ginagamit na naming for the whole shift,” she shares.

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    When she gets home, her husband, Shervinton, is not allowed to come near her until she has taken a bath. “Nasanay na rin po si husband, paulit-ulit ko kasing sinasabi na bawal,” Vanessa shares.

    Given the nature of her job, Vanessa also takes precautionary measures inside their home. “Sa gate pa lang ng condo, nag-che-check na ng temperature ang mga guard ng mga pumapasok. Pagdating ko sa house, diretso ako sa CR agad without touching anything,” she explains. “Naliligo na po ako agad, and my husband makes sure na prepared na ‘yung clothes na susuotin ko after maligo. After, magpupunas ako ng alcohol sa katawan.”

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    She and her husband make it a habit to disinfect their house. “’Yung doorknobs na hinawakan ko ini-isprayan ko ng Lysol even ‘yung hamper kung saan ko nilagay ‘yung soiled clothes. Every hour, nag-che-check rin si husband ng temperature namin,” Vanessa says.

    “Since I am exposed sa hospital, hindi man ako magka-signs and symptoms, pwedeng ako ang maging carrier ng virus sa mga taong uuwian ko. Kaya better na wala sila sa akin."

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    Missing her girls

    Vanessa with her husband, Vin, and daughters, Venice and Vianne.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Vanessa de Guzman Rivera

    Two weeks have passed since she last hugged her kids. With the enhanced community quarantine in place, Vanessa and her husband would have to wait longer until they can be with their kids again.

    “As much as I want to visit, hindi pa rin po pwede kasi mga seniors na po ‘yung in-laws ko — matatanda na with existing illnesses and very prone rin sa sakit,” she shares. Not to mention, her youngest, Vienne, is only 3 months old.

    “Since I am exposed sa hospital, hindi man ako magka-signs and symptoms, pwede pong ako ang maging carrier ng virus sa mga taong uuwian ko. Kaya better po na wala sila sa akin,” she adds.


    Luckily, her eldest, Venice, who is 5 years old, is coping with the situation well. “I just tell her na vacation time na. No more school and exam and she can play with her cousins pero strictly no going outside and she always has to wash her hands,” Vanessa shares. “So far she’s happy naman kasi kasama niya mga cousins niya.”

    "Mabigat sa pakiramdam ko kapag papasok sa duty. ‘Yung takot na, ‘paano kapag nahawa ako, ‘pag nagkasakit ako mas lalo kong ‘di makikita ng matagal mga anak ko at asawa ko.'"

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    Being a health worker, especially during a pandemic, can be really difficult, but despite the sacrifices she has had to make, Vanessa chooses to fulfill her duty and her oath. “Personally, mabigat sa pakiramdam ko kapag papasok sa duty. ‘Yung takot na, ‘paano kapag nahawa ako, ‘pag nagkasakit ako mas lalo kong ‘di makikita ng matagal mga anak ko at asawa ko',” she shares.

    As her husband, Vin, puts it, "Kahit na alam natin na pwede ka naman tumigil jan sa trabaho mo at maging safe ka dito sa akin, mas pinipili mo pa rin pumasok. Kahit alam natin na delikado na jan at ma-e-expose ka, laban pa rin! Kahit hindi natin kasama mga anak natin ngayon para sa kaligtasan nila, go pa rin! Alam ko kung gaano kalaki ang sakripisyo mo, lagpas na para masabi pa na trabaho "lang" 'yan. Proud ako sa'yo."

    The community quarantine is a tough period for everyone, but Vanessa hopes parents can still be thankful despite the challenges. “Sa mga fellow moms ko na nagka-chance mag-stay at home or quarantine, ang swerte-swerte ninyo kasi 24/7 nasa family ninyo kayo. Play more with your kids, bond with your partners, keep your family healthy. Practice proper hygiene not just handwashing. And stay home. Napakalaking tulong na ito sa mga frontliners,” she says.


    Our health workers and frontliners are truly heroes. Click here for more stories that will uplift and warm your hearts.

    This article was updated on March 19, 2020 at 9:43 p.m.

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