Doctors and health workers as plain statistics

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    PRESIDENT Duterte didn’t think much about people dying one by one when he opened his public address to the nation last Monday. And, that his communications team thought it improper to include his expression of sympathies to the grieving families of doctors, nurses and the victims of COVID-19.

    After announcing the more than P200-billion funding for government efforts to equip local government units and public hospitals with more food, supplies, equipment and medicines to stave off the deadly virus, the President proceeded to thank various corporations and individuals and their hefty contributions.

    Halfway through the prepared speech which the visibly-disoriented President read tentatively, he began his characteristic rambling, finally mentioning the selfless and fearless frontliners. He said, “masuwerte kayo na namatay kayo para sa bayan,” without as much as feeling for their still shocked and mourning loved ones. He alluded to himself as always ready to put his life on the line and narrated his various life-threatening visits to NPA and Abu Sayaff battlefronts and bombing sites. The President seemed to boast, “kung panahon na kukunin ako ng Diyos, eh di panahon ko na at tanggap ko na yan.”

    But, the President could not say why he has not been doing enough to pursue and exhibit the same example during this truly perilous time for his people. Because nothing in the arsenal of the PSG or in the entire AFP could safely protect him from this deadly virus, he would rather ignore personally shepherd whimpering local officials and lead at the ramparts with the overworked and undermanned doctors and other health workers almost staring death in the eye day after day. For cowardly convenience and egotistic expediency, he seems to have qualified the doctors, health workers and the virus fatalities in many hospitals as statistics not unlike the large number of victims of the EJKs.

    Suzanne Hoyheart of Belgium died with a peace her doctors could not explain.

    Hoyheart, 90, infected with COVID-19, had refused a ventilator and told her doctors to “give it to the younger ones. I’ve had a beautiful life.” The younger ones struggle to keep alive amidst the chaos in many hospitals in our country and abroad. There were some others like Hoyheart who at their advanced age knew today was the right time to go so that others may live. Several doctors in Italy and in the US continue to face hapless elderlies sorting them out from the younger and healthier patients who are instead provided with the few life-saving ventilators. If the old and seriously-ill couldn’t really say they had lived a beautiful life, they certainly looked the most beautiful on earth to those who have been breathing well from ventilators they were forced to give up.

    Nothing could be as profoundly moving as the last days of a young Italian couple, both doctors. They were caught in a near kissing embrace posted on FB looking happily at each other’s eyes shortly before they succumbed to COVID-19. Both never wavered, bravely attending to the afflicted throng at their hospital in Milan until they themselves were infected. They were lying on beds beside each other and holding each other’s hand as they breathed their last. They left behind two kids.

    Particularly wrenching was the fate of actor Menggie Cobarrubias who conveyed quite darkly the death throes of those similarly struck by this demonic virus. He was an old friend during my UP Repertory Company days at UP Diliman under the firebrand professor and stage director Behn Cervantes. Menggie had gone on to become a noted supporting actor in award-winning movies of the late Lino Brocka, he being one of the favorite actors of the top-notch filmmaker.

    Many certainly have feared being intubated and to Menggie, it would be almost over if he were. Just three hours after he was made to take the medical procedure, Menggie passed away. As intubation became almost certain, he started saying goodbye to his family and friends thru text messages.

    Inside the emergency ward of the Asian Hospital that day where he was rushed for pneumonia, no one had assured him that recovery from his condition was possible. With the swirling dire news of anguish and death around him, there was nothing else to believe.

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