It was just a small gesture of kindness, but it was one that had meant so much to a recovered COVID-19 patient and his family.
This patient, a 37-year-old morbidly obese man, was rushed to the emergency room one day due to a case of encephalopathy—a type of brain damage or malfunction. He was going into shock from high blood pressure and an abnormally rapid heart rate of nearly 140 BPM, and was in need of immediate dialysis. To make matters worse, it was discovered that he had a positive swab test for the COVID-19 disease.
The patient’s journey in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was a turbulent one; he started having pneumonia, blood infection, and liver failure. You could say that it was a miracle that, after 45 days inside the hospital, he managed to fight for his life and overcome such a difficult trial.
But there was one last hurdle he faced. After nearly two months in the hospital, his bill amounted to a whopping 1.8 Million pesos.
Dr. Ryan Buendia, who had taken care of the patient since day one, heard about this from the billing department and learned that the patient’s medical insurance will only be able to cover PHP 170K of the total amount. He had also learned that the family was already asking for promissory notes and bringing land titles as collateral to guarantee that they will eventually pay off their doctor’s fees. In addition to that, the patient was unemployed. One can only imagine the weight of such a burden.
It was then that Dr. Buendia decided to share his blessings and waive his professional fees.
“I just told the billing department to just bill me PHP 100 and to waive my fee [amounting to PHP130K] after taking care of him for one and a half months,” Dr. Buendia, who is an interventional cardiologist practicing as an active consultant at St. Luke’s Global City, told When In Manila in an exclusive interview.
“It was our own little way of contributing and helping each other out. It’s bad enough that this guy has no money at all and their land titles are [what] they are paying [with already], so maybe this small contribution on my part [will make a great difference]. We were just happy that he would be discharged within this week,” he added.
When asked about how the current pandemic has affected him mentally and emotionally, Dr. Buendia admitted to feeling stressed and fearful for his own life and the lives of his loved ones. He shared how he, along with his colleagues in their cardiology group practice, has already availed of life insurance to prepare for the worst.
“If you were in our situation and you see this every day, especially [in] the emergency rooms of hospitals, you would really get depressed,” he said. “You see patients dying left and right, you see patients being incubated and we see even colleagues [suffering]. I have at least two classmates [my age] that died already.”
“It’s really draining and we just get strength from our loved ones and our colleagues as well because the government is not giving us any moral support,” he added. “It’s really demoralizing but we have to get through this because what if we [the health care workers and doctors] give up? What happens to the sick people? What happens to the non-COVID patients? I have a lot of patients who had heart attacks, who had heart failures, we have a lot of patients who’ve had strokes and cancers. So if we give up, who takes care of them?”
It’s the messages of support and appreciation from his patients and their families where Dr. Buendia gets his motivation to keep going. He shared with us the text message he received from his patient’s relative expressing her heartfelt gratitude for his kindness. “It gives us strength that these certain people do care and are really appreciative of what we do,” he said.
He then gave the following message to all Filipinos on behalf of the health care workers everywhere:
“We should not let our guard down. Everyone should do their share doing the three basic principles of this pandemic—meaning the [wearing of] face mask, [frequent] handwashing, and social distancing—because I think during the ECQ period a lot of our countrymen put their guard down that’s why this happened. At the same time, the government has no concrete solutions or objectives so it’s a bit disappointing but we are trying to do our best individually and as a medical group.
“Everybody [should] just do their part. It does not mean we should put our guard down just because the economy is opening up. We have to help each other out.”
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