Wait… Me? A COVID-19 Frontliner?

The last time I wrote about my workplace on this blog, was on The People of My 2019 post. I wrote how thankful I was to have extremely nice colleagues, not too complicated or too sick patients, a place rarely understaffed and where I’ve never felt discriminated because of my race.

[Related post: THE PEOPLE OF MY 2019]

That was about two months ago. Not very long. Then something happened that challenged the entire world like never before: the novel Coronavirus also known as COVID-19. At first, I remember me and my colleagues going about our usual routine: measuring blood sugar, injecting insulin, while laughing in between.

And then a country one train ride away from us, Italy, recorded the highest number of positive cases and deaths outside China, where the virus originated. Faster than anything the world has seen, the virus sickened and killed people regardless of race, occupation, sex, or age. And suddenly, that didn’t sound funny anymore. That sounded very serious.

German news also reported thousands of COVID-19 positive cases (almost 15,000 positive and almost 50 deaths from last night’s news). It all happened very fast: schools, bars, museums, gyms, and other unessential facilities were closed.

Everything Happened Too Fast

Klinikum Stuttgart, my employer, at first, contained all COVID-19 patients in one station. And then a second one was opened. And then an entire building.

And then another station was needed.

In a matter of days, meetings were done, staff and patients were informed, protective gears were delivered, patients were sent home and transferred, and even faster than how my limited German can understand, my dear Diabetes Station was turned completely into a COVID-19 Station.

The patients, doctors, and nurses over 60 years old went with the move, but we, the seemingly fit and young, stayed. It was total chaos. It felt like watching a disaster movie only I wasn’t sitting on the couch eating popcorn. My colleagues and I pushed patients in beds and wheelchairs, made endorsements the best way we know how, and left everyone there.

And then there was silence.


The Calm before the Actual Storm

I had two days off after the big move: yesterday and today.  I used this time to ask other nurses to share their experiences, to plan the future household routine with my housemates, to cut my hair shorter as it may collect more virus, to pack clothes as I plan to take a bath in the hospital after every shift, and all the other crazy things I believe can help me get through this time. It could have been easier if I’m all alone at home. However, I live with 3 people and one of whom is 73 years old. My risk of passing on the virus is too high as I will be in direct contact with COVID-19 suspected and positive patients. We hope we have planned well enough though.

I could’ve used the time to book the next flight to the Philippines and leave this country I don’t even like in the first place, right? I have more than enough savings and no one can stop me. But no, that wasn’t even an option for me. I didn’t resist change, I followed what I was told because I know we all have one goal: to save as much lives as possible. I’ve decided then that I’m staying.

Not because I want to be the next Florence Nightingale, eew. Not also because I want to save humanity and mankind and what not. I’m staying because I’m curious.

I’m curious of what this virus really is that it has crippled the entire world.

I’m curious of what the victims did or did not do to be infected like that.

I’m curious of what I can do to help.

I’m curious of how creative I can get to protect myself and the people around me.

I’m curious of how long my immune system can protect me.

I’m curious of how equipped I am. I was an Isolation Nurse back home, are my knowledge and skills enough, not enough, or more than enough to get me through this crisis?

I’m curious of why many health professionals got sick and died because of the virus. What did they do wrong? Will I make the same mistakes they did?

I’m curious if the hospital is just over-preparing and I want to be there to witness that it’s not as bad as we are all expecting.

According to what I’ve read yesterday, Stuttgart has 324 positive COVID-19 cases and 300 of which are at home. Only a slim number needed to be hospitalized. However, the number continues to rise daily. If you’re asking why these people are asked to stay home and not in hospital rooms as the latter can better prevent the spread of the virus, I say it’s just not possible. There aren’t enough hospital beds and filling stations to their limits will expose the health care professionals to extreme inhumane risk. If the symptoms are manageable at home, then they stay home.

I’ve learned in Emergency Disaster Nursing that it is always the rescuer’s safety that is the top priority. Imagine how many more lives we can save if we stay healthy. I myself am quite sure I wouldn’t want to die for anyone yet. Excuse me.

Birthday Party Put On Hold

The hardest part was telling my parents. Imagine one of their children, 10,302 kilometers away, risking her life caring for patients who do not even share the same nationality they have. I’m lucky though that after a long well-thought of Facebook message, they understood and they believed in what I can do. It made things easier for me.

Just last week, I was very sure I’m flying back home in April to celebrate my 30th birthday (in Jollibee, no less). But with this development, it’s not looking too bright anymore. I still believe a miracle can happen and we will all wake up like COVID-19 never happened but for now, I’ll do what I can do.

I’ll use the knowledge I learned from school and the skills my experience taught me. The rest I’m leaving to the Lord.

I still have so many questions though, one of which goes like…

“Why didn’t this pandemic happen when I was out of the nursing world? I was a writer for almost 3 years and my boss wouldn’t have second thoughts asking us to work from home if this happened then. Why now, when I just got my nurse certificate here in Germany, and why my station, with all the nurse’s stations in that gigantic hospital?”

Thought bubble: “Kailangan ng mundo ang malupet mong skills ngayon, Peng”

I would first face suspected and/or positive Covid-19 patients tomorrow.

I guess I’ll find the answers to my questions by then.

Please include me and every frontliner in your prayers. Thank you.