By Mari-An Santos
Four young Filipino nurses have been speaking to Mari-An Santos about their experiences of working in NHS hospital Covid-19 wards and in intensive therapy units (ITUs). Their ages range between 27 and 31 and most of them have been in the UK for less than 5 years. As the UK’s coronavirus death toll passes 50,000, we would like to share their stories of working in the frontlines.
In this second piece, Rene Tequillo Jr. shares his experience with Tinig UK.
Rene Tequillo Jr., 31, has been working at an acute stroke unit in Kingston for four years. He was not alarmed when he heard about the first case of Covid-19 at the hospital. Nor when he heard about rising cases in the UK in early March. “I thought: Oh, it’s just like the flu.”
His wife Roxanne, who is also a nurse, may have saved their family and two housemates, also nurses, from being infected. The couple has a one-year-old child. “I thought she was overreacting. She was finishing her maternity leave and was updated about the Covid-19 situation through the media coverage. So, even before the first lockdown in March, our house was already Covid-secured.
Overreacting or just being cautious?
“Roxanne enforced strict rules like: shoes we use outside should be left outside the door, everything had to be disinfected before they were brought in, and we had to clean the house every day. Imagine, from being cleaned once a month, our house was cleaned sometimes up to twice a day!
“She was so afraid that we would be infected–since all of us are nurses–and bring home the virus, especially since we have a baby. It is difficult because there are just the three of us here and if any of us gets sick, we do not have any family who can help us. So we always pray for God’s protection and mercy every day to keep us safe and to help us.”
Feeling better protected this time
At the peak, Tequillo confesses: “I was a little scared because I did not know what was going to happen, I didn’t know how bad it would get.”
At the hospital, he started getting alarmed when he heard of fellow nurses getting infected and still, the hospital management did not provide them with proper PPEs. “We were not prepared! We asked our managers. But they were just following government policies. I decided that I would buy my own PPE and face shield.
“I got so desperate that I started writing a grievance book, like a diary. I thought: ‘Whatever happens to me, it could be used as evidence’. But I did not need it in the end.”
He feels that the new measures, requiring them to wear goggles, provides him and other health workers with better protection.”Our patients are at a higher risk because they are much older. We need not only to protect ourselves but our patients, because we go in and out of the hospital, they are in a more controlled environment. We do not want them to get infected.”
Mari-An Santos is a freelance writer based in Manila. She recently finished a Joint Master’s degree in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Granada (Spain) and University of Lodz (Poland). Her thesis tackled Emotional Geographies of Ageing Filipina Migrant Workers in Valencia, Spain.