Filipinos Working Hard During COVID-19|

Mel Rodriguez (ICU Nurse) and Peter Rodriguez (Healthcare Assistant)

An inspiring Filipino couple in Letterkenny, Donegal is among hundreds of healthcare workers who are helping save lives against the coronavirus.

Mel and Peter Rodriguez both work at Letterkenny University Hospital. Mel is an ICU nurse while Peter works as a Healthcare Assistant in the dedicated COVID Medical Ward. Peter is working longer hours than her at the moment.

“We are only just starting to get a surge of cases in Donegal, and yesterday was my first toxic shift since COVID. Like the hundreds of frontliners out there, we are not sure really until when we are able to physically fight this battle. How long we can continue to be healthy physically and mentally is beyond us.

If you ask us what our message to the public is, it is the the same as everyone else in the frontline: Please, we beg you to do your part. Obey social distancing, and practice effective handwashing and coughing etiquette. Follow COVID guidelines at HSE.ie, and stay away from the hospital as much as you can. And finally, please don’t let your guard down, stay fit and healthy!”

– Mel Rodriguez

Mel Rodriguez is a nurse with 25 years of experience and a diploma in Intensive Care. She arrived in September 2002 while her husband Peter and their children followed in early 2003. She is originally from Catbalogan, Samar and then lived in Cebu City where Peter is from.

The photo below was taken at a beach in Donegal while taking a break from their stressful jobs.

“We are quite isolated here geographically in Donegal, and more so now. We are missing and worried about our families back home more than ever, with our flights going home this year being cancelled. We miss our friends – our Friday nights karoake and whatnot. But frontlining against COVID is the absolute priority right now.”

Mel is also a dedicated wedding and occasion cake artist. She was the North-west Brides winner for Best Bridal Cakes 2019. North-west Brides is a prestigious bridal magazine in Northwest Ireland.

Dareen Asdillo, Registered General Nurse

Dareen Asdillo arrived in Ireland on June 2017. He is a Registered General Nurse of Medical 2 Ward-Acute Stroke Unit of South Tipperary General Hospital.

“The coronavirus outbreak is a global issue. It is a pandemic that needs to be taken seriously. The death toll is surging swiftly each day and everyone is affected. My advice for the public is to stay at home and follow what the government is telling you to do.”

Sheila Riolo, Senior Staff Nurse

Sheila Riolo is from Bago City, Philippines. She arrived in Ireland on June 2002 and is a Senior Staff Nurse at University Hospital Waterford.

“The coronavirus is a global pandemic. It is an enemy that we don’t see. It is spreading so fast that if not properly handled, it will cause severe impact to health, economy, and the social and psychological aspects of human lives and society.”

“This is not a one man show. Each person should take responsibility of his or her own action. Proper handwashing with soap and water or hand sanitizing gel, social Distancing, self isolation if need be. You can still keep in touch with our loved ones via other means of communication. Eating nutritious food can help combat infection. Please follow the advice of reliable sources. Together, we can beat this killer virus.”

Rolando Espina, ICU Nurse

Rolando Espina is an ICU nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin since 2001.

“COVID-19 pandemic is here but we should not be afraid of it but rather be cautious of not only getting the virus but on how not to transmit it especially to the most vulnerable. If there is any consolation to this crisis is it teaches us to appreciate life in its most basic form in which to live, love, share and care for each other.”

Apart from working as a nurse in Ireland for the past 19 years, Rolando has also represented the Philippines in international running events. He has done three Spartathlons in Greece for four consecutive years since 2016. He also did a 24-hour Endurance Run World Championship in France in which he covered a distance of 218.1 kms of running in 24 hours. He also won the 2019 Wexford 24-hour Run in Ireland.

Dax and Geraldine Baldestamon, Staff Nurses

An inspiring Filipino couple in Dublin continue to work beyond the call of duty during the lockdown extension. Both Staff Nurses in Tallagh University Hospital, Dax and Geraldine Baldestamon were among the first Filipino nurses to arrive in Ireland in Feb 8, 2001. They are among hundreds of nurses and healthcare workers that are helping save lives since the start of the pandemic.

Dax shares with us his latest thoughts:

“I support the Irish government for imposing the extension of the lockdown, though this is a difficult time for almost everyone. It is very important not to spread the coronavirus through social distancing and proper use of soap or disinfectant through proper hand washing technique etc.

There are so many people out there who are actually enjoying this time and I am one of those people. My wife and I have always been living a simple way of life and so this for us feels like normal. Living simply means living a healthy life and the best part of it is that, we now have some savings. We have saved a few bucks since all our planned holidays this year have been cancelled by the airlines. We are healthier spiritually and physically because we have so much time bonding with our children, teaching them how to pray the Rosary, teaching them how to play the guitar, do the household chores, cooking and baking.

There are few healthcare workers who have stopped working (temporarily), some even had resigned due to anxiety or fear of getting contracted with the virus, but my wife and I decided to work even though I have an underlying condition (Type2 DM-Diabetes Mellitus).

We choose to take care our patients with or without the COVID-19 because we solemnly pledged ourselves before God and in the presence of this assembly: To pass our life in purity and to practice our profession faithfully (excerpt from the Nightingale Pledge).”

Juliana Delos Reyes, Locum Doctor

Juliana Delos Reyes, a locum doctor from Calapan City Oriental Mindoro, arrived in Ireland as a nurse in 2005. After getting her qualifications as a medical practitioner in Ireland, she started working as a doctor from 2010 at various hospitals which include Mercy Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Galway University Hospital, Limerick University Hospital, and St. Columcille’s Hospital. She is currently a Clinical Fellow (Higher) in Stroke Medicine at Cambridge University Hospital in the UK as part of her higher specialist training in Ireland. She will be back in Ireland in July 2020 at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown to finish her last year of training and become a qualified Consultant Geriatrician.

At Cambridge University Hospital, on top of her rotation duty assignments in the stroke unit and rehabilitation ward, she and other doctors have been deployed to attend to patients with symptoms in the Suspected COVID Ward and emergency department. She will most likely be assigned at the dedicated Confirmed COVID Ward when the number of cases surge in the hospital.

“During this coronavirus outbreak, I feel like we are at war. We can’t see the enemy but it sees us, which places us in a very disadvantaged side. But together, we can beat it. As front liners, we need the proper PPE, like soldiers needing proper guns and ammunitions to fight the enemy. As civilians protected by the front liners, we can support our unsung heroes by staying at home and save lives this way.

In my own way, I hope I can be a “man for others” as what a true Atenean should be, by coming to work everyday despite the threat of the enemy, to look after patients who need to heal physically so they can be reunited with their families once again. This is what I made an oath for no matter what.”

After passing the medical board in the Philippines in 2000, Juliana practiced as a GP in Cavite where she established a small lying-in clinic in Dasmariñas and did locum work in different hospitals in the province. She then studied nursing to do residency training abroad.

We wish to thank Juliana for her tremendous work at various hospitals in Ireland and for frontlining in the UK during COVID-19. We look forward to having her back in Ireland in July, armed with advanced specialised skills and experience that the Irish society can greatly benefit from.

Nicole Gallegos, Nursing Student

Nicole Gallegos is a 3rd year nursing student at Trinity College Dublin. She has been at home complying with the university’s distance learning programme during the lockdown. Yesterday she was called by Health Service Executive (HSE) to join and help the frontline staff Intensive Care Unit of St. James Hospital in Dublin. The HSE provides public health and social care services to everyone living in Ireland.

Nicole’s mother, Fely, who is a Clinical Nurse Manager at the HSE, says, “It is not easy to be a mother of a frontliner but it has to be done, and I am proud of her for serving the country.” Her son also works as an ICU Nurse in the Philippines. “You can’t imagine how worried I am for both of them but I have no regrets. I know they will turn out well as individuals.”

Nicole was born in Pasay City, Manila, Philippines then joined her mother Fely in Ireland when she was 12. Before COVID-19, Nicole has covered odd shifts in St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Operating Theatre. An obliging individual, Nicole does not mind being on the frontine and is more than willing to go the extra mile to help Ireland in fighting the battle against coronavirus.

HSE is asking all healthcare professionals from all disciplines who are not already working in the public health service to register to be on call for Ireland. 50,000 people have contacted the HSE to be ‘On Call for Ireland’ shortly after the organisation put out a request for healthcare professionals, students and volunteers to help it tackle the outbreak.

Thank you Nicole and for all who are ‘On Call for Ireland’ for offering the much needed extra hands to provide the care that is required to meet the challenge ahead, and for her mother and brother who are also leading the battle against the virus.

Noel Abrigo, Staff Nurse

Noel Abrigo is from Valencia City, Bukidnon. He arrived in Ireland on May 2017 and works as Staff Nurse in the Accidents and Emergency Department of Waterford University Hospital.

“We are still on the stage of identifying people with the virus and numbers will be expected to rise for the next couple of weeks. For your own safety, please stay at home and don’t go to social gatherings. ‘KEEP DISTANCE’ signs are not only useful for the back of trucks nowadays!”

– Noel Abrigo

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Hats off to all the nurses, healthcare workers and hospital staff that are working tirelessly during the coronavirus pandemic. We pray for your safety and strength during this difficult time.

If you know of any Filipino in Ireland who are working beyond the call of duty to support the Irish community, please let us know. Thank you.

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