It started with a fever.
Not the raging kind; it was low grade, the kind you get when your body bails on you after a particularly tiring 8-to-5 stint in your workplace.
I thought it was just overwork. I was diagnosed after all with fibromyalgia, a condition that essentially throws my entire pain-and-fatigue regulating system out of whack, where I experience random bouts of extreme tiredness and round-the-clock pain.
Plus the allergic rhinitis. Wheezing, sneezing, and allergic coughing have been normal for me.
So when I started developing joint pains and a hacking cough, I said: well, par for the course.
The cough will clear up, the joint pains will transfer somewhere else. Or so I thought.
It did not go away. On the contrary, it worsened.
My temperature spiked.
And the cough. It was constant, and bothersome. I was coughing up phlegm.
My husband, Julius, started developing similar symptoms, except for the high fever and body pains.
But his cough was worse than mine. It was persistent, wet and would wake him up in the middle of the night.
Things came to a head when a doctor friend happened to call him up to check on him, and heard his cough.
“Your cough does not sound good.”
Before I knew it, Julius had made a flurry of phone calls. We had been reading up on COVID cases and their variants, had reported symptomatic cases, and had kept ourselves well informed of patterns why people die.
The devil is always in the details. Julius has been a believer of this.
What caused Patient X to die; what Patient Z took, what time he was taking it, what brand of antibiotics, if any; what needs to be monitored and how to do the monitoring.
So Julius bought first an oximeter to monitor our blood’s oxygen levels. Then the nebulizer, a must, the doctor insisted, because Julius has asthma.
And oxygen tanks. Four of them at the ready, referred by a pastor/lawyer friend who himself made calls to provide them for us.
The same doctor Julius called came to us, checked our conditions.
“You have pneumonia — bilateral.” Both lungs compromised.
I had pneumonia too. My left lung was covered in phlegm.
She prescribed two kinds of antibiotics for us, and additional drugs besides (acetylcysteine, effervescent tablet form), budesonide (nebule), a host of vitamins (D, and C), and a sleep aide.
ISOLATION AND SECLUSION
At this point, four days into our symptoms, we had not yet been swabbed. However, Julius and I decided to start our self-imposed isolation. We organized a system of dropping off groceries or medicines delivered with no contact.
When we were swabbed a few days later, and the results turned out positive, we accepted it.
I wasn’t alarmed. Julius had survived a stroke; we could do this.
One thing we agreed on — the doctor, Julius, and I — was to NOT go to a hospital for treatment.
Not only were hospitals overcrowded, but there were certain cases that deteriorated during confinement.
Besides, we did not have any other housemates, no kids, nothing. So home quarantine was most ideal.
We posted our positive results on Facebook, and tried to appear upbeat. The community support was overwhelming.
A village kagawad and his wife would check on us and offer to buy our medicines and needs. Friends from both private and public would drop off groceries, vitamins, food.
A friend in Manila dropped off lunch, using his contacts here. Another had fruit and vitamins delivered.
A colleague took care of dinner. Another friend bought breakfast.
A close couple-friend dropped by to bring food and check on us.
There were bags and boxes of deliveries — groceries, fruit, food items — from friends, colleagues, family.
We felt the support.
We would pull this through, we thought.
It was only much later that we learned how close we were to death. Our doctor told us that had we delayed treatment, or had the oxygen tanks arrived two days later, Julius had most likely deteriorated (he has asthma), and died.
We had a close call.
But the key was early intervention. And lots of community support. And that pneumonia shot we took a year before.
And the means and resources to buy the essentials — one very important factor to survival. Imagine having to spend P6000 on meds alone. An ordinary worker would not be able to afford that.
How we survived it was short of a miracle. But one key step to surviving it is being prepared.
Build immune system. Be extra careful. Get vaxxed.
Because COVID is as real as it gets.