Waking up from a nightmare

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Lawyer Caesar Distrito is a veteran in politics who has faced almost everything – from intrigues to scandals, allegations, insinuations – over almost all issues, from the political to the personal.

A tough cookie.

It comes as a surprise then when Caesar Distrito cries uncontrollably in the middle of an interview.

“I am sorry,” he tells DNX as he sniffles and tries to steel himself.

And tries to go on.

For the past 27 days, Caesar had been both parent to an extended family and a facilitator to keep his brother, Rosinie, alive as he fought for his life against CoVID.

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And things did look desperate over the 27 days that Rosinie was confined at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, 27 days that, to Caesar, “felt like an eternity.”

At one point, it became so desperate that Caesar had to beg: “I prayed to God to take me instead of Rosinie. He has four kids and a wife who wait for him to come home every day.”

“I sincerely thought it would be better to take me as I live alone,” Caesar adds as his voice breaks again.

WORSE THAN SEVERE

At the government-run CLMMRH, physician Julius Drilon, the medical director, describes Rosinie’s case as “more than severe” and definitely “one of the worst cases” they had ever treated since the hospital started treating COVID cases.

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The 33-year-old village chief, Drilon tells DNX, had bilateral pneumonia, which simply means both his lungs had infection.

The lungs show up as “white on the x-rays,” Drilon says, which indicates there is really no air in Rosinie’s lungs.

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When he was brought in, Rosinie’s oxygen uptake was so low, which means oxygen cannot enter his bloodstream to be supplied to his vital organs.

That was when the medical team attending to Rosinie decided to have him intubated, a decision that weighed heavily on Caesar’s mind.

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Intubation is a medical term for putting a tube down a patient’s throat and into the windpipe and putting that patient on a ventilator.

In short, a machine helps a patient breathe in the case of surgery or, in the case of Rosinie, a serious illness.

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To Caesar, it was the start of a series of events that led him to a roller-coaster ride, unsure if he was about to attend a cremation, as is the style now during the pandemic.

“I had a hard time telling the family of Rosinie that he was in a critical situation,” Caesar says.

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As to the wife, Jade who was also recovering in a nearby isolation room, Caesar found it more difficult to break to her the news.

“Her health was also delicate as she herself was recovering that time,” the three-termer former councilor adds.

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Timing was key in talking to people at such a critical time.

Timing, too, is key to patient care, Dr. Drilon says, as in the case of Rosinie who was brought to the hospital “in the nick of time.”

“A day or two more and he would have been brought in as a DOA (Dead On Arrival) case,” he says.

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As the medical team of CLMMRH struggled to keep Rosinie alive, Caesar searched for means to keep his brother alive.

After the team prescribed Remdisivir and Tucilizumab as part of the medical intervention, Caesar had to look for those drugs that are not only expensive but also not readily available in the city.

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Caesar had to call, cajole, badger friends in Iloilo and even Metro Manila to look for the two drugs.

During his stay in the hospital, doctors gave Rosinie 11 doses of Remdisivir at P10,000 a shot and two shots of Tucilizumab that Caesar got at P45,000 per vial.

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Rosinie’s comorbidity factor was diabetes but his relatively young age, 34, gave him a better fighting chance, Drilon says.

Every day, the health care team, an interdisciplinary group made up of an infectious disease expert, nephrologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist and other experts met regularly to discuss Rosinie’s case.

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“COVID is a treacherous disease, very unpredictable,” Drilon reflects after months of attending to COVID cases, some of whom are fellow health-care workers.

In the case of Rosinie, it meant daily briefings, discussing lab results, clinical findings and courses of action.

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Into the second week, Caesar got a call from one of the doctors who told him “that they cannot promise anything, that they cannot be sure how things would turn out.”

That was about the time when Drilon’s medical team gave another medical intervention to Rosinie: convalescent plasma or blood from a COVID patient that has recovered, making Rosinie one of the first few patients to have received it here.

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This did not make Caesar’s worries stop.

“He could kick the bucket anytime,” he says but his problems started to mount as an uncle and another relative were also confined along with Rosinie.

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Then their mother, Councilor Simplicia, was herself rushed to the hospital, possibly out of worries and lack of sleep.

“I was tending to at least five patients,” he says.

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Past the second week, Rosinie’s condition started to improve though Drilon admits it is hard to attribute it to the medical interventions alone in the absence of any study or empirical data.

“It is hard to say for certain,” Drilon says but admits to feeling a sense of relief with Rosinie’s recovery.

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“I pleaded with the Lord to take away even my life; I was ready to exchange all the positions I had, all my achievements  just to let him live,” Caesar recalls what he said in his prayers.

Yesterday, Rosinie was released, weighing only just about a third of what he used to weigh and will be in isolation for at least a week.

To Caesar, Rosinie’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

“Maybe he still has a purpose to fulfill,” he says.

Carsar feels tired after 27 days.

Long, arduous 27 days.

But for now, Caesar is happy his Rosinie is alive.

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