Enlightening Thoughts From A COVID-19 Survivor

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The start of 2020 was rough. Taal Volcano erupted.

In China, a virulent virus was sweeping the nation. However, China seemed so far. It never crossed my mind that the virus would hit home.

Then came March and the lockdown. From then on, everything seemed so surreal.

On the first week of lockdown, I received news that my brother-in-law was sick. What we thought was dengue wasn’t.

Having been in quarantine for more than a month now, he was able to write down his ordeal and some very enlightening thoughts.

I thought it would be nice and pretty helpful to others to share what he had written.

In this fight against COVID-19, I honestly think that the heroes are not just the frontliners but the survivors as well.

The Ordeal

He had started to feel bad on March 11. Then the next day, his temperature went up to 38.1. Unfortunately, it didn’t go any lower the next day, which coincidentally was Friday the 13th.

The weekend came and his temperature went down but he was still feeling kind of weak. He felt tired. He went to work but all of a sudden he started to feel bad.

He was shivering and his temperature went up to 38.2. He stayed home for the next two days but finally went to the Emergency Room on the third day.

Here’s how he remembers that fateful day when he finally went to the hospital:

To my surprise there were not too many people. But there was a set up at the driveway of the ER. Chairs are neatly aligned with a 1-meter distance.

They are already preparing for the influx of possible Covid patients. At least, they are ready.

I was interviewed by a nurse, and asked to fill up some forms. I was escorted to the ER but my wife and son were not allowed inside.

There were like 4 of us in the waiting room, mostly seniors, but they were all wearing regular shirts in an airconditioned and here I am all wrapped up with a jacket and all, shivering.

We were there around 11:30AM. I was tested around 3PM. A blood extraction for CBC was performed and a swab test for Covid was performed as well.

A test I actually did not expect. I did not even know that the swab test is the covid test.

The nurse advised me that the actual swabbing might be a bit painful. I said ok, I can take the pain. But when I saw the 4 inch long swab, my eyes probably popped out.

The swabs were inserted down both my nostrils and rubbed around. This is not a bit painful at all! It was VERY painful. The other swab was pushed down as far as the stick could go down my throat. Rubbed around as well.

More painful as I almost vomited. But I held my ground. The nurse asked if it hurt. I said, a bit. But I think she saw the tears in my eyes then I briefly sensed that under her mask, she smiled, I knew she did not believe me. But I held my ground.

He had waited a couple of hours only to find out he was going to be confined. Unfortunately, it took a couple of more hours for them to get a room.

He slept in the ER for the night. His wife ended up sleeping on a monobloc chair.

Finally, he was going to be transferred to a room. Here’s how he remembers the scene.

I remember being able to sleep for about 2 hours when the nurse came in at 7AM to tell us that I will be transferred to the 10th floor as a room is available already.

We were surprised since we were supposed to be 6th in line. I thought to myself to be lucky but I overheard the nurses talking about the triage doctor giving instructions on room priorities. Worst cases get a room first.

I also had a glimpse of the waiting area I was at the day before. Full packed already. I was taken to the 10th floor, with barely 2 hrs of sleep, my eyes were wide open.

At the 10th floor, a plastic sheet was installed at the elevator door and a sign which said: “Isolation Area, Strictly No Visitors allowed.”

I was assigned Room 1071. After settling in, a few minutes my breakfast arrived, finally real food. A nurse talked to my wife and required her to wear full PPE’s (gown, gloves, shoe covers, haircover, mask, safety glasses).

“Maam, you are not allowed out of the room for any reason. If you need anything please push the button and we will be more than happy to assist.”

Not long after breakfast, my doctor arrived, an Internal Medicine doctor. The nurse first asked: “Sir for the record please state your name and birthday.”

After the formalities the doctor in a low voice. “Sir, did you have travel history? Any cough? Difficulty breathing?” I said none.

The only thing I have is the fever and the feeling of weakness. The doctor said: “Sir, you have pneumonia, your vitals are way below the minimum, your temp is at 39.8 your oxygen level is down to 90%. It should be at least 95%. But we assure you that we will do everything we can to fight this.”

In the next four days, he ended up with an oxygen tube attached to his nose and a needle inserted in his vein in his wrist for an Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) test. Then he came down with pneumonia.

At this point, his COVID-19 results had not come out yet. However, he was being treated on the assumption that he was positive. His nasal cannula was replaced with a full mask.

While confined in his room, he tried avoiding the news.

We had cable TV in my room. It was tuned in to HBO the whole day. But I never really watched.

We did not bother hearing the news too as my wife thought hearing it would add to my stress. The last time I heard the news, there were 217 covid cases, 17 deaths, 8 recovered. A 7.8% fatality rate and 3.7% recovery rate.

His vitals were being monitored every 6 hours. In the next coming days, he was miraculously improving. His body was responding well to the medications and he got an encouraging tap-on-a-shoulder from his doctor.

He was still bombarded with excruciating tests from March 23 to March 24. Then finally on March 25, he felt a lot better. All his tests came out normal. But there was still one more test that they were waiting for and that was for COVID-19.

On March 25, he was finally allowed to go home.

For the first time I really felt better. My fears are now replaced by anxiousness. Anxious of the covid test results. But still there was none.

The confirmatory tests were done early morning. And around 11AM, my doctor came and with an even excited tone. “Sir, the tests are all normal and good now. We might be sending you home today. But we need endorsement from the ID doctor to confirm this. However, the covid test are not yet available and because you were treated and considered as covid positive. You and those in your household (my wife and my son included) are required to go through a mandatory self quarantine of another 14 days.”

His mandatory home quarantine started on March 26. To this day, he is still in his room. He’s not taking any chances. He will only go out when his next COVID-19 test comes out negative. Yes, the first one came out positive.

Enlightening Thoughts to Get Us Through

He used his quarantine to reflect on his ordeal. He came up with some enlightening thoughts that can definitely help us get through this lockdown.

Invest on your health and body. Eat healthy food, have a balanced diet. Exercise.

This dates back to my school days. I was an athlete. I love to compete. When I got out of High school, I started smoking and drinking.

In college, vice set in because of my new found freedom. I was still living an active lifestyle though but my body is lagging behind because of smoking, drinking and staying up late.

After schooI, I still engaged in different outdoor adventure sports. However, during my Divemaster’s class I noticed I was consuming air too fast that I was usually one of the first to buddy breathe or surface.

This could not happen, I am putting myself and others in unnecessary risks. So I quit smoking & avoided drinking. Cold turkey.

I train, work out, try to keep an active lifestyle, try to eat healthy and try to take care of my body. I invested on time as well, before I train 3 times a week.

When I started working again on a full time job, my training days became once a week. Good thing the Kali for fitness program was well accepted so then, I was able to train twice a week.

An investment on our health and body does not happen overnight or just in a week’s or month’s time. You need to count in years.

I do not have good genes, my father’s side is hypertensive. My mother’s side is diabetic. I am both. Visit your doctor and have regular check-ups. You need to see the signs early in order to manage your condition. Take maintenance medicines if needed.

Fast forward to now. I was lucky my investment paid off. My body was able to fight off the virus. My body produced anti bodies faster than the virus can destroy it.

The doctor said I was lucky, my body responded to the medications. With an entirely new virus as the Covid19, there is no known immunization or cure at this  point in time and if I did not have the physical condition I had, it would have been a turn for the worse. Others were not as lucky.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

I have always had the habit of buying a little extra of everything, just in case. I am what others call a “Prepper”. Some see it as being paranoid, but I see it as being prepared.

Before the Taal Volcano erupted last January, there were few people who knew about an N95 face mask. But after the eruption, everyone started buying masks. Some even stayed at home to avoid the ashfall. I see this as a dry run, nature’s way of warning us of what lies ahead.

Being a prepper herself, my wife even doubled up our stocks apart from our usual inventory. We have a complete shelter-in-place provisions for at least 7days. Food, water, survival essentials, first aid kit, PPE’s, etc.

When the pandemic broke out, everyone was at a state of “panic buying” in groceries for food supplies, desperately looking for face masks, we were there too. Not panic buying though, but to get more stocks. Still preparing.

Equally important is knowing what to do during situations like this. Train yourself and your loved ones when given the opportunity and do it before, not during.  You can never be too ready and too prepared.

A Sound body and a sound mind.

Human beings have a body and a spirit. They always go together. If the body is down, the spirit lifts it up. If the spirit is down, the body carries it and moves on. But they have to work together.

There has to be a balance. Work on them separately if you have to. You cannot have a strong body and a weak spirit or psychological mindset.

Face your problems. Take the challenge, do something about it and see it as an opportunity to strengthen your mind and spirit. We may not be aware but in each time we are faced with a problem, we always come out stronger and wiser.

In the hospital, the doctors and nurses were working on my body. But I alone had to work on my mind and spirit. My body was improving but my spirit was lagging behind.  A mixture of emotions, both positive and negative, clouded my mind. I need to stay strong.

Having gone through problems in the past made me strong, but not strong enough. Draw more of your strength from people who love you as they too draw their strength from yours.

Keep strong family ties. Choose your friends well. They will see you through.

The first people that you turn to during your most challenging moments will be your family. You need to have strong family ties. Love and respect should exist.

In a family, sacrifice is not seen as such. It is seen as a sincere expression of love. If things go well, they will be the first to let out a sigh of relief. But if it doesn’t, they will stay by your side until the end.

In the age of social media, we have hundreds if not thousands of friends. It takes only a click to accept or be a friend. But in tough times, you will know who your real friends are.

In a crisis such as this pandemic. There are friends who have every intention of helping but could not for they too, may be fighting their own battles. But there are those who are genuinely concerned and more than willing to do more and be there for you, even if it means they too will be at risk.

Have faith.

When all else fails turn to God. But it occurred to me that God is there right from the very beginning.  Most times I turn to Him only during desperate moments. But He is always there the whole time, it is only when I called that He made His presence felt.

We all have to have a strong connection with our faith. We all need to believe that our faith will see us through.  This time, I let Him take charge for in the end, it is He who will decide if I stay or I go.

When it’s over. Lookback, learn from the experience and move on.

This is exactly why I wanted to share my experience. I may not be ready to talk about it yet. But I can write about it. Life has a lot more to offer. Let us move on and be ready to face the next challenge.

No matter how hard I try to back track and retrace the things I did, the places I went to and the people I had contact with before I felt the symptoms, I still could not think of anything different from my normal day. Therefore I could not say from whom, where or when I contracted the virus.

I know that some of you were worried and concerned that having been in contact with me, may have been infected as well.

I am aware too that there is no need to say this nevertheless, for the anxiety you had to go through and for putting you and your family at risk, I apologize.

On a separate occasion, I will be expressing my gratitude to my heroes: the doctors, nurses, and all the frontliners, personally and as soon as I can.

To you my colleagues and friends, on behalf of my family, I would like to sincerely express our gratitude for all the support and prayers. My special thanks to my boss, who was not there as a boss but as a “big” brother keeping track of my condition and always ready to extend whatever assistance may be needed.

The short period I was at work as the C&C lead may not have been enough to be able to share my knowledge or create an impact in that field.

This experience does not make me an expert either. But I hope that it is on this occasion that I was able to create that impact, not as a victim but as a survivor.

These are truly enlightening thoughts, not from a victim but from a survivor.

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