You think your life has changed? Try living with a nurse in the time of coronavirus
When our country first started to go into a panic about COVID-19, I honestly wondered about how life would change. Work from home seemed an inevitability, but I never would have guessed a complete lockdown like this. A life of checkpoints at city borders, quarantine passes to leave your own home, individuals in military gear sprawled across the streets and—this is big for me—not seeing friends and sharing a bottle (or three) of alcohol over the weekend.
Call my concerns selfish and privileged; I do.
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But things started to become real when I realized how things were taking a toll on my brother—a nurse in one of the metro’s most popular private hospitals (you might have heard of a little incident that happened there with one spectacular senator and his wife). Amidst COVID-19 and this ECQ, it’s my brother’s life that has changed more than anyone else’s in this house.
This is what living with nurse is like nowadays.
His shifts change as quickly as they are made. He has, on multiple occasions, gone to bed at night with the knowledge work would start at lunch, only to be called at 11PM and told to be in the hospital by 6AM. He clocks in a minimum of 15 hours every time; I know because when it’s 10PM and he still isn’t home, my mother starts to get worried.
I mentioned that my brother works for a private hospital in Metro Manila—you’d think they’d be well funded and have enough supplies, but the truth is far from that idea. Our family has had to give up some boxes of facemasks so that my brother and his colleagues have enough until the hospital-provided/ donated supplies come in. I think that’s crazy, but we’re living in crazy times; besides, the private sector has been saving everyone’s asses.
When he gets home, my brother hops in the shower and his clothes are immediately washed. He never eats with us anymore; the food is sent to his room. Everything he touches is separately washed and put away.
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We’ve carved out a corner of the house for him. He has a room to himself with direct access to a bathroom that no one else can use. A television set and his PS4. Water and glasses in the corner. An AC for when he sleeps, fans for the moments he has to spare for something resembling recreation. My young nieces are not allowed in his room; they talk to him from an open door. My mother peeks in once in a while just to check if he needs anything. My dad refuses to let him sleep in a condo so that we can still keep an eye on him.
You see, the first time my brother was exposed to COVID-19, my mom cried because she had to choose between making him leave the house or exposing the rest of us. My dad made the choice and we all just had to take more precautions. That meant my brother not touching anything outside of his isolation room, us keeping our distance when he enters and leaves for work and our house perpetually smelling like cleaning supplies.
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I’ll be the first one to say that our situation is not the worst one out there. We have the space to isolate my brother at home, we have the resources to stay comfortable. But if there’s anything that living with a nurse makes you do, it’s stay humble. I might feel tired at the end of the day, but who am I to complain?
Art Alexandra Lara