By Lade Jean Kabagani
MANILA — As the whole world continues to battle the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), more health workers die after contracting the dreaded virus.
But despite these trying times, more heroes emerge — those who stand on the frontline despite the health risks, even if it means sacrificing their own lives just to serve their countrymen.
One of them is Dr. Raul Diaz Jara, one of the country’s top cardiologists, who earlier tested positive for Covid-19.
His daughter, Ling Jara-Salva, described him as a “tower of strength and leadership.”
“He knew the extensive battle he was facing and he kept on fighting,” she said in a Facebook post.
On Tuesday, Jara-Salva confirmed the death of his father as she extended gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and staff of the Philippine Heart Center who took care of him from the time he was admitted due to Covid-19.
“His memory is not defined by how he died but how he lived. He dedicated his whole life to constant learning and teaching and molding future doctors,” she said, adding that her father is the type who would usually ask the toughest questions and pushes someone to learn and persevere.
As an internist and cardiologist, Jara-Salva said he is passionate about the art and science of his work.
“He took pride in serving the Filipino people. He paid tribute to the predecessors who paved the way for medicine,” she added.
Jose Donato Magno, Jara’s colleague, describes him as “a teacher in the truest sense of the word.”
He reposted his 2013 piece about Jara as he paid tribute to the legacy of the doctor whom he considers as “a teacher who toils with the fortitude to answer the difficult questions that lie ahead in his path, and a teacher who moves with gratitude to inspire his students in the pursuit of their own dreams.”
“If there ever was a common thread that perfectly wove itself into the vibrant and colorful lifeline of Dr. Jara, then it would have to be composed of these three fibers: wisdom, fortitude, and gratitude,” he said. “Through his example, he has unwittingly given me a sneak peek into the blueprint of a teacher in the truest sense of the word,” he said.
Magno mourned the death of his former teacher in medicine.
“I felt like I lost a huge chunk of myself with the untimely passing of one of my dearest mentors. But I later realized that a part of me is now most certainly safe in the loving embrace of our Lord,” he said. “Until we meet again, Tito Raul — my mentor, my defender, my champion, my father and friend.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Heart Center also grieved the death of Jara, its former president, calling him “one of the great pillars of cardiology.”
“One who has spent his life teaching. One who never got tired to impart knowledge and wisdom. One who made you sweat as he bombards you with questions but would suddenly make you feel at ease as he breaks into a smile,” the PHC said.
Apart from Jara, the PHC also lost one of its members due to Covid-19 on Saturday, cardiologist Dr. Israel Bactol.
PHC described Bactol as a “young, brilliant, promising doctor and a hero in the battle amid the Covid-19 outbreak.”
“We honor him as he lost his young life while fulfilling his duties as a doctor, a young cardiologist and a dedicated member of the Philippine Heart Association,” PHC said on a statement.
Christina Grajo, in a Facebook post, said Bactol was showing some signs of recovering.
“Makikita mo sa itsura na gusto pa nya lumaban pero ang katawan sumusuko na (You could see his face fighting even if his body was already surrendering),” she said, adding that despite his situation, he was still trying to converse with his fellow doctors.
“Gusto nya malaman kung anung status niya (he wants to know his status),” Grajo said.
Grajo praised Bactol’s bravery and kindness amid the tough challenge he faced.
Community doctor, health officer
On the other hand, a former doctor to the barrios and Pampanga’s current provincial health officer, Dr. Marcelo Jaochico, also died on Tuesday night after showing symptoms of Covid-19 two weeks ago.
The 56-year-old Jaochico was admitted to the hospital due to loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea, and shortness of breathing.
In a Facebook post, Joachico’s daughter, Cielo, shared the bravery of her father as a frontliner and a community doctor.
She said her father is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and Angeles University Foundation, and was offered to join the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program in the 1990s.
“He became the all-around doctor of Calanasan, Apayao: their obstetrician, pediatrician, family doctor,” she said.
She said the people of Calanasan loved him during his stint as their doctor.
He also received several awards recognizing his notable role as a community doctor.
Cielo also shared posts of her father’s former patients who said they owe him so much.
Even when Jaochico was reassigned to another community, he continued to keep in touch with his patients in Calanasan town in Apayao.
Life went different for Jaochico, she said, after departing his job as DTTB for 16 years.
She said he experienced becoming a consultant in a drugstore.
“Hindi sapat ang sahod at nagji-jeep lang siya. Laging pagod. (The pay was not enough and he was just riding a jeep. He was always tired). I wish our system could have been kinder to doctors like him,” Cielo added.
He then became a staff at the Department of Health (DOH) and got a position at the Bureau of Local Health Systems and Development.
In 2013, he applied for a job at the local government of Pampanga as a provincial health officer (PHO).
As Pampanga’s health officer, he became part of several health projects and programs for district government hospitals and health centers, which received the Best Provincial Risk Reduction Management Council award in Central Luzon in 2019.
He would actively reach out to people in the far-flung communities in Pampanga.
“Pag may nagpapareseta sa kanya, di siya naniningil. (If someone asks for a medical prescription, he won’t charge any fee),” Cielo said “He also was one of the frontliners who rushed to Tacloban City, Leyte after the destruction caused by Typhoon Yolanda.”
Jaochico also headed the assistance of the Kapampangan Medical Team to the victims of the Taal eruption’s unrest.
As he stood on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19, he eventually contracted the deadly virus which took his life.
The country also mourned the death of Dr. Rose Pulido, a medical oncologist from San Juan de Dios Hospital.
She succumbed to the deadly virus on Saturday.
Charmaine Javier-Linao remembered Pulido as a “good samaritan,” saying she would not become a general surgeon without Pulido’s help.
Linao said during her years in medical school at the De La Salle University, Pulido allowed her to stay in her dormitory when her family faced financial problems.
“She shared her food and coffee, made me borrow her books (so) I can photocopy, even gave me money to pay for my school fees,” Linao said, adding that Pulido was her “family and inspiration” during the lowest point of her life.
Irene Cordero, another friend, said she “did not realize the devastating effect of this virus until one loses someone they know to it.”
As the medical community wages its all-out campaign against the coronavirus, health workers also become at risk of contracting the disease.
This risk, however, did not stop them from doing their job.
After all, they are not just medical workers, but heroes of this public health crisis. (IA/PNA)