On Global Filipinos: How Gem Scorp, RN beat the virus with faith, hope, and herbal medicine

‘It was overwhelming.’

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

Gem Scorp, a Registered Nurse at one of the hospitals in Queens, tested positive for the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak in New York City. At the time, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) were scarce leaving many hospital workers vulnerable to infection. He has since recovered and is back at the hospital working long hours together with many Filipinos who comprise about 80 percent of the hospital’s health care staff.

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He became an RN in 2002 working in the pediatric unit for four years in the Philippines. In 2006, he came to New York and worked 16-hour days for six years. He worked in various hospitals and nursing homes to support his families in the U.S. and in the Philippines. 

Sponsored by a hospital in Houston, he moved to Texas in 2015 where he shuttled back and forth through six hospitals. “In Texas I had a full-time job, a part-time job, and a per diem travel nursing job all at one time.” In 2018, he came back to New York.

Presently, he works three different jobs, as a CAT SCAN and Interventional Radiology RN, a Long-Term Caregiver, and a Homecare/Travelling Nurse in different areas of Queens and Manhattan.

In these excerpts from his interview with Emil Guillermo on Emil Amok Podcast in April 11, Gem talked about what it is like to be a frontliner, a Filipino, and a Christian and how they helped toward his healing.

“In the beginning of this pandemic, in the hospital where I worked, I could not understand how a patient in ICU was talking to me one night and the next day, he was dead. It was puzzling that the virus attacked not only the upper respiratory system, but a patient would be admitted into the hospital for heart pain or stomach trouble or difficulty in breathing. It seemed that the virus was mutating. It was overwhelming.

Gem wearing his PPE protective garment in the radiology room.

“We did not have enough PPE during the first few weeks of the pandemic. In fact, it was incredible that during that time there would be Code Blue (a patient is dying) every 30 minutes. We had not seen anything like this pandemic. Now it is probably six times Code Blue during my shift.

“I felt helpless because my duty as a nurse is to help our patient get well, give comfort to the family but this time, how could we comfort the family who could not even be with their loved ones during their last moments.

“We have a good team at the hospital where I work. Doctors and nurses work together. Whatever we have inside of us: talent, skills, experience but it seemed in the beginning that it was not enough.

“I caught the coronavirus during those first days. I had high fever for three days, and I had chills. I felt my bones were softening. I did not tell my wife. But I took antibiotics. I had studied medicine in the Philippines and I did research on what worked in Russia and Malaysia. Besides, we Filipinos are herbalists. I learned that the virus dies at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So I isolated myself in our extra room, used my son’s tent and turned on the hair dryer to 110 degree. I breathe in the hot air in the tent (almost like a sauna) and it opened up my sinus and the virus instead of going to my lungs went to my stomach which is acidic and the virus could not survive in the stomach. Also I chewed raw garlic because it acts as anti-virus. Onion is anti-bacteria. I smelled sliced onion for a few seconds and held my breath. I placed sliced onion in my room because it acts as an air cleaner. Ginger is anti-inflammation and boiling it for tea, I drank lots of it. I also drank plenty of warm water (not cold) with slices of lemon because it makes the water alkaline which helps the body. Food like bitter melon (ampalaya) is good because it loosens the phlegm where the virus hides. Any food that strengthens the immune system is good. I took the natural approach and became well after a few days. I went back to work.

“However, I am separated from my family. I cannot hug nor kiss nor be with them because I do not want to infect them. I am very sad. The hospital knowing this has allowed us to stay in the hotel near the hospital.

“Our union, the NY State Nurses Association (NYSNA) is very strong and fought for us to have the right protection and supplies. So it is much better now.

“Filipino hospital workers are nearly 80 percent of the hospital personnel where I work. We support one another and among ourselves we lighten up the situation by telling Filipino jokes.

“I am glad I am a Christian. In the hospital, before we start, we pray. I go to the bathroom and kneel down and ask God because only God can help us. Faith is holding us Filipinos together.”

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© The FilAm 2020

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