Artlets works as a COVID-19 swabber

Photo courtesy of Jay Jusay

IN THE peak of community quarantines and mass hysteria, news broke out that Niño Jay Jusay’s parents tested positive for COVID-19. The world has not yet fully adjusted to the pandemic, and for Jay and his family, the future was not looking bright.

Jay and his siblings immediately isolated themselves in their condominium in Manila. Meanwhile, a nurse tended to their parents at their house in Quezon City. 

Nevertheless, they still found ways to continue their family traditions. With the parents on the other end of the video call, the Jusay family prayed earnestly as ever—hoping for a miracle.

In between prayers, Jay shared in an online interview that he begged God for grace. 

He prayed, “Buhayin mo lang ‘yung mom and dad koi-extend mo pa ang life nila para makita pa nila yung successes naming magkakapatid.” 

Mag-se-serve ako during this time of pandemic, kahit nag-aaral ako (I will serve during this time of pandemic, even though I am still a student),” he vowed.

Thirty days had passed, and both his parents had recovered from COVID-19. A year later, Jay is now scrubbing up for another day as a COVID-19 swabber.

BES I can be

While Jay was a medical technology student at the University, he dreamt of studying psychology. That was why after graduating from medical technology, he decided to take a second degree in behavioral science before entering med school.

Despite his pursuits in the medical field, Jay found a home in AB. “There are many things I’ve missed out on since they said that the culture at AB is one of the happiest in UST. I was able to enjoy being a student more in AB,” he recounts.

In balancing school and work, Jay would work continuously from day until night—as a student and as a medical frontliner. He notes that it is possible because of his good time-management skills and maturity.

In the end, Jay encourages his fellow Artlets to seize every opportunity because nobody knows what the future holds.

He reminds his fellow Artlets in mix English and Filipino, “Kapag nag-knock na ang opportunities sa’yo and kaya mong i-grab, grab it. Kasi ‘di mo alam kung kailan ulit kakatok iyan sa pinto mo. Go kung kaya mo, ‘pag ‘di mo pa kaya, makakaya mo iyon… ‘di iyan kakatok sa’yo kapag ‘di mo kaya.” 

(When opportunities are knocking at your door, and you’re able to grab it, grab it.  You don’t know when the opportunity will knock at your door again. Do it if you can, [and] if you think you can’t, know that you do. An opportunity won’t present itself to you if you can’t handle it.) 

A day in a swabber’s life 

Before the sun shines on the city, Jay would wake up at around three in the morning. His shift starts at 5:30 am, and he listens to whatever jam fits his mood as he prepares for a long day.

As a COVID-19 swabber at “Swab Wheels on the Go Medical Services,” Jay said he swabs around 50 to 80 people a day.

In the morning, Jay heads over to Parañaque before proceeding to Manila or Makati. “Depende kung saan ka ibabato ng dispatcher for that day… pwede ko siyang tawagin na Amazing Race,” Jay told The Flame.

Some days, Jay would be sent to ABS-CBN to test Showtime contestants and hosts. “Andami ko nang artistang swinab and ‘di niyo alam gaano [ako] kakabado bago sila i-swab,” he recounts. 

Jay with comedian Vice Ganda

After a tiring day tending the patients, Jay’s shift ends at 5 in the afternoon. He would then take off his PPE and face mask, allowing himself to breathe better. Until then, Jay would come home where he fulfills his academic responsibilities. 

‘SWABe’ lang

Photo courtesy of Jay Jusay

Healthcare workers around the Philippines have been risking their lives since the start of the pandemic. Overworked and understaffed, they have the arduous task of facing the virus head-on. 

They are the 80 to 90 percent of people who sacrifice their lives. Their feet are submerged in their grave since their job is already extremely difficult,  add the fact that they are not well-compensated,” Jay says.

Jay, like everyone, lives in constant fear of being exposed to the virus.

However, he remains undeterred. “Kapag tinanong ka ng Nescafe [kung] para kanino ka bumabangon, [for me] para sa mga pasyente kasi sila yung mga nangangailangan ng care ngayong mga panahon na ito,” Jay shares.

Jay remains strong as he continues to serve. He would endure the uncomfortable scrub suits, PPE, and hot weather if these brought Filipinos a step closer to the end of the pandemic.

 Even in the darkest of days, Jay reminds everyone, “Laban lang tayo ng laban.” F

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Vol. 57, Issue No. 1 of The Flame. View the entire issue here.

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