MANILA, Philippines– In Pangasinan, 77-year old Henry Fernandez would often be seen attending to patients in a small clinic nestled in his hometown of Bayambang.
Even at the height of the coronavirus crisis, Fernandez did not hesitate to help the patients that poured into his clinic. At his age, Fernandez was among those especially vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. Nevertheless, the 77-year-old continued to stay in the front lines, opting to do his part in his own clinic. (READ: [OPINION] Undermanned, overworked: A doctor’s view from the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak)
“Nagcli-clinic pa rin siya…You’d see him there, sitting down, talking to patients, nanggagamot, nagbibigay ng gamot,” said his grandson Joseph Vincent. (He was still doing work in the clinic…You’d see him there, sitting down, talking to patients, treating them and giving medicine.
He was almost unstoppable in his desire to accommodate his patients – until he started experiencing respiratory symptoms related to COVID-19.
“Nag-stop na lang siya noong nagtro-trouble breathing na siya, doon na namin siya pinull-out sa clinic niya and we told him na dapat ma-hospitalize na because ayaw naman din namin siyang makahawa,” he said.
(He only stopped when he had trouble breathing. That’s when we pulled him out of the clinic. We told him he had to hospitalized because we didn’t want him to infect others.)
Later, results proved that Dr Fernandez contracted the coronavirus disease. He passed away at the Lung Center of the Philippines on March 20, making him one of the first Filipino physicians to die from the fast-spreading virus,
Until now, the family is unsure how exactly Dr Fernandez contracted the virus. He was also among the first confirmed cases in the province of Pangasinan.
According to Joseph Vincent, two other family members have also succumbed to the disease— his grandmother, Julie, and her twin sister, Betty Clemente. Joseph’s mother and younger brother have also been confirmed positive as well.
In just two weeks, the Fernandez family has lost 3 loved ones to the disease.
Despite the sadness and the sudden loss, Joseph Vincent said they took comfort in the idea that their grandparents are in a better place now, happy that they have lived meaningful lives.
‘Doktor ng Bayan’
Fondly referred to as the “Doktor ng Bayan,” Dr Fernandez lived a life dedicated to public service through his role as doctor and adviser to the town’s leaders.
“He has helped each and every Bayambangueño in one way or another through his words and his actions,” Bayambang Mayor Cezar Quiambao said in a Facebook post.
A graduate at the University of Santo Tomas’ Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Fernandez opted not to work in a hospital and even ruled out the idea of working overseas. Instead, he set up his own clinic in Bayambang as a way of giving back to his hometown.
Paalam, Doc Henry! Today we grieve the loss of a great doctor, father, brother, uncle, lolo, and friend. Dr. Henry…Posted by Mayor Cezar T. Quiambao on Friday, March 20, 2020
Noting Dr Fernandez’ “unquestionable” love for the town, Quiambao said his “impact on the lives of thousands of Bayambangueños will never be forgotten.” True enough, the mayor’s Facebook post about the passing of Dr Fernandez was flooded with stories of the fond memories his patients and neighbors shared with him.
“Thank you for being my doctor whenever I was sick. My sister and I will remember the advice you gave to us when we came home before . When you become a doctor, make sure to be a doctor not for just the money but to always help the patients,” one of the comments said.
Joseph Vincent said his grandfather’s dedication to serve the people came from his deep sense of nationalism and a “heart of service that never died out.”
“He doesn’t want to go out of the country because in his mind, dito siya lumaki, dito siya nag-aral, this is the place where he became Dr Henry Fernandez, and it would be a waste for his motherland if he will go abroad and give his talent there when dito mismo sa bansa niya, kailangang kailangan siya,” he said.
(He doesn’t want to go out of the country because in his mind, this is where he grew up. This is where he studied. This is the place where he became Dr Henry Fernandez. It would be a waste for his motherland if he will go abroad and give his talent there when he’s most needed here in our country.)
Demands for the gov’t, people
Hoping that the virus would no longer cause more casualties, Joseph Vincent asked for transparency and support from the government and cooperation from the people.
According to him, his grandfather had cough and colds days before he had trouble breathing. Joseph Vincent said that the family earlier perceived the virus as something that wasn’t lethal, following government officials who downplayed the coronavirus and said there was no reason to panic.
Joseph Vincent added the government should ensure that frontliners and citizens are well aware of the current situation so they can adequately prepare.
As of April 22, more than 1,000 health workers in the Philppines have been infected by the deadly coronavirus.
“It’s not a matter of finding a cure at this point. We have no guarantee, so it’s more on prevention measures. The best way to prevent these things from happening is [to ensure everyone is] really prepared and well-aware of the current situation” he said.
As of Wednesday, April 23, confirmed coronavirus cases have exceeded 7,000, The death toll also climbed to 477. – Rappler.com