Frontliner Story #2: Jeson Balleza

COVID-19 Through the Lens of a Young Frontliner

By Joshua R. Cadiogan

A 25-year-old staff nurse of Davao Doctor’s Hospital Emergency Department, Jeson Balleza serves as one of the country’s youngest frontliners during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Before COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic, his family was very supportive of his work even though they knew he was making himself vulnerable to infection. However, this outlook changed when the disease was declared a pandemic, especially knowing that COVID-19 was highly contagious.

“My family always reminds me to have presence of mind and not force myself into situations that I am not well-equipped to handle,” Balleza said when he talked about the strong support system he gets from his family despite being advised to stop working and just go home because he still has plans in life.

Balleza’s primary motivation in joining the frontlines is to be of service to the people and to the country. “If there won’t be anyone to take care and attend to patients now, then who will?”

He added, too, that his persistence to become a frontliner takes root in the scarcity of healthcare workers in the Philippines.

Having to work for eight hours per day at a minimum, he shared how he spends his day as a frontliner.

Poster by Renz Michael Lalic

“In a typical day at work during the pandemic, of course, when you enter the hospital, there are mixed feelings of excitement because you get to work again and fear because you will have to face the uncertainty of whether or not your patient has COVID-19,” he said.

“Your mental fortitude should always be prepared. At the end of the day, you still aren’t sure if the patient you handled is already well or had been already forwarded, or if the patient is positive or not. Being a frontliner is draining not only draining physically, but emotionally and mentally as well,” the young nurse shared.

Having been forced to stay away from his family for months, he also pleaded to the public who are not following simple COVID-19 prevention methods such as social distancing, wearing of face masks, and constant washing of hands.

“Just a reminder to stubborn people who don’t follow rules, please, if you will not do these for yourselves, do it for your family, your friends, and your acquaintances,” Balleza said. “You are not the only ones who will be burdened. Yes, you are healthy, but how about the others? They are not as fortunate as you, especially the old and young who are more susceptible to infection.”

For people who plan to visit a hospital due to suspected COVID symptoms, Balleza advised people to be truthful about their travel histories, if there are any, considering that the health of medical workers are also at stake.

“We have had cases like that before, and it really hurt our feelings because when we had patients before stricter protocols were given, some were not truthful at first about their travel histories during their interview. They later admitted that they were from abroad, one even from China. After they admitted their travel history, they were forwarded to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). Those nurses and medical technologists who were exposed to the patients were also monitored by the hospital physician who had authority to order medical personnel to quarantine,” he noted.

Balleza also expounded on the importance of recording their past patients sent to SPMC to be ready to inform the public of an area being a high risk in case the patient will turn out to be positive.

“We are not being discriminatory, but informing the public about high-risk areas increases awareness and safety,” he explained.

With different parts of the country now being placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) with lighter restrictions, he warned against people flocking the streets as they did before COVID-19 hit the country.

“That is actually the frightening thing — what they call the second wave of the pandemic. The first wave is still not stabilized but to prevent the downfall of our economy, the GCQ is needed. The most important thing in GCQ is discipline, not only for the government, but also for fellow Filipinos,” Balleza warned, once again reminding people to empathize with others.

With just six months of working as a staff nurse, Balleza is already working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

May we all continue to recognize and show our support to our frontliners, especially to members of the next generation, by practicing simple COVID-19 counter-measures. In these small ways, we can show them that we are fighting alongside them.

We can all win this together. We can heal as one.

Edited by Serina Alonzo and Phoebe de Leon

Frontliner sourcing by Vim Casinabe

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We exist to document the lives and stories of our frontliners, who have devoted themselves to saving the lives of Filipinos during times of crisis.