Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — "Mommy, I want to touch you.”
It has been more than a month since Sanchie Macalinao last hugged her youngest daughter. She is an ICU nurse in a hospital in Manhattan, New York City. She takes care of two to three COVID-19 patients almost every day.
“No. No touching,” Sanchie would always remind her daughter.
She still goes home to her family after work. However, since her hospital started receiving COVID-19 patients, she also began to isolate herself from her family. She has been staying in a separate room and has not been in close contact with her husband or any of her three kids for a month now.
Macalinao said her children understand why she needs to keep her distance from them. Sometimes, however, they would forget.
It has been most difficult for her youngest, 4-year old Agnes.
“Minsan, mapapansin nila ako. Bigla nalang tatakbo si Agnes (papunta sa akin). Tapos ako naman, tatakbo sa kuwarto para magtago na ako doon. Sasabihin niya, ‘Mommy, I want to touch you.’ Umiiyak talaga ako minsan,” she says.
[Translation: Sometimes they would notice me. Agnes will suddenly run to me, and I would go to the room to hide. She'd say, "Mommy, I want to touch you." That would make me cry.]
Macalinao said she is diligently practicing safety measures to ensure that she doesn’t bring the virus home. But believes keeping her distance from her children is the best way she can protect them.
Macalinao has been a nurse in New York City for 14 years now. She said this pandemic is so far the most difficult challenge her family has to face since they lived in the United States.
New York City is currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. As of April 16, the New York City government has reported more than 117,000 positive cases and more than 8,000 deaths. Hospitals are already facing bed shortages and lack of personal protective equipment for staff and patients.
Taking care of COVID-19 patients
Macalinao said about 50 percent of the patients in her hospital are COVID-19-positive. The worst cases are at the Intensive Care Unit, where she is assigned. She said COVID-19 has been very difficult for her patients both physically and emotionally. She said family members cannot visit the patients, who have to endure the suffering alone.
“Naka-mechanical ventilator na sila lahat. Once na nagising sila, very anxious sila. Nakikita nila fully-geared na tao na kaharap nila. Hindi nila alam kung sino sila, kung ano nangyari sa kanila. Kailangan pakalmahin sila,” she narrates.
[Translation: They are all on mechanical ventilators. Once they wake up, they become very anxious. They see people in front of them dressed in full gear. Theyt don't know
who they are, or what's happening to them. They have to be calmed down.]
Macalinao said in her hospital, about six patients die every week. But some hospitals have it worse. She said in another hospital where her friend is working, 17 patients died in a week.
Macalinao admitted she is worried she might also get the virus. She said some of her colleagues have already tested positive of coronavirus.
“Nakakatakot. Nagkasakit sila pero di nila alam san nila nakuha. Dahil ba inaalagaan yung pasyente? Or dahil na-encounter sa ibang tao kasi nagpupunta sila sa ibang lugar?” said Macalinao.
[Translation: It's scary. They get sick, but they don't know how they got it. Is it because they're looking after patients? Or is it from having encountered people because they go places?]
The good news is many of them have already recovered from the illness and many are already back at work.
Like many hospitals in New York, Macalinao said they are also already running out of medical supplies. She said many times they have to be creative to address this problem.
“Every now and then nagkaka-shortage kami. Wala kaming syringe. So maghahanap ka ng alternative. O kaya nagkulang ka sa IV, so maghahanap kayo ng alternative. Wec collaboratew doctors and pharmacy for alternative solutions," she said.
[Translation: We have a shortage every now and then. We have no syringes, so we look for alternatives. Or you look for alternative for an IV because that's running low as well. We collaborate with doctors and pharmacy for alternative solutions.]
Macalinao said she knows she’s risking not just her life, but also her family’s by being at work. This is why it is necessary to always ensure that she is fully protected whenever she attends to her patients.
“Parati ko iniisip I have to wear the proper PPE. Kailangan protektahan ko ang sarili ko. Kasi once naprotektahan ko sarili ko, alam ko pinoprotektahan ko pamilya ko. At the same time, naaalagaan ko pasyente ko para makauwi sila sa pamilya nila,” said Macalinao.
[Translation: I always have to remember I have to wear the proper PPE. I have to protect myself. Because once I am protected, I know am also protecting my family. At the same time, I can care for my patients so they can go home to their family.]
Doing good for others
Macalinao said there are days when she gets scared to go to work. However, her responsibility to her patients is pushing her to face her fears.
“It’s fulfilling na pumapasok ka sa trabaho na alam mong may matutulungan ka na pamilya na mai-uwi iyong pasyente sa kanila. They can reunite after everything that happened. It’s nice to be part of the healing process.” she said.
[Translation: Going to work is fulfilling because you know you can help a patient go home to their family. They can reunite after everything that happened. It’s nice to be part of the healing process]
She said she is excited that one of her patients is showing significant signs of recovery after being admitted to the hospital for four weeks.
“Dati di namin nakakausap. Ngayon papasok ka sa trabaho bigla mo makikita, he’s waving at you. He’s smiling at you. Parang wow, we did something good,” exclaimed Macalinao.
[Translation: We couldn't talk to them before. Now, we come to work and you see them waving at you. He’s smiling at you. It's like, wow, we did something good.]
As soon as this pandemic is over, Macalinao said she wants to go to the church and pray. She said she has a lot to be thankful for. She is also looking forward to spending quality time with her family, perhaps go on a hike and play in the mountain with her kids. And this time, she will no longer be running away from them.