By: Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza
How I wish I could just stay home during the entire Enhanced Community Quarantine, just like most of you. But I have no choice…I need to go the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) three times a week for my dialysis treatment. If I missed any session, the consequences can be fatal.
When the enhanced community quarantine of Metro Manila was announced on March 15, 2020, I panicked with the thought that I could not receive treatment given the suspension of public transportation. How could my driver come to my house and drive me to the hospital if there is no public transportation? You can just imagine how this situation has stressed me so much. I felt so desperate and helpless. I had anxiety attacks. That’s why it’s important in serious health threats like these government agencies provide complete information to lessen the anxiety of everybody.
This enhanced community quarantine will be going on for a month. This means mobility of people like me will be an extreme challenge especially those who depend so much on public transportation. l was truly a blessing that I was able to find another driver who willingly agreed to drive for me since he did not have work because Grab temporarily stopped its operations. I told him he was “heaven-sent!”
On the way to the NKTI that Tuesday, my first day of dialysis, I feared that the checkpoint would not allow us to pass as I was not able to request documents from my hospital prior to the announcement to show that I am a patient at NKTI. I felt relieved that there were no checkpoints yet along Commonwealth. But my greatest fear is if the staff will not be able to report for work due to the suspension of public transportation.
I was pleasantly surprised because it seemed as if it were just a normal day of operations for the Dialysis Center. I was truly appreciative and assured of the stricter protocol put in place to protect everyone especially for us who are considered to belong in the vulnerable sector. Patients who did not meet the criteria will have their dialysis at the Triage set-up for the purpose. The staff assigned at the entrance checks the temperature and conducts an interview to check for cold, cough, sore throat and diarrhea. As I had none of these symptoms, I was allowed to enter and given a room assignment.
Again this procedure was stressful. What if I have these symptoms? Will they not allow me to have a dialysis? In the past, even if I had fever, colds and cough I could still proceed with the dialysis procedure. This made me panicky again and wonders what will happen if I get sick and develop these symptoms. I resolve that I have to be healthy, that I shouldn’t get sick. I dread that I will be sent to the Triage or somewhere for the dialysis.
What do I do to make myself healthy then and meet the criteria? I am also so fearful that I am vulnerable every time that I am in the hospital as my immune is compromised. I wish there where enough information out there for us to enhance our immune system and the extra protective care that I can use to prevent exposure to the virus.
I wondered how the hospital staff were able report to work without public transportation. One doctor told me that they have a Viber group and the doctors who were not on-duty brought the doctor on-duty to NKTI. The NKTI was able to immediately arrange a shuttle to fetch the hospital staff who had duty that day. Likewise, Bi-Braun, the service provider of the dialysis center, arranged a shuttle service for their staff. I learned also that some of the staff walked that day going to the hospital. One technician said that going to work was problematic for him as he comes from a far place. Luckily, he found out that there was someone from his neighborhood who works at the Heart Center. The neighbor gladly offered to give him a ride to Quezon City and back as he had a motorcycle. But then they also feared that at the checkpoint they would be stopped, as motorcycles with two riders are not allowed. Upon presenting their IDs, they were allowed to pass. A security guard told me he owned a motorcycle so he had no problem reporting for work. These frontliners have so much on their plate the least that they should be thinking about is how to get to work and home. Nevertheless, they showed their commitment and dedication to work amidst the difficulties and challenges of this pandemic. Somehow, all these stories uplifted my sprits and gave me some peace of mind.
I was also curious about how some dialysis patients were able to come to the hospital without public transportation. Many of them arrived late. A couple told me that they were able to still get a taxi from Marikina going to NKTI. But they said they weren’t sure how to head back home after the procedure. An ambulance brought some of the patients coming from Laguna while other patients were brought by either their friends or neighbors. The next day, I asked the couple how they were able to go home, and they were so happy to inform me that another patient took pity on them and brought them back to Marikina.
I guess all of us patients shared the same problems with the suspension of public transportation. Later that day, it saddened me to learn from the news that some dialysis and chemotherapy patients from outside Metro Manila were not able to When the suspension was announced last Monday, I could not help but be angry. I felt that the policy did not look thoroughly into the inter-locking systems within the larger health system. As we discovered the next day, many were confused and bewildered. I think one big mistake was ignoring the welfare and plight of the health workers and other frontliners. There should have been thoughtful planning and coordination with hospitals and other critical services prior to the issuance of the guidelines. I suppose many of the hospitals were caught unaware. Did they bother to check with the many health workers and patients who would be affected by the suspension of public transportation? Despite these failures, the Dialysis Centre of NKTI and B-Braun were able to quickly adapt to the situation.
I dread what will happen in the incoming days of my dialysis during this pandemic. In my subdivision, stricter guidelines were issued for the registration of guests like drivers, caregivers, and relatives. A checkpoint has been placed before the entrance of NKTI.
How long will this lockdown last? Will it be extended? What if my driver will not be able to come to bring me to NKTI? Who will drive for me? What if I get sick? These worries are so real for me. It is only my faith and the encouragement and support of friends that keep me going these days.