A 19-year-old student suspected of being infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has died after three hospitals refused to accommodate him amid the threat of the pandemic.
John Danielle Acuavera, a 19-year old student with Autism Spectrum Disorder , was suffering from high fever, weakness, swollen eyes, and difficulty in breathing when his mother Venessa Bandalan-Younghusband rushed him to the hospitals.
“I know you're in a good place now, anak. Keep on making arts in heaven. Mommy loves and misses you so much,” Venessa told her deceased son.
Venessa told GMA News Online on Thursday that they brought John to the St. Clare’s Medical Center in Makati City on March 27 because he cannot breathe. The hospital only checked his vital signs.
“Wala raw silang x-ray test kaya sa malaking hospital daw kami lumipat,” she said.
In a statement, St. Clare’s Medical Center said Venessa was told that the X-ray machine was not functional at that time.
Hospital staff suggested them to go to another hospital for the X-ray.
John was brought to Medical Center Manila (ManilaMed), where he underwent several tests including x-ray. The doctor found out that he had pneumonia and an enlarged heart.
“He was considered as PUI patient,” his mother said.
John was advised to get admitted at the hospital. However, ManilaMed had no available rooms for suspected cases of COVID-19, only for regular patients.
Venessa said the doctor suggested they can transfer John to another hospital or just bring him to ManilaMed's emergency room with all patients suspected with COVID-19.
The parents talked to their child if it’s okay for him to go home. “It’s okay, Mom. Let’s go home. We have meds naman di ba?” John replied to them.
Venessa signed a document for discharge against medical advice (DAMA.) She said she knew the hospital would only place John in a ward of patients with COVID-19.
“I know wala siya,” she said.
Before leaving the hospital, John underwent COVID-19 test. Venessa said the results were set to come out after a week. If the results turn negative, John will be allowed to be admitted in a regular room.
On March 29, Venessa said John could no longer breathe.
Since all public transport was suspended due to the enhanced community quarantine, they rushed John to Ospital ng Maynila through a padyak. However, Ospital ng Maynila refused to accommodate John.
“Sabi ko sa kanila na PUI siya ng ManilaMed. Hindi raw sila natanggap ng PUI,” Venessa said.
GMA News Online contacted Ospital ng Maynila to explain the incident. However, the health facility told GMA News Online that John was not found in their records.
According to Venessa, the personnel of the Ospital ng Maynila told her to bring John either to Sta. Ana Hospital or Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Trying to find treatment for John, they went to PGH.
“Wala na raw. Puno na raw ng PUI,” Venessa said.
According PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario, the hospital had probably no more available rooms for suspected cases of COVID-19.
“Kapag sinabing puno na, maaaring noong time na ‘yun, wala na kaming rooms for PUIs…Wala nang bakante,” Del Rosario told GMA News Online on Wednesday.
He noted that PGH complies with the guidelines of the Deparment of Health (DOH) in handling patients related to COVID-19.
“So pumunta kami ulit sa ManilaMed. Kakatapos lang nila mag-intubate ng PUI. Dinis-infect pa nila ang isolation room. Baka kapag pumasok kami, magka-COVID kami kasi PUI ‘yung patient na namatay,” she said.
Outside, a hospital personnel checked the blood pressure of John and said it was normal. However, John was still suffering from weakness and difficulty in breathing.
Venessa told GMA News Online that she was scared in placing John in the isolation room with the other suspected COVID-19 patients because she knew her son was not infected. She feared John’s condition might worsen if he gets infected there.
“Nag-stay pa kami doon until nag-okay paghinga niya. Sabi ko, ‘Anak, uwi muna tayo?’ Sabi niya, ‘Okay, mommy.” Lagi siyang, ‘Okay, mommy.’ Mabait kasi siya.”
They returned home around 5:00 a.m. But after a couple of hours, John’s condition became unpleasant again, Venessa said.
“Hindi na niya kaya.”
John was brought back to ManilaMed. His blood pressure was dropping. The doctor told Venessa they have to intubate her son if his blood pressure does not improve.
“Okay ba daw ako dun. Sabi ko, “Gawin po lahat, maligtas lang siya.”
When the tube was inserted in John’s mouth, he suffered from cardiac arrest. The doctor told Venessa that John has a 50/50 chance of survival.
“After 20 minutes, wala na raw si kuya,” Venessa said.
Venessa was not allowed to enter the room to be withJohn as part of measures implemented for suspected COVID-19 patients.
“May tatlo pa akong anak kaya hindi ako pumasok para i-hug si kuya. Baka meron siya, mahawaan pa kami ng mga anak ko. Hindi na namin siya nakita for the last time,” she said.
John died due to Severe Distress Respiratory Syndrome, secondary to suspected COVID-19.
On April 4, the COVID-19 test results of John came out. He was negative.
Venessa said that if only there was an available test that could yield results within the day, the hospitals might have offered a regular room for John for his treatment.
She felt that her son died because of the situation tied to the pandemic crisis and not due to his illness.
John was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder only in 2019. He studied Arts and Design and liked to compose music in Nihonggo, which he learned through the internet, Venessa said.
He uploaded his artworks on Twitter and named it MelonJuiceWork.
It's my birthday! I'm old now ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/pekCQyS76p— MelonJuiceWork (@MelonJuiceWork) February 13, 2020
“To all mothers who has Autism Spectrum Disorder na anak. Please love them unconditionally. Give them attention na kailangan nila,” Venessa said.
For all the families who shared the same suffering as hers amid the pandemic, Venessa reminded them to pray and believe in God.
“May rainbow at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
To provide John a good final resting place, his family is seeking donation for John’s columbarium vault. Venessa said she may be reached through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook (Venessa Bandalan Younghusband). —LDF, GMA News