Nurse marries doc he swab-tested for COVID-19
Government nurse Mark Raymond Mendoza was preparing to clock out after a long day at work when his superior called in another case — two physicians needing to be swab-tested after getting exposed to the coronavirus.
It was March 2020, and the Philippines was still too much in shock to process the COVID-19 pandemic. With few health workers trained to administer a nasopharyngeal test, Mendoza, 31, had no choice but to do it himself.
How totally different his life would have been had he refused to heed the call of duty at Rizal Provincial Hospital System in Morong town, he muses to the Inquirer.
Across a hospital room, their eyes locking above their masks, Mendoza met the woman who would be his wife, internist Diane Rombaoa, 36.
Two days after that first meeting, he contacted her to say that she had tested negative for COVID-19. It was the start of a quick yet long journey.
Mendoza recalls having “mixed feelings” during much of 2020 as he and Diane fought from the trenches to contain a virus that has already killed over 11,000 in the country.
“Here are two people who found love during this pandemic, so I guess it still wasn’t all bad,” he says.
Making the most of it
Mendoza says that while he and Diane didn’t feel like they were rushing things, the pandemic somehow made them realize life’s uncertainties.
“You don’t have full control [of what tomorrow brings],” he says. “so you have to make the most of it.”
He works at the Department of Health (DOH) in Quezon City, and she in the emergency room of a hospital in Pasig City. During the strict community lockdown, public transport was banned in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
“I remember the time I would bike all the way from [the DOH] office in Quezon City just to have lunch with her at The Medical City,” Mendoza says.
Taking the risk
They became a couple in May. He popped the question in June, and they married in October before a small gathering of family and friends who wore masks and sat apart in a Catholic church.
Mendoza proposed to Diane in an empty restaurant in Jalajala, Rizal.
“I pretended to be having chest pain as I clutched the ring in one hand. I think I pulled it off, except that the waiter, who knew about my plan, was smiling at us,” he recalls.
The couple know the high risk of their work, and each worries about the other catching the disease whenever they report for duty.
“But we took the oath [as medical professionals],” Mendoza says. “If we get scared, who else would do what we should be doing?”
They talk about their respective patients: the bad times, as when someone is gripped by a sudden cardiac arrest or an oxygen level dropping too low, and also the good times, as when someone is revived from a near-death situation.
It is during those moments, Mendoza says, that they tell each other: “Thank you for being a hero today.”
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