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Davao City, Philippines

On a personal note

May 22, 2020 - Friday 4:05 AM by Eva Aranas Angel

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Two months of lockdown, also known as Community Quarantine, its cousins Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Extended Community Quarantine came and stayed.

Just like the SARS COV2 virus, guidelines and restrictions have been mutating into its other forms, Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in very high-high risk areas and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in low-moderate risk areas.

??I last stepped out of my clinic on March 17, having served more than 20 patients that day, our last clinic day. In my practice, that was a significant number considering that I usually spend long hours with almost each of them. They were my pahabol patients, even if we were open on March 16, a local holiday.

After that, I did not see a single patient — outpatient or inpatient — for two months. The early furlough was on account of the fact that it was during this time that the viral strain that afflicted fatalities from the ill-fated derby was described to be ‘very virulent.’ This and the fact that my workplace has always been a striking distance from the cockpit, the hotspot of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region, made me decide to err on the side of caution.

??The following week, there was the announcement of local transmission, which, despite my being, or because, I am a doctor, sent a chilling effect on me. This is because I have two vulnerable patients at home. I refused to accept patients during the entire period of the ECQ. I dreaded the idea of setting foot on a hospital and taking the bug home with me. 

??I have never been ‘idle’ and ‘aimless’ this long in my lifetime. Even during my previous pregnancies that resulted in early fetal loss, the longest I have ever been on bed rest (and therefore idle) was two weeks.

??My initial days, besides stuffing the pantry, were spent reading books I haven’t finished or started and watching as many Netflix movies and documentaries as I could. I dabbled into painting; however, since my ‘studio’ was near Mama’s personal space, I opted to halt the process as I did not want her to smell the noxious wafts of oil paint and turpentine.

There were the weekly, sometimes twice a day Zoom conferences and webinars offered by UP, DOH, Infectious Disease specialists. I finished my make-up classes via Zoom in Brokenshire College School of Medicine. I was able to give the Final Exam and submitted my learners’ grades.

??I transitioned since then into online learning. To date, I have reviewed a course from MIT that discussed Supply Chain Management and was able to write a two-part article about it in my column. I have accrued four certificates from online courses from Stanford, two for a review of assessing scientific journals. These courses became helpful in ‘winnowing chaff from grain’ because a lot of scientific papers about COVID-19 have been uploaded online that were not peer reviewed, had inappropriate study designs, and had equivocal or vague conclusions and applicability.

The third one from Stanford was on ‘Headaches’ for non-neurologists, and the fourth one was for a recorded Webinar on ‘Positive Parenting in the Time of Pandemic.’ As parents of a 16-year-old deprived of the liberties and adventures he used to enjoy every summer, it has been an enduring struggle for me and my husband. We wanted to make his adolescent phase as normal as possible. Believe you me, it’s not easy with an only child. The course in Spanish language I audited from Universidad Politecnica de Valencia was for my own quest for self-actualization.

??But the best part of all was the CME online course I took from Harvard on Telehealth/Telemedicine which I am reserving for another article. This has been a great driver in making me launch my own telemedicine practice, useful in the time of the pandemic.

??After a while, my wrists were painful from pounding replies and queries in group chat updates. My eyes were hurting from the glare of the laptop or computer screen.

??I shifted gears and tried my hand at vegetable gardening.

??A few days after, GCQ was declared. I met this with a mixture of ambivalence, of fear and excitement at the same time. It was an odd, eerie, discomfiting kind of feeling. I was flummoxed.

??The morning I left the house for the clinic, the first after the lockdown, I checked on my okra and tomato seeds in the pots. They were starting to germinate. In a while, they’ll be seedlings ready for re-planting.

??Yes, amidst the looming threats of the pandemic, challenges, and harm, you can grapple your way and make your own sunshine.