The fight against COVID-19 has been long and difficult, and our doctors and nurses are working even harder to save lives.
Even as they do, they are at high risk, and many of them have died from on-the-job contagion.
Nurse Karmi Erika Cariaso-Abunan, 33, all of 34 weeks pregnant, knows the danger but continues to go on duty against the wishes of her own family.
She relates in an interview with SmartParenting.com.ph: "Nung nag-announce ng enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), lahat halos ng relatives ko nag-message na wag na ako pumasok. They made me stop for two weeks."
But she couldn't be persuaded.
Her reason: "Nakikita ko na need ng staff sa hospital. And mas magiging happy ako working and fighting with them."
Luckily, she eventually convinced her husband, Jed Abunan, to support her decision.
She says, "Super thankful ako na sinuportahan niya ako kahit alam kong takot din siya for me and the family...
"Start pa lang ng pandemic, ayaw na niya ako mag-work kasi nga risky. Pero in-explain ko na di naman ako pababayaan sa hospital. Na mas safe ako doon.
"Kasi alam mo ang mga bagay na di mo hahawakan, lugar na iiwasan at [lahat ng] tao nag-phy-physical distancing.
"Sa hospital sobrang aware ka sa lahat."
Hospital duty while pregnant
Though she’s not exempted from the 16-hour duty, Karmi says that the hospital in Quezon City where she works gives her certain considerations and privileges because she is pregnant.
She says, "As much as possible, hindi po ako ine-expose talaga sa infectious patient. Pero may mga times na nakaka-handle ako ng suspect cases.
"Since I am working in the hospital, hindi natin makikita iyong virus kaya kahit di ka exposed, through workmates ay ma-e-expose ka rin."
There are also other challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Karmi explains, "Sanay kami sa long duty hours, but not with our PPEs (personal protective equipment) on. Mahirap huminga lalo na pag nagre-revive ng patient."
She adds, "Minsan, di maiiwasan as a senior nurse na ikaw ang hands-on sa mas critical na patient.
"Dalawahan lang [na nurse] per shift, 'tapos tiyempo sa iyo iyong toxic patient.
"I have to forget na buntis ako and work as a nurse to help. But time to time, I have to remind myself na may dala akong baby."
precautionary measures at home
As a healthcare worker, Karmi has to live with the fear of passing on the virus to her family.
Their senior family members are most susceptible and so are her daughters—Tenshi, 12 years old, asthmatic and dependent on an inhaler; and Tinker, seven years old.
But Karmi and her husband know the drill when she comes home from duty.
She says, "Gagamit lang ako ng one pair of shoes as well as one small bag na iiwan ko sa labas ng bahay.
"'Pag-uwi ko, sasabihin ko agad sa kanya para ma-ready niya ang hot water ko at makaligo ako agad.
"Iyong used clothes ko at towel, diretso sa washing lahat, at dinidisinfect ang lahat ng things ko."
Karmi admits she had moments when she feared the worst: "Luckily it was just flu-like symptoms (sore throat with mild flu) and not COVID-19.
"Nag-start na magkaroon ng [cases] sa staff as well as mommies, so we have to isolate agad the babies in NICU. That makes me scared lalo."
Still, this hasn't stopped Karmi from answering the call to serve.
She says, "Tuwing lalakad ako papalapit sa hospital, may feeling na nababalutan ka ng lakas, na kaya mo at uuwi ka na ligtas pa rin.
"'Pag health worker ka ata at iyon ang passion mo, mawawala talaga ang takot mo.
"Naniniwala ako, di naman ako dinala ni God sa profession na ito kung walang dahilan. This is my dream profession ever since."
Being pregnant, Karmi admonishes fellow pregnant moms to trust their doctors.
Her advice, "If hindi naman kailangan lumabas, please stay home. Take care of yourself and take your prenatal meds.
"Mahirap maging pregnant ngayon, may months na walang prenatal checkup kaya we have to be aware of our bodies."