As doctors and other medical professionals stand at the frontlines in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic a lot of the tragic stories we hear are precisely about doctors and nurses falling ill.
That was the story of New York Dr. Manuel Bulauitan who recently got hit by a “severe form” of the novel coronavirus. Fortunately, his story has a happy ending, as the 74-year-old NY surgeon beat the coronavirus thanks to his 3 sons who are also doctors.
Manuel’s family noticed he was getting sick in mid-March during a FaceTime chat. Two of his three sons, Dr. Manuel Bulauitan Jr. and Dr. Philippe Bulauitan, flew to his side almost immediately on March 20. Both of them are medical professionals in North Carolina and together, they took their father to the Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center which is where their third brother works – Major Dr. Constantine Bulauitan, an Army Reserve and trauma surgeon.
“I became very emotional,” Dr. Bulauitan Sr. remembers. He recalls his son telling him that he’s well cared for and holding his hand. Bulauitan certainly needed all the emotional support he could get as he spent 15 days on a medical ventilator.
“I am grateful that I’m here and my deepest thanks to all the medical professionals – from attending doctors and nurses – [they] are deep in my heart,” Bulauitan said. “They tell me it’s a miracle I survived.”
The fight against the disease was tough as Dr. Bulauitan was not only in an advanced age but also had a complicated medical history. Hypertension, chronic anemia, as well as two intubations, and it’s clear why the old doctor had such a hard time.
Fortunately, he was able to get the medications and care he needed to make it through.
Dr. Bulauitan Sr. isn’t certain when he contracted the disease but it’s likely that it was any of the hospitals and nursing homes he worked at. He has been treating a lot of patients at the start of 2020 and any of them could have gotten him sick accidentally.
Dr. Bulauitan’s three sons have also been treating Covid-19 patients for the past couple of months and are doing their best to stay safe.
“We grew up being inspired and admiring our dad for how he served his community and how hard he works,” Dr. Philippe Bulauitan said. “And for us, the ultimate sign of respect is that all three of us followed in his footsteps. For someone who has cared for us our entire lives, to have the opportunity to help care for him and help save his life, it was the best thing we could’ve done.”
Bulauitan Sr., a lifelong Catholic also added, “I think I am one of the luckiest survivors to have three doctors as sons and have them care for me. Especially the Almighty. I thank him.”
Fully-recovered, Dr. Bulauitan Sr. was eventually discharged from the hospital and was helped out by his oldest son, Major Dr. Constantine Bulauitan. The happy father insisted on “walking the last few steps” to the car but he obviously still needed to rest.
“[It] sucked the hell out of me,” the doctor shared about the nightmarish experience.
“This virus took me out of my practice that I love the most,” he said. “Since I was a boy I wanted to be a doctor and a surgeon and here I am.”
Dr. Bulauitan Sr. also found the whole ordeal to be a religious experience for him. “I even questioned God. ‘Why did you save me?’ Do you have plans for me? Whatever plans you have, I will accept it.'”
For the past 40 years, Dr. Bulauitan had used both his devotion to medicine and his love of God to do everything he can to help people. He has gone to the Philippines multiple times on medical missions to perform surgeries in various rural and distant areas where people need medical help the most.
“Maybe that’s why God helped me recover. Maybe St. Peter isn’t finished with my castle now. That’s what I tell my friends,” he jokes.
While Dr. Bulauitan successfully fought off the Covid-19 virus, he also decided to hang up the medical gown and retire. He shared that he’s been postponing his retirement for years now but the fight with the disease and the insistence of his sons finally pushed him to do it.
What probably also contributed to his decision was that his wife of 45 years also contracted the disease but fortunately recovered as well. It wasn’t just her either – two of his three sons also contracted the disease.
“I’m most proud of how our entire family came together,” added Dr. Philippe Bulauitan, who also tested positive for the novel coronavirus. “How we helped each other and how we can depend on one another.”
“Now the hardest part is to get back to my feet. I will do everything I can to stop this horrible coronavirus,” Dr. Bulauitan Sr. concludes as he’s recovering in North Caroline with Philippe Bulauitan, his wife who is a physical therapist, and his three grandchildren. “I was always independent my whole life and I want to go back to that so I can enjoy my four grandchildren.”