MANILA - As the world celebrated Mother's Day, nurse Lorenza Nuada, recalled how difficult it has been for her to be a mother and a frontliner amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nuada said she had overcome several heartbreaking moments, as a medical frontliner, as a patient, and as a mother while serving in the country's fight against novel coronavirus.
Nuada, a 35-year old mother of four, had to leave her children under the care of others as she chose to continue serving in a hospital in Pasig City, caring for COVID-19 patients.
She admitted that continuing to work as a nurse during the pandemic was not her original plan.
“Nung nagkaroon kami ng first COVID-19 patient sa floor namin, parang naisip ko agad mag-resign. Pero, at that time kasi, nasabayan ng lockdown, so nawalan din po ng work yung husband ko. Tapos, inisip ko po, aside from nakakatakot, naiisip ko rin paano yung family ko kung pareho kaming walang work,” Nuada said during the weekly radio program of Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday.
(When we had our first COVID-19 patient on our floor, I was thinking of resigning from work. But at that time, the lockdown was imposed, my husband lost his job. Although I was worried at work, I was more worried about what would happen to my family if both my husband and I were jobless.)
“At, inisip ko rin po na nurse ako eh, sa ngayon po ako mas kailangan,” she added.
(I also thought that I'm a nurse, and it is during this time that we're most needed.)
Because of her work, Nuada said she had to sacrifice even the time she was supposed to spend with her children. She asked her sibling to take care of her 12 year old son, and her sister-in-law for the younger ones - 7 and 5 years old, both boys; and her 8-month old daughter.
Her daughter turned one year old without her, she tearfully recalled.
“Wala po ako… Yung first hakbang niya, yung first word niya, lahat ng first niya, nasakripisyo po namin,” Nuada told Robredo.
(I wasn't there to see her first step, her first word, and all other 'firsts'.)
Nuada thought that being separated from her family was the right decision as she later contracted the coronavirus. But she feared she might not see them again.
“Yung youngest ko po, 9 months lang siya n’un or nag-1 year, pero parang 8 months ko lang siyang nakasama. So, kinabahan po ako. As in, takot na takot ako,” she shared.
(My youngest was only 9 months old or 1 year old when I got COVID-19. Although, I had only spent 8 months with her. So, I got worried and really scared.)
Even though the management of COVID-19 patients, including her, at that time has already improved compared to during the start of the outbreak, Nuada said she was still anxious. She kept crying for five straight days while in confinement.
“Unang una, di alam ng mga anak ko na nag-positive ako… Marami akong iniisip at that time. Pero, after five days, parang naisip ko po na pagka hindi ko po nilabanan, baka hindi ko na po talaga makita (pamilya) ko,” she said.
(My kids did not know that I turned positive for the disease... I had many things on my mind at that time. But, after five days, I realized that if I didn't fight this, I may not really see my family again.)
She recounted that in the initial stages of her battle against COVID-19 in June last year, she told her superior not to revive her if her condition worsens.
“Nakikita ko po kasi yung sitwasyon ng mga COVID-19 patients ko na nahihirapan. So, sa isip ko, ayoko na pong mangyari sa akin yung matubuhan, tapos pahirapan ko po yung family ko, yung asawa ko… Gusto ko na lang po to leave sana peacefully.”
(I see the situation of my COVID-19 patients who were suffering. So, I thought I didn't want to go through that, get intubated, and make my family suffer... I just wanted to leave peacefully, if I could.)
When she later tested negative for the virus, Nuada rushed to visit her kids, although it meant experiencing another heartbreak.
“Yung pinakamasakit talaga is niyayakap ko po yung bunso ko, pero hindi niya ako kilala, umiiyak siya,” she recalled. “Nagpapakuha po siya sa mga lolo at lola niya.”
(What was most painful was not getting recognized by my youngest child. She kept crying while I was carrying her, and wanted her grandparents to get her away from me.)
“Iyak po ako nang iyak that time,” Nuada said.
(I cried hard that time.)
Robredo acknowledged Nuada’s experience as “representative” of the hardships of health care workers during the pandemic.
“Parang nadudurog yung puso ko dun sa kuwento mo… Hindi nakikita yung sakripisyong ginagawa n’yo beyond sa trabaho n’yo,” Robredo said.
(Your story also leaves me heartbroken. People don't see your sacrifices beyond your work.)
“Kaya, Enza, kami’y nagpapasalamat sa’yo… In behalf of a grateful nation, nagpapasalamat kami sa’yo, nagpapasalamat kami sa mga kagaya mo na piniling manilbihan pa rin sa bayan kahit may sakripisyong ginagawa para sa pamilya,” she added.
(That's why, Enza, we thank you... On behalf of a grateful nation, we thank you, we thank your fellow frontlliners who chose to serve the country despite the sacrifices you need to make for your families.)
Over a year into the pandemic, Nuada said still gets heartbroken while attending to COVID-19 patients.
“Nakakadurog po ng puso na we can only do so much for the patient… After mong magawa lahat para sa kanila, hirap pa rin silang huminga. After mong palakasin yung loob nila, ganun pa rin yung situation nila."
(It breaks my heart that we can only do so much for the patient... After doing everything for them, they are still having difficulty in breathing. After you give them encouragement, their situation does not improve.)
It is doubly hard for her to handle them because she also went through the same ordeal, she said.
But she tells them “there’s always life after COVID”, citing her recovery from the disease.
“Kailangan lang po talaga ay pasensya. Kasi ang COVID, hindi siya yung 3 days lang, OK ka na. Hindi po eh. Meron kaming mga patients, 3 months. So, lagi ko pong ina-advise sa kanila, magpasensya po kasi yun po yung pinakakalaban sa COVID.”
(Patience is important. COVID is not over in 3 days. Many patients suffer the disease for 3 months. So, I keep advising them to just be patient.)
Nuada said COVID-19 survivors also need to take care of their mental health.
Serving as a bridge between patients and their loved ones can also be emotionally draining, she said. This is especially difficult when the relative or family member is ending a phone call with the patient, Nuada said.
"Umiiyak ka din kasi ranas mo rin maging pasyente, hindi lang maging nurse,” she said.
(You also cry because you were also once a patient, not just a nurse.)
For her mental health and overall well-being, Nuada, who got her COVID-19 vaccine last month, said she turns to positive thoughts, and thinks about her children.
“Isip ko na lang po na ginagawa ko ‘to para sa mga anak ko, para mabigyan sila in the future ng healthier world. Para, pagtapos ng lahat ng ‘to, yung maranasan nila yung mga bagay na dapat nararansan nila,” she said.
(I keep in mind that I'm doing this for my children, so they can have a healthier world in the future. So that after all this is over, they can experience the things that they should be experiencing.)
She said she was able to overcome five days of despair while battling COVID-19 last year with this realization: “Kung magpapatalo ako talaga, lalong di ko na mababalikan yung mga anak ko.”
(If I let myself lose, I really won't get to see my children again.)
Nuada spoke to Robredo on Mother’s Day. Although they were not seen on the frame, she said her kids were with her at the time of the virtual interview.