Richard is a nephew of ours and he is now in the crux of a crisis. His wife got a serious case of Covid-19 while delivering their child. The infant has a serious physical defect and has been operated on. So far, she is infection-free. However, his mother-in-law and elder child are Covid positive and are in home quarantine. Poor fellow, he shuttles back and forth attending to the needs of the patients at the hospital and at home. His own mother can’t assist him because she too is watching over an 80-plus old grandmother who is also frail and sickly. Besides, as a senior citizen, she is not allowed to be in the hospital because of prevailing health protocols.

The hospital bill is now running at more than a million pesos…and counting. To make it worse, he is asked to buy medicines outside because the provincial hospital has no more stocks. One time he was frantic, looking for Tocilizumab for his wife, whose lung condition suddenly turned out for the worse. We tried to crowd source it for him, but he was finally able to get it from somewhere outside the usual drug stores. It cost him a whopping P80,000!

Now the real problem is starting to hit him. He has run out of money. “Tuliro, parang turumpo,” as old folks would say.

He used to be an employee of a trading company before the pandemic. His company subsequently closed down and he has been jobless since then. He has sounded the call for help to his relatives and friends. To help him raise money, my wife and I did our part to echo the call on social media. So far, only two people have responded. Maybe they too need the money, or they’re experiencing donor fatigue, with so many other relatives and friends also crying out for help.

Richard is today’s Juan en la Cruz, the common Filipino on the cross, who is agonizing in extremis.

How many Filipinos have died of Covid? 30,000? How many were hospitalized and survived? Multiply our nephew’s situation by those numbers and you get a bigger picture of what Covid-19 has wrought on individuals and their families.

In addition to the physical, emotional, and mental toll, every family that is now going through a hellish “home invasion” is paying literally a high price.

Let me just quote verbatim some snippets of what I’ve come across on social media:

“Hospital bill for moderate Covid is at least 1.2 million.”

“My S-I-L died of Covid and her hospital bill was close to 900,000 in just 2 days.”

“I have a friend in the Philippines, his mom died due to secondary infection [bacterial] dahil sa Covid…he needs to raise 1.4 million.”

“Ours was 750,000 in the March/April surge.”

“Sa isang center para sa baga ang total bill ng nanay ng partner ko 400,000 nasakop naman ng PhilHealth, senior discount at ng HMO nila. Pero 45,000 cash para sa PH doc. Severe Covid 10 days.”

One doctor tweeted: “Buti may HMO. Karamihan ng patients ko na may HMO ang nagka-Covid may cash out.”

But someone told him the reality: “Doc, medical insurance coverage ranges from 60,000 to 100,000. We can’t afford that 1.2M. Kasi di po ako mayaman, bawal magkasakit.”

I found this advice borne out of exasperation: “ For those without HMO,  lapit sa mga governmentt agency at politicians, hingi ng tulong na parang pulubi, ganyan ngaun ang situwasyon.”

Even if the infected are in home quarantine, the cost can still be painful: “Medicine+Covid tests+private nurse na nagbigay ng gamot kagabi na 50,000 na kami. Kung sa hospital ’yan X 4 na siguro.”

One news headline about the case of a nurse is a heartbreaker: “Twice infected, P60,000 in debt, and no special risk pay.”

One comment sums it up: “Mas problema pala ang funding kaysa mismong sakit.”

As the Covid continues taking its terrible toll, it is bringing down many families on their knees because of the financial burden that is too heavy to carry by every member, whether one survives it or not. We are not even talking about the burial expenses.

It’s a double whammy for the infected families. While the patient is gasping for breath or dying of the virus, the family members are at the same time sinking deeper into poverty.

So, when all you get from the national leadership is the dispiriting advice to just be patient a little longer and live with it because “maliit na bagay lang ’yang Covid,” it is like pouring vinegar on a gaping wound. Some media commenters even have the gall to make snide remarks that put the blame on the victims: “’Yan labas kasi nang labas, ayaw pumirmi. Huwag pasaway kasi.” One wants to lash back—“ikaw na kaya magka-Covid.”

Meanwhile, a few people are being unmasked by the ongoing Senate investigations for making money from the Covid pandemic, even to the extent of swindling the government. Lots and lots of money. Billions of taxpayers’ money!

As I am writing this, the condition of Richard’s wife is slightly improving, but she’s not out of the woods yet. The newborn infant is not getting any better. She needs blood transfusion.

The meter on our Richard’s hospital bill is ticking. He is now slow to respond to our inquiries for updates, probably too drained and exhausted to bother. His last text reply to my wife was a dispirited laconic “ganun pa rin po.”

Richard must be wondering: why, why, why  is this happening to us? I can only think of the biblical Job at this point. He never did receive an answer from God. Job remained in the dark about why he, or any human, should suffer.

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