Despite the many layers of protection of medical frontliners, they are not spared from the dreaded COVID-19 disease. Still, many have emerged victorious and continue to be in the frontline battle.

For the healthcare workers who suffered from the effects of COVID-19 but eventually came out triumphant, one of the strongest motivations, they said, is their strong desire and commitment to continue serving and healing the public.

Such are the testimonies of DOH survivors Dr. Relito Saquilayan, Medical Chief of Rizal Medical Center; Dr. Alfonso Nuñez III, OIC-Medical Chief of East Avenue Medical Center; and Leslie Babasa, intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at The Medical City. They shared their stories in the Department of Health’s (DOH) Survivors Speak Series on August 30, which was hosted by DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

Kabilang sila sa mga doctors at nurses natin na nahawa at excited na gumaling hindi lang para sagipin ang kanilang sarili, kundi upang magpatuloy pa na maging instrumento sa pag-galing ng ating mga kababayang nagkasakit, mapa-COVID man o ibang sakit,” said Usec. Singh-Vergeire of her three guests.

The three guests in the Survivors Speak Series all underwent the 14-day isolation period once they found out that they were positive. All of them also acknowledged that a positive diagnosis was a wake-up call that made them realize that no one is exempted, despite the hospital-grade facemasks, goggles, face shields, gloves, Hazmat suits, and other personal protective equipment they always wear in their line of duty.

Walang pinipili ang virus,” said Nurse Babasa, who was among the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and who contracted the illness in March while fulfilling her mandate in the frontlines. The first signs were fever, severe coughing, and body malaise. She did not suspect then that her condition was COVID as there were only two cases in the country at that time. That very same evening, an ambulance from her hospital fetched her–not because she was needed at work, but because she needed treatment herself.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nuñez tested positive on April 13. What he thought to be fatigue from all the day’s meetings about the medical community’s pandemic response turned out to be the very illness he and his colleagues were trying to save the country from. On top of experiencing cold-like symptoms, he also felt body pains.

After their recovery, the three medical frontliners are more determined to continue doing their sworn duty of healing and saving lives.

“What keeps me going is the inspiration to keep the patients and healthcare workers safe,” revealed Dr. Nuñez.

Dr. Saquilayan believes that showing up at the hospital after being confined for 16 days inspired other frontliners. This made him realize that he must remain at the trenches with them.“This is a sacrifice that we need to give to our people, kasi madaming nagsa-suffer, ” Dr. Saquilayan added.

Meanwhile, Nurse Babasa offered her fellow frontliners further encouragement, saying that the public need them now more than ever: “Isipin lang po natin na God gave us the healing hand. If hindi po tayo ang tutulong, sino ang gagawa?” said Babasa.

Nurse Babasa also emphasized that vigilance should not stop. She advised the listeners, “Let’s not put our guards down. Pag masama na ang pakiramdam, makipag-coordinate na agad sa local government unit, kahit on the first day pa lang masama ang pakiramdam.”

This advice aligns with Usec. Singh-Vergeire’s reminder to the public, to be personally mindful about their health status. “Ang first line of defense po ay tayong mga mamamayan. Lahat tayo ay may kapasidad na protektahan ang ating sarili at ang isa’t isa,” she stressed.

Usec. Singh-Vergeire was likewise emphatic on the need to continually comply with the minimum health standards to mitigate the spread of the virus such as wearing of face masks and face shields, physical distancing of at least one meter, proper and regular handwashing, and practicing cough etiquette.

Sa ganitong paraan, katuwang kayo ng DOH na patuloy nating masuportahan ang ating frontliners at tulungan silang magampanan nang maayos at ligtas ang kanilang mga sinumpaang tungkuling magpagaling at magsagip na mga buhay,” USec. Singh-Vergeire emphasized.