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The fight against COVID-19 has been difficult and long, but our frontliners, most especially doctors and nurses, continue to work harder so that they can protect and save more lives. One of them is Karmi Erika Cariaso-Abunan, 33. Though she’s already 34 weeks pregnant, this mom continues to go on duty despite the risks involved.
In an interview with SmartParenting.com.ph, Karmi admits that many of her family members were against her decision to continue working. “Nung nag-announce ng enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), lahat halos ng relatives ko nag-message na ‘wag na ako pumasok. They made me stop for two weeks,” she shares.
But the mom could not find it in her heart to go against her oath. “Nakikita ko na need ng staff sa hospital. And [deep] inside, [I knew] mas magiging happy ako working and fighting with them,” Karmi explains.
Hospital duty while pregnant
Though she’s not exempted from a 16-hour duty, Karmi shares that the hospital in Quezon City where she works gives her certain considerations and privileges because she’s pregnant. “As much as possible, hindi po ako ine-expose talaga sa infectious patient. Pero may mga times na nakakahandle ako ng suspect cases. Since I am working in the hospital, hindi natin makikita ‘yung virus kaya kahit ‘di ka exposed, through [your] workmates ay ma-e-expose ka rin,” she says.
“I have to forget na buntis ako and work as a nurse to help.”
There are also additional challenges brought about by the pandemic. “Sanay kami sa long duty hours but not with our PPEs (personal protective equipment) on. Mahirap huminga lalo na ‘pag nag-re-revive ng patient,” Karmi explains.
She adds, “Minsan, ‘di maiiwasan as a senior nurse na ikaw ang hands-on sa mas critical na patient. Dalawahan lang [na nurse] per shift tapos tiyempo sa’yo ‘yung toxic patient. I have to forget na buntis ako and work as a nurse to help. But time to time, I have to remind myself na may dala akong baby.”
Getting strength from family
As a healthcare worker, Karmi has to live with the fear of passing along the virus to her senior family members as well as her daughters, 12-year-old Tenshi, who is asthmatic and dependent on her inhaler, and seven-year-old Tinker. Luckily, she has the support of her husband, Jed Abunan — although it took some convincing, of course.
“Start pa lang ng pandemic, ayaw na niya ako mag-work kasi nga risky. Pero inexplain ko na ‘di naman ako pababayaan sa hospital. Na mas safe ako dun kasi alam mo ang mga bagay na ‘di mo hahawakan, lugar na iiwasan at [lahat ng] tao nag-phy-physical distancing. Sa hospital sobrang aware ka sa lahat,” Karmi shares.
Jed eventually relented and they agreed on safety measures that they will take every time Karmi comes back from duty. “Gagamit lang ako ng one pair of shoes as well as one small bag na iiwan ko sa labas ng bahay. ‘Pag-uwi ko, sasabihin ko agad sa kanya para ma-ready niya ang hot water ko at makaligo ako agad. ‘Yung used clothes ko at towel, diretso sa washing lahat, at dinidisinfect ang lahat ng things ko,” she says. “Super thankful ako na sinuportahan niya ako kahit alam kong takot din siya for me and the family.”
Karmi admits that she already experienced being in quarantine last month. “Luckily it was just flu-like symptoms (sore throat with mild flu) and not COVID-19,” she shares.
Because of this, the fear does not go away. “Nag-start na magkaroon ng [cases] sa staff as well as mommies so we have to isolate agad the babies in NICU. That makes me scared lalo,” the soon-to-be mother of two says.
“’Pag health worker ka at ‘yun ang passion mo, mawawala talaga ang takot mo.”
Still, it did not stop her from answering the call to serve. “Tuwing lalakad ako papalapit sa hospital, may feeling na nababalutan ka ng lakas. Na kaya mo at uuwi ka ng ligtas pa rin,” Karmi says. “’Pag health worker ka ata at ‘yun ang passion mo, mawawala talaga ang takot mo,” she shares. “Naniniwala ako ‘di naman ako dinala ni God sa profession na ito kung walang dahilan. This is my dream profession ever since.”
As a pregnant mom who’s in the thick of things, Karmi’s only wish is for fellow preggos to trust their doctors. “If hindi naman kailangan lumabas, please stay home. Take care of yourself and take your prenatal meds. Mahirap maging pregnant ngayon, may months na walang prenatal checkup kaya we have to be aware of our bodies,” she says.
Matatakot pero 'di susuko! For more inspiring frontliner stories, click here.