'Priceless fulfillment:' Doctor endures long, draining hours for COVID-19 patients

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Infectious diseases expert Dr. Daisy Ilagan-Tagarda shuffles from one hospital to another to check on over 30 COVID-19 patients every day. It's emotionally draining, but the hope that they will recover keeps her going.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 3) — The coronavirus outbreak had doctors and medical staff tired to the bone, with hospitals suddenly swarmed by patients for the disease which still has no cure.

Among them is infectious diseases specialist Dr. Daisy Ilagan-Tagarda, who has had to endure nonstop consultations and check-ups of patients since community transmission of the disease started. The doctor, a fellow of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, has since adjusted to working nonstop as early as 6 a.m. to entertain calls from doctors and other specialists, followed by rounds to check on various patients.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' Pinky Webb, Tagarda said she would start her checkups at 8 a.m. for some 35 coronavirus patients housed in different hospitals. Her husband would drive for her from one health facility to another, only taking a break for a quick lunch or coffee run while in the car. Her dining room would often be a parking slot or a nearby gasoline station, where she could easily dash back to look after more patients.

If she cannot squeeze in a quick breather, Tagarda said she would just eat a sandwich which she brings in her bag.

Wearing the personal protective equipment adds to the challenge, the doctor revealed, as it is hot and hard to breathe in. Add the fact that even some of her colleagues who are suspected to have been infected by their patients are forced to go under quarantine, leaving an even thinner and worn down workforce.

"At the same time, kapag nage-expire ang pasyente, we're not happy. It's emotionally draining especially if you learned that some of your colleagues are already infected," Tagarda said. "Ito 'yung usual na nararamdaman namin. Pagod — not only physically, but also emotionally."

Still, she forges on day by day with the same routine.

READ: Duterte thanks frontliners, hails doctors who died of COVID-19 as heroes

What keeps her going? Tagarda said it's mostly the support of her husband and children, as well as the hope that her patients will be back on their feet.

"I can’t describe in words on how I feel every time na may complete na nagre-recover sa sakit na ito. Some of them, we even cry even in front of me so pati ako, naiiyak na rin," the doctor said. "These are very priceless fulfillments for us frontliners."

The health crisis is far from over, with authorities reporting more infections day to day. COVID-19 cases in the country topped 2,600, with 107 people dead as of Thursday afternoon.

Tagarda asked for continued support until the last patient is cured, and appealed for the public not to discriminate against fellow health workers as they lead the battle against the deadly disease.