'A hero and an inspiration:' A son remembers his father who died battling the COVID-19 pandemic as a doctor
Leandro Resurreccion IV still gets messages at three in the morning from people he do not know.
Over a year after his father passed away, random people are still sending him messages at various times of the day offering their condolences. And because his father was a pediatric transplant surgeon, these messages sometimes contain photos of the sender with their children, all of whom are often beaming at the camera.
“After his death, I already knew that he was a great doctor. But I didn’t know how much people loved him,” Leandro told PhilSTAR L!fe.
Dr. Leandro Resurreccion III was a pediatric transplant surgeon at the Philippine General Hospital and was one of the first medical frontliners who died in the line of duty at the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He first showed symptoms on March 10, 2020. A few weeks later, he died on March 31.
Things happened so fast and at so early a stage in the pandemic that when Dr. Resurreccion succumbed to acute respiratory failure brought by COVID-19, his children did not even have the chance to have a video call.
“The most frustrating part was that you couldn’t see him,” Leandro said.
“All I saw was a body bag and I didn’t even know if he was really inside. You just have to trust the doctor. But those are all frustrating things especially in such a peculiar time,” said Leandro.
In its immediate wake, Dr. Resurreccion’s swift departure left his household in a tangled mess of heartache, anger, and chaos.
Dr. Resurreccion, who was a single father, left behind four children, namely his namesake Leandro IV, the eldest; Paolo, 25 years old; Pia Isabel, 21; and Pocholo, 20.
After their father died, the four Resurreccion siblings sought to put their house in order. But it was a difficult process that often ended up with the four fighting among themselves.
“It was chaos,” Leandro recalled.
As it was going on, a lot of repressed feelings about each other came out. We fought during that time. Maybe because we are just mad about what happened to daddy. You’re mad because your dad randomly dies in a pandemic that supposedly could've been stopped.
“As it was going on, a lot of repressed feelings about each other came out. We fought during that time. Maybe because we are just mad about what happened to daddy. You’re mad because your dad randomly dies in a pandemic that supposedly could've been stopped. And he died in the line of service. Hero things are nice but it gets you frustrated. Like why him? Why did he have to die? I’m not saying that someone else should have died, I’m just asking why did it happen? Those are questions that will never be answered.”
But though their father’s departure still stings, the Resurreccion household now has a semblance of order.
The 27-year-old Leandro, a law graduate who is reviewing for the 2021 bar exams, declined to be tagged as “the man of the house.” Despite being the eldest among the four, he said his role is more of a manager in their household.
“We are in this together, we are teammates,” said Leandro.
In a way, Leandro also believed that his dad made his job of being a "household manager" much easier as his siblings are all growing up just fine on their own.
“I’m thankful that my young siblings are very responsible and they are not doing anything out of the ordinary,” Leandro said.
“Given all the things that have happened in our life—my parents separating, this tragic death of my dad— my teenage siblings have the right to act out but they do not. And now I realized it is because of the guidance of my dad. The way that he brought us up, it may not be perfect, but it was amazing. And the only way that he could have done that is because he also showed us that he is a great adult. He saved us from being irresponsible or doing bad things, and right now I think he saved me, us.”
The way that he brought us up, it may not be perfect, but it was amazing. And the only way that he could have done that is because he also showed us that he is a great adult. He saved us.
Tributes poured in from different medical institutions following the death of Dr. Resurreccion, who was often described as a “pioneering surgeon.”
The Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) described him as “a great surgeon, teacher, academician, and friend to all.”
“He was well known locally and abroad as forward looking in his vision for pediatric surgery especially in liver transplants, which he was working to the end. Always smiling, friendly and very ‘cool,’ he will be missed. Our first fallen soldier in the battle vs COVID-19,” PCMC said in a statement.
The Our Lady of Fatima University described Dr. Resurreccion as a “fearless fighter in life” along with glowing testimonials from his friends and students.
“Dr. Resurreccion spearheaded the Pediatric Surgery Division at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, dedicating his life to where he believed his skills were needed the most,” read a statement from the Ateneo de Manila University chapter of the youth-oriented non-profit organization AISEC.
Members of the riding community also paid homage to Dr. Resurreccion, who was an avid motorbike enthusiast and kept a BMW NineT scrambler as his trusted steed.
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For Leandro, his father is a "hero" and an "inspiration."
What actually made his sudden departure more jarring was that it came right at a time when Dr. Resurreccion was at the peak of his life, both personally and professionally.
“I think my dad’s best year was in 2019. That’s when he gained some weight, he had a new girlfriend, who was a very successful woman also. That was also the epitome of his career, he was about to be appointed as the head of the pediatric transplant surgery unit here, he was also gearing up to travel for 2020 because he was about to train in India and Taiwan. His career was booming. He bought a new big bike and went around Luzon in that big bike, outgrew his hair, he was really living free in 2019,” Leandro recalled.
Leandro said that they were also ready to migrate to Australia at some point after his father was offered an attractive career opportunity. Dr. Resurreccion, however, turned down the offer and chose to return to the Philippines and serve the country.
“He loved children, but more especially Filipino children,” Leandro said.
Over a year after Dr. Resurreccion's death, some questions still haunt and scar the Resurreccion household over his sudden and cruel departure. But for now, his family takes cover in the warm afterglow of his enduring legacy.
“One of the teachings he really taught us is to always serve the country. And to always love this country," Leandro said.