As Told To

I Lost My Dad to the Coronavirus. We Couldn’t Even Say Goodbye.

"It’s heartbreaking that not a single one of us saw our dad during his last days."

by Leandro Resurreccion IV; as told to Therese Reyes
Apr 8 2020, 3:14pm

My Dad and I during a trip to Japan. All photos courtesy of the author.

This article originally appeared on VICE Asia.

Leandro Resurreccion IV is a law student whose father died at 57 years old due to acute respiratory failure brought by COVID-19. His father, Leandro Resurreccion III, was a pediatric transplant surgeon at the Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Children's Medical Center, and Far Eastern University - Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation, among other institutions.

It all happened so fast. My dad was admitted to the hospital and in 10 days, he was gone, another fatality due to the novel coronavirus.

It started with a normal cough. As a doctor, my dad had the foresight to immediately isolate himself from the family. He stayed inside his room for days. We left food by his door and talked through chat messages. My two brothers, sister, and I didn’t think much of it at first, but then one day, he told me to buy face masks and medicine I was unfamiliar with.

I knew then that something was wrong. My dad was a strong person. He was very healthy and had no pre-existing medical conditions. We brought him to the hospital for an X-ray and found out that he had pneumonia.

“Son, I need to be admitted,” was all my dad said when he called me after receiving the X-ray findings. He was also tested for COVID-19 but we would only get the results days later. These days, pneumonia is enough to be admitted. I broke down that night after noticing that his voice had changed, panting even though he only had a low-grade fever. He went home to pack his things before being admitted. I found out after he died that my dad brought so many clothes, like he was going on a vacation. He was ready to fight.

I brought my dad to his hospital room where he looked at me, and raised his hand with a peace sign. He was wearing a mask but I knew he was smiling.

That was the last time I saw my dad.

coronavirus death family grief filipino
Taking a selfie with our dad.

Just a day after, doctors said that they were moving him to intensive care. My dad assured me that it was just for better monitoring, but he was sedated and intubated shortly after. That was the only time we learned that he tested positive for COVID-19.

We lost all communication after that. I messaged him “I love you” but never got a reply.

When the lockdown began, I would wake up in the morning worrying about not having anything to do. Then, in a snap, I was worrying about my dad in the hospital. It changed my perspective. I woke up every morning just to look at my phone every 30 minutes, waiting for a text from doctors. When there was no text, it was a good day. It meant that nothing bad happened.

coronavirus death family grief filipino
My dad and his partner Cheryl.

It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. There were good days and there were bad days. And then, eventually, good hours and bad hours. It was a good day right before my dad died. He had been removed from an induced paralysis because his vitals were improving. I was hopeful that he would recover but that night, things turned for the worse. His lungs stopped functioning, which I was told could lead to organ failure. Doctors called me to ask if they could administer two very strong antiviral drugs.

I was asleep when I got the hardest phone call of my life. When my phone rang, I ran out of the house to take the call and the doctor told me that my dad’s heart had stopped beating. I begged for them to resuscitate him as long as they could. After 20 minutes, nothing happened. I asked for an additional two minutes. I was granted the two minutes, but he never woke up.

And just like that, he was gone.

coronavirus death family grief filipino
Bonding with our dad in a mall.

I called my girlfriend first and cried. I could not say anything, but she already knew what happened. Then I told my siblings and our grandfather.

We are all having a hard time grasping our loss because there was no closure. There were no goodbyes. It’s heartbreaking that not a single one of us saw our dad during his last days.

It was even more difficult after he died. The next time I saw him was in the morgue, but not really. I saw the body bag but I could not open it as an extra precaution against getting infected. When workers from the funeral parlor picked up my dad from the morgue, they were in full personal protective equipment. I had never seen anything like it. They cremated him right away and the only time I got to hold my dad again was when I brought the urn home. It felt surreal, like I was holding my dad, but not really.

The last time I saw him, he was alive and smiling. Then he was just ashes.

Our dad lived a full life. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who danced to his own tune and told us to always bring our own sunshine. One day, he decided he wanted to grow out his hair so he did. He wanted to buy a big bike, so he did. Once, he picked me up from school and said he wanted to go to Pampanga, a province near Manila, just to eat crickets. So we did.

coronavirus death family grief filipino
My dad with his bike.

After he died, countless strangers sent me messages about their best memories of my dad. I knew my dad was a good surgeon but I didn’t know just how many lives he touched. One former patient even drew a caricature of my dad after learning of his passing.

As the head of the Pediatric Surgery Department of the Philippine Children's Medical Center, my dad made sure that patients could undergo procedures even as hospitals were upended by the coronavirus pandemic. He was a specialist and could have delegated this to others but he was always there, on the ground.

My dad was always my hero but I didn’t know that he was a hero to so many other people too. I find solace in that now, as cliché as it may sound. I just wish I had the chance to thank him.

I miss my number one supporter, my number one fan. Whenever I had problems, my dad always had the answers. Now, I’ll have to find them on my own. I’m just thankful he taught me well.

I have one more year in law school and have to work toward following his lead. That’s what keeps me going. My parents are separated and with my dad gone, I’m the only one left to help my siblings. Aside from providing for my family, I want to be like my dad, and serve the country in my own modest way.

coronavirus death family grief filipino
My dad with his fellow doctors.

I hope people see the gravity of COVID-19. It’s sad that my dad passed away but the reality is, he probably won’t be the last. We’re naive to think that this is just like any other flu when it’s not. It literally takes away fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, family. It took away mine.

Still, the experience gives me hope, that we can come together as Filipinos and fight. This is because I see so many people playing their part. Ordinary citizens are staying home as much as they can and some are even raising funds to help people on the frontlines. Many are also calling out government officials who don’t provide welfare to their constituents and championing those who go beyond the call of duty. I can still see that there is more good than bad in the Filipino people. We’re scared but we’re facing our fears.

What happened to my family is very tragic and I will never wish it upon anyone else. To those going through the same thing, don’t stop hoping that things will get better. It will.

Tagged:
Philippines
Coronavirus