Daughter laments dad’s passing in 24 hours as QC hospitals refused him care
MANILA, Philippines — The grief that comes with losing a loved one seemed many times more difficult during this time of COVID-19 pandemic – when one might just perish alone and away from family.
Rachelle Serrano-Ramos has recalled on Facebook how they raced against time to get their father, Liwanag Serrano Jr., treated at a hospital after he fell ill with symptoms of the virus.
Among the hurdles, she said, was when their family was being refused hospital care and death care, as well as being charged higher costs because their father was considered a patient under investigation (PUI).
I refuse for you to be remembered as a statistic. I never thought you will be a casualty of war, a battle we lost…
According to Rachelle, they called up private hospitals in Quezon City but these had refused to admit their father, stating they could not accept potential COVID-19 cases. Instead, she remembered, they were directed to the Lung Center of the Philippines, which allowed him to come but warned of a long wait.
After 11 hours of waiting for appropriate medical care, Liwanag, 67, died Saturday, March 28, leaving behind kids and grandkids.
“I never thought in less than 24 hours, my Dad will pass,” Rachelle said.
Liwanag Serrano Jr. was tested for COVID-19 but the results are expected to come in two weeks.
‘Eleven hours out in the heat’
Rachelle said her father went to the grocery twice prior to the enhanced community quarantine across Luzon. She noted that her father observed the quarantine strictly as he stayed home for two weeks. She also said he had no history of travel or contact with a COVID-19 patient.
He exhibited mild symptoms on Monday, March 23, particularly “on and off fever,” according to Rachelle. He had no cough or colds. And though they wanted him to get hospital treatment, their father refused.
But Liwanag’s condition worsened on Friday, March 27, as he appeared “pale and weak,” Rachelle recollected. Her youngest brother also said their father had a loss of appetite and was finding it harder to breathe despite having no cough.
At this point, the family was trying to find all the help they can get to bring Liwanag to the hospital.
Among the challenges the family faced was finding a hospital and an ambulance to transport their father. Rachelle said they sought the help of the Quezon City barangay where her father stayed, but she claimed the village officials did not “[take] action.” She recalled that a private ambulance had to be availed of to rush their father to the hospital.
Although Lung Center was at full capacity, Rachelle said she remained grateful for the health workers. “We can tell they are so overwhelmed, understaffed and tired. There [was] so much death around.”
“[Eleven] hours my Dad was out in the heat sitting in a wheelchair under a triage tent with several coughing [PUIs] around him. My youngest brother never left my father’s side,” she said.
Their father was finally confined in the hospital by 7 p.m. Friday. He was intubated and put on a ventilator in a room with PUIs because the intensive care unit (ICU) of Lung Center was packed.
She said the doctor apologized because there were only three nurses at the PUI ward.
“Our healthcare workers are in a battlefield working their best with little resources they have,” she told INQUIRER.net.
The Serrano patriarch died Saturday afternoon without his family by his side.
Bureaucracy and stigma
The family’s dilemma, however, did not stop with the demise of Liwanag because they further faced difficulty in retrieving their father’s body and having it cremated.
“And now even as we want to mourn, we are still confronted with the bureaucracy and the stigma. Funeral homes are now refusing to take in [COVID-19 patients] or PUI even if it’s [straight-up] cremation,” she said.
Liwanag’s remains were finally cremated Saturday night as one funeral home accepted their call.
“Wasn’t able to kiss or hug him one last time. This is the most painful part for us,” Rachelle remembered with regret.
“I’m sorry Daddy. I’m sorry for letting you down. I’m sorry that we are so helpless,” she also wrote.
Her brother is now under strict quarantine. She told INQUIRER.net that neighbors are helping to ensure he has enough supplies for three weeks. “May bayanihan pa rin,” she said. (There is still a sense of community.)
She also expressed concern for fellow Filipinos who could not afford the resources under the same situation, noting that they were charged P30,000 for the ambulance and P135,000 for the cremation.
She likewise expressed hope that other families would not suffer as they did.
“To all the families that lost, losing, and will lose a loved one during this pandemic, they will never be just a number. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandfathers, and grandmothers,” Rachelle said.
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