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When my father suffered a stroke, which kicked off our prolonged hospital stay (a total of six months until he passed on) getting a caregiver to help us became a necessity.
Caregivers were in high demand, and finding one that was qualified and with experience, was a challenge given the very limited time we had to look for one (or more than one since Dad needed 24/7 care). A three-week stay in the ICU gave us a small window for the search.
I'm not sure how we managed to snag the first CG, who eventually referred a colleague to pick up the second shift, and another one as a reliever. In the first month (October), we went through maybe seven or eight caregivers until we settled on four, who turned out to be the most reliable.
Mia wasn't among the list given to us. She was only a substitute for one of the girls with a conflict in schedule. (Many CGs serve multiple patients, so they can only be available on certain days. That's why it was necessary to have at least five on rotation.
I wasn't initially comfortable with Mia. She was too quiet, but admittedly competent. And it was a bit surprising because she is actually a registered nurse, so I wondered why she wasn't working as one. Perhaps she was really destined to help us out in taking care of Dad that's why she'd been unsuccessful in finding work as a nurse.
Over time, she displayed not only competence and reliability (always coming when she said she would) but more so compassion and for some reason, Dad liked her best among the caregivers who took care of him.
During quiet moments when I managed to nap deeply, they would have their banter and Dad responded to her favorably like he did with me. And when he wasn't feeling very well, his BP would spike or his oxygen levels would drop dangerously and only Mia could calm him down so she would extend her shift for several more hours.
And since it was I who stayed with Dad at the hospital all the time, I would develop a good relationship with the caregivers, who always appreciated that I helped out in caring for the patient, especially the heavy and messy tasks, and not just watched over like family members of their other patients.
They mostly commiserated with me because unlike them, who could go home to rest and sleep in their own beds, I just camped out on the sofa in Dad's room, often getting very little shuteye at night.
It was Mia, however, who I'd become closest to. And during Dad's final hours, even if she wasn't on duty that evening, she came in when she heard that he was already nearing his end. And she stayed on, helped us clean out the room and even went home with us once the funeral home had taken my father away.
She came for the wake, about two or three times and attended his interment. We would keep in touch, and still do to this day. After Dad, she passed up calls for caregiving assignments. She would admit that her experience with my father, while it increased her medical and healthcare knowledge, drained her so much.
It took many more months before Mia was finally accepted at a hospital, news that she was quick to share with me. Every so often, we would chat and she'd keep me updated about her experience.
When we chatted last April, she surprised me with news that she was pregnant! Wow! I didn't see that coming. I thought her boyfriend was abroad, but he was home when the pandemic struck.
I wasn't sure when she was due to deliver, so I messaged her early this month to ask. November, she said. Then before we ended the conversation, she requested for prayers because she was just being discharged from confinement due to bleeding.
Yesterday, I messaged again to check up on her and the baby. And that's when she told me the heartbreaking news that her baby died. She had pre-term labor on September 11, but since the baby was so tiny even at 7 months, he did not survive. Well, he did for six hours.
The hospital didn't have an incubator and while little Karl Daniel fought for his life, that very essential hospital equipment that could have saved him was not available.
What's worse is that she and her boyfriend are now confined after testing positive for COVID. They never even got to attend the funeral, arranged by Mia's parents, but only got to watch it on videocall.
I could feel Mia's pain as we messaged back and forth, although I can never fully imagine what she's feeling and going through. I know that as we chatted, she was crying, though she never said it.
Just hearing the news wrenched my heart. How much more Mia, who lost the life she carried for 7 months? Mia, who would never get to watch her little boy grow up? She never even heard him cry because he didn't when he came out.
I can never thank Mia enough for what she did for my father, and us during those excruciating six months. How she always took such good care of my Dad, and thought of him as a father (she called him Daddy), and not just a patient.
And now that she's grieving, I can only offer her comfort and support if she needed anything.
How does a mother get over the loss of a child, one she hasn't even held in her arms? Mia said the pain was almost unbearable, but she knows she must move on. Mourn her loss, accept it, then get back on her feet and live again. It will take time but with loving support and faith, she knows she will get there.
While our relationship started as client and service provider, we have since transcended that and became friends, family even. I pray for Mia's healing soon because I know Baby Karl, now an angel, will be watching over his Mama.