Journal of a Lockdown No. 16
COVID tent beside the Philippine General Hospital Out-patient Clinic.
My 24-hour shift as fellow-on-duty at Ward 3. It's great to be back at PGH after a long time. There's a feeling of impending doom and paranoia. Pop culture references in mind: Gondor in The Return of the King. Or the Game of Thrones ("Winter is coming"). The difference is that we're expecting patients in dire need of care, not orcs or whitewalkers. If they're COVID-19-positive, we may make special considerations.
And yet, there's a pervasive feeling of hope. A strong sense of purpose. The bayanihan spirit. In the newly renovated call room behind Ward 3, the IM residents enjoy donations of food and snacks. Masks are not lacking. There's laughter and sarcasm. We feel that the nation is behind us. But there's the unspoken fear of the unknown: we know that our work here can harm us. A number of our professors and mentors, people we know, have passed away. But we carry on. Padayon. Onward.
Our people need us.
I'm honored to be counted as a healthcare worker. But it makes me especially proud to be a Filipino. Lots of people make the mistake of generalizing our national character by looking at our politicians and government leaders. But we must remember what Mister Rogers said:
So my advice: keep out of social media. It's suffocating. It makes you angry and helpless. But look for the helpers. Random strangers who offer free rides to car-less healthcare workers (including me). Celebrities and unknown individuals who collect donations to help others out. Businesses that offer creative ways to offer assistance. Preachers, artists, musicians, and writers who help us make sense of things. Children who write the simplest letters of gratitude and encouragement that inevitably move us to tears.
It is inspiring to be a Filipino in these times.
I don a faceshield, an N95 mask, and clean gloves as I see and admit patients. I'm keen to disinfect my stethoscope. I scrub my phone with alcohol. I see colleagues wrap their mobile devices in ziplock bags. Fountain pen afficionados use disposable ball points that they can throw to the bin after the shift. But I decide to sacrifice my TWSBI Eco Rosegold (inked with Waterman Black): I rinse it with alcohol, which can potentially damage it. I don't mind. I'll look at the pen's discoloration and think of this remarkable moment in human history. The pen will have served its purpose.
So help us, God.