Fallen Doctor, Internist And Oncologist Rose Pulido Is Honored By Family, Friends, And Colleagues
"We all wish that you are still here when we wake up. We are very proud of you our Bunak and thank you for all your sacrifices," writes her family. Dr. Rose is one of the fallen heroes who fought against COVID-19
It takes an estimate of eight to 12 years to become a doctor in the Philippines. During those years, med students become more and more committed to their mission to be of service to the greater society, promising to preserve life to the best of their abilities irrespective of their patients' livelihoods, financial capacities, social clout, complexity of conditions, and chances of living or dying.
Doctors' lives becomes inextricably intertwined with those of their patients'; when someone is healed and saved, a doctor's life force strengthens. But when they witness the very last breath a person takes in this world, a little part of them goes up to heaven, too, when they bid them their final farewell.
You see, a doctor doesn't have a profession. They are their work. They are inseparable from what they do.
By all means, it is a noble path to choose—heroic, even.
And in these times we live in, when populations of hundreds of millions from around the globe are fighting for their very survival in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, doctors—and certainly all of their fellow medical practitioners and healthcare workers—are nothing but heroes.
It was reported that the Philippines has at least 1,418 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 71 fatalities, as of this writing. Some of those who passed away were doctors. Even more are in quarantine or self-isolation because of their work as frontliners that makes exposure to the virus essentially inevitable.
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Honoring our fallen heroes. Thank you very much for your bravery, compassion and selflessness. Hindi matatawaran ang inyong sakripisyo Dr. Israel Bactol, Dr.Raul Jara, Dr. Rose Pulido at Dr. Greg Macasaet! Mabuhay kayo! #fallenheroes #israelbactol #rauljara #rosepulido #gregmacasaet #covid19 #bayaningpilipino #frontlinersph #procreate5
One of the fallen doctors is Dr. Rose Pulido, an internist and oncologist from San Juan de Dios Hospital loved by many not only because she was a brilliant doctor, she was a lovely person too! She was brave despite her shyness, compassionate, and always put others first—a stellar set of traits to possess.
She passed away last week after she contracted COVID-19, and while the grief from her passing still hangs over her loved ones like a heavy veil, they see through the curtain and choose to remember all the good that she leaves with them.
Through their testimonies, they invite everyone to get to know Dr. Rose and celebrate her memory, and to the Filipinos she served, remember her heroism.
Dozens of people have shared their memories of the doctor. Her family—composed of her dad and siblings Jeanie, Enri, Joey, Edith, Evelyn, Eliza, and Nicolai—started a string of touching tributes on Facebook that talked about Dr. Rose and the impact she had on people's lives. (Previously, Dr. Rose's siblings and her dad also posted a tribute for her on Facebook. Read it in full here).
Having finished her pre-med studies at the University of Santo Tomas and completing her medicine proper at De La Salle University, she was given the opportunity to cultivate friendships in many places, some of which she kept well after graduation and through the years.
Though many of them had shared their personal memories of her, you'll find a common theme in their testimonials: Dr. Rose was successful in what she did not only because she was the brainiest, the most hardworking, or the most ambitious, but because she paired those traits with lots of heart, a selfless desire to help others, humility, and an authentic love for life.
And they didn't just mean a love for her own life, either. She lived to encourage others to love life, too.
As an oncologist, she saw cancer patients and spoke to their families who, many times, struggled with the feeling that there was a deadline to live life to the fullest until the end comes, which means that she did double duty; she not only treated physical conditions of the body, but also tended to bleeding hearts and bruised spirits.
It takes a special kind of someone to be able to convince patients that life is indeed still good and that there are blessings to count despite being the one to break the news of a positive diagnosis.
As Dr. Rose's family recalls, "One time we asked her, aren’t you being discouraged that your patients have cancer and chances are they would die even though you are treating them? She said, 'Some survive but for those who are in the late stage of cancer, at least I can serve as an instrument for them to extend their life and spend more time with their families.'"
Dr. Rose was 46 years old when she passed away. She was confident that she would make a full recovery sooner than later, even telling her colleagues, "In two days probably I would be cleared. Antayin [ninyo] ako, ako bahala d'yan'" when there was a matter they needed help with.
She would not make it, and that week would turn out to be her last on earth.
The shock of her death rippled through the medical community and shook those she knew personally to the core.
There was so much more she could have done and was making such progress in cancer research in the country, for one thing ("She spearheaded clinical trials for cancer treatment for drug companies. She could have contributed a lot in the treatment of cancer," explains her family), but her presence as a friend and a one-of-a-kind colleague are also two things that can never be replaced.
A great mentor
Kim Sharmaine Viray, a former mentee of Dr. Rose, recalls what it was like to meet her for the first time not too long ago.
"I remember it so [clearly], she greeted me and said I looked like a kid. The exact words were, 'Ang liit mo [parang] bata ka, para ka lang pinabili ng suka.' I was really nervous the whole time... I [got] less and less nervous as the [days went] by because she welcomed me with warmth and she even got a nickname for me: 'kimchi.'"
"She made me feel that I belong and I am at home," Kim continues.
The two developed a bond that stayed with Kim even when they each moved on to different professional pursuits. Kim's regret is not being able to give the woman she considered a second mom a final hug as a last goodbye.
"I will forever miss her smile, her hugs, her stories to me that make me want to be a doctor or any medical professional that will touch people's lives. I love her so much. She made me think outside the box. She pushed me to my boundaries. She told me I was doing a very good job when I was doubting myself. She trained me well. Someday, I hope I will make her proud," Kim says.
A thoughtful friend
Making others feels included and part of the fun seemed to come naturally for Rose in every situation. Making sure no one was left behind—that was second nature to this doctor. A friend of hers, Irene Cordero, tells us about the serendipitous beginning of their lifelong friendship that shows this.
"I had met Dra. Rose Pulido during one of my solo trips abroad. It was during my 50th birthday, a gift to myself. She was one of the three Pulido siblings who took me in as their own. Rose, just like her siblings, had no airs at all. These three had been my travelling companions since," she begins.
In the course of just a few days, Irene got to see the deepest chambers of Dr. Rose's heart.
There were lighthearted moments, too; Dr. Rose showed Irene how to use the panorama feature on her phone, teased Irene for wearing layer upon layer upon layer of clothing on cold trips, and let Irene take over the bathroom for her pre-bedtime rituals without a peep. And then there would be the time when Dr. Rose would willingly stay behind to help their tour group's senior members along the way, making sure that they were looked after even when her own family had gone ahead.
"That just goes to show what type of person she is," Irene says.
A generous peer
This generosity had so many sides to it, and as it seems, different people in Dr. Rose's life were blessed with the chance to experience it in their own ways.
Another friend, Charmaine Javier-Linao, recalls what it was like to be schoolmates with Dr. Rose. She showed promise even as a student, but what was most remarkable about her then even in the earliest days of her career was how she wanted to uplift others when they needed it the most.
"I would not have been a general surgeon if not for [Rose's] help. During med school at DLSU when my family became financially down, I was sheltered by Rose. She made me stay in her dorm, she shared her food and coffee, made me borrow her books so I can [have them photocopied], even gave me money to pay for my school fees. She was my family and my inspiration at the lowest point in my life," Charmaine reveals.
If you were Rose's friend, you would never be without a wing to take shelter under.
A passionate motivator and a humble person
But as understanding as Dr. Rose was with others, you weren't allowed to slack off, either! Dr. Rose was an excellent student and she made sure her friends would be, too! To a great extent, Dr. Rose must have been the kind of person to delight in seeing others succeed; she could never be content with being the only one moving up and forward.
Her med school dorm mate and close friend, Tina Dem, laughs about all the times her dear friend Rose, or "Bunak" as she was more fondly called by her inner circle, would remind her to adjust her sleep-to-study ratio so as not to neglect her academics.
"[Rose was] caring. She treats me like a little sister kahit mas matanda ako sa kanya. I would remember her reminding me to study for our exams: 'Hoy Tina-pie mag-aral ka na... Tama na ang tulog,'"
And when they had both become doctors, Tina recalls how her kabarkada-turned-forever gal pal would willingly trade in rest for another appointment for the day even if it would be with a charity patient.
"[Rose was] humble and low-profile. Even with all of her achievements in her career, she remained to be grounded. Walang ere sa ulo. Even when she left us, low-profile pa rin [siya]," Tina writes.
Having known Dr. Rose for most of her life, the only that Tina wished her friend could have stayed a little longer for was the jewelry-making and calligraphy workshop they were scheduled to enroll in. She knows their barkada's group chat will never be the same without Bunak's updates, as she says, "Bunak, I know you're in a better place now with your Mom, so rest in peace my friend. Mission accomplished."
An empathetic soul
Through and through, Rose was forever looking for ways to be of help. It didn't matter if it was through her professional services, her compassion, her introverted silliness, or just the comfort she shared as one human being empathizing with another.
Another med school buddy, Joy Salvio Rebancos, explains how Dr. Rose's non-prescription advice of prayer and never losing faith was on point during a time of family crisis for her. Her teenage son was found to have a rare brain tumor, and aside from sharing her medical expertise during this family's road to healing, Joy shares, "She was there with me during his treatment and gave me strength and advice. 'Don't loose hope, pray and visit the miraculous Caysasay Church in Taal, Batangas.'"
Any doctor can recite scientific facts and survival statistics to a mother anxious about her child's survival; but the kind who can so easily meld explaining the specifics of cancer treatment and drug dosages with motherly advice is nothing but a gift to society.
Now, we see a more accurate picture of the true extent of the loss of Dr. Rose. (As for Joy's son, he is on his way to recovery).
A kind, caring doctor
This sentiment of Joy's is shared by Dr. Raiza Santos Cu who was the wife of one of Dr. Rose's patient's. This time, it was her husband who was in need, and it was stage four lung cancer that he needed to overcome—not an easy situation to manage even for an experienced doctor like Rose.
"Even in those times of uncertainty, nakadama ako ng hope para sa husband ko... She was the one who [talked] to my husband [para] pumayag na [magpa-chemo]. Everything went smoothly until my husband decided to try cryosurgery in China. Para mapadali ang discharge ng husband ko, si Dra. Rose ang [nag-facilitate] nito. And I’m so grateful for her kindness," she writes.
See, when a doctor heals a patient, she heals their families too—this was a credo that Dr. Rose lived by. She knew that everything she did was never for just one individual, but for everyone surrounding them. It can be overwhelming to think that so much responsibility rest on your success or failure to treat and save, but not for Dr. Rose; her shoulders were broad enough and her heart big enough to handle such responsibility.
"She was so thoughtful not only to her patients but also to their families. Kaya sobra akong nabigla nang ibalita ng daughter ko [ang] nangyari sa kanya. It's so untimely. Sobra akong nalungkot sa nangyari."
In the end, Dr. Raiza said it best: "I will not forget her."
A ray of sunshine
"Her memory is not defined by how she died but how she lived. Her kindness, generosity, and compassion will always be remembered," continues Kennard Quilao Felix, Dr. Rose's colleague.
The two have been friends for ages, and the feeling from knowing that they will no longer have conversations about their achievements and life itself is bitter indeed. Not even the deepest of sighs can be of comfort to him this time, but perhaps memories of her will be.
"She is a ray of sunshine to all the people around her," he says. He knows that he'll always miss her in the years to come.
There was also Romel Joan Racimo-Quinto, Dr. Rose's former neighbor.
They weren't lifelong friends, as many of the people who have shared their thoughts about Rose were. But if you know Rose, you'll know that that won't matter; briefly spending time with her, speaking with her for just a few times, or just knowing her for a short while is enough to get the full picture, in all of its glorious technicolor, of who she is.
"Although we lost contact after graduation, I never forgot her. And I will never forget what a beautiful soul she was—generous, grounded. She was a natural born leader, yet she was humble about it. I miss her so much already. I didn’t realize how sharing a short time with someone can impact my life," says Joan.
It seemed like it was forever ago when Joan was that student who felt "inferior" to top performer Rose, but she knows now that she was wrong to feel this way.
"...She would always encourage me, give me pointers during reviews. Her voice still rings in my ears 'Sis, nice to know lang 'yan. Dapat 'yung 'must know' ang alamin mo.' She always believed in me even as I didn’t. You know how some would always say 'You can do it?' With Rose, she didn’t just tell me that, she went out of her way until she saw that I really believed I can do it."
Joan is based in Canada now, but even though she has moved far away from the place that brought Dr. Rose into her life, the imprint of this powerhouse of a woman has remained with her.
The country lost a treasure when Dr. Rose passed away.
Physically, she is lost, but in the good that we do, the generosity that we share freely, the compassion we have for our kababayans, and the love we infinitely give and give, she lives on.
Photos courtesy of Atty. Jeanie S. Pulido / Additional images from Jeanie S. Pulido and Rose Pulido's Facebook pages