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Stories of love and hope: 92-year-old beats COVID; doc says lola is a “fighter”

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BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – When physician Kaye Marie Yap arrived at the house of Antonina Gargoles on 6 August in the village of Saraet, Antonina Gargoles was, in medical terms, “too weak, febrile and dyspneic.”

lola Antonina

In simple terms, Antonina “looked really bad, bed-ridden and you cannot even talk to her,” Dr. Kaye tells DNX.

Antonina is 92, a lola or grandmother in Hiligaynon, the oldest person to have recovered from COVID in the city of Himamaylan, about 78 kilometers south from here.

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Dr. Kaye is one of the youngest doctors deployed to Himamaylan under the government’s Doctors to the Barrios program and had been the focal person in the city since the series of quarantines in the province took effect.

To Dr. Kaye, the case of lola Antonina is “… an inspiring story… (and) only shows that there is HOPE in this overly chaotic world. She is our INSPIRATION in our struggle to fight this Covid-19 pandemic,” she wrote on her Facebook wall.

Today, lola Antonina is fully recovered, Dr. Kaye says, and was seen in smiling and sitting in bed on a video posted on her Facebook wall.

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“Very beautiful,” she answered and gesturing to Dr. Kaye who was taking the video.

The story of Antonina based on her medical records, as narrated by Dr. Kaye, shows how a family who refused to give up on her.

Antonina was infected by one of her children who visited a sibling on 22 July in Binalbagan City.

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That sibling could have been the first source of the infection and the next day, the child who went to Binalbagan fell sick and infected others, including Antonina.

It was only on 5 August that Dr. Kaye and Himamaylan health authorities knew that Antonina’s child in Binalbagan tested positive.

The next day, Dr. Kaye had Antonina and other members of the household swabbed.

Antonina and one grandchild tested positive.

She was also diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

She was supposed to be confined in a government health facility but her family insisted that they will take care of her.

She was restricted to her room in their house, a bungalow with concrete fences that was ideal for home quarantine.

The city health office provided supplements and monitored her but it was her family, especially one of her daughters, who took care of her, from feeding her and making sure she took her supplements.

She was also given Ensure, a fortified adult milk.

In only two days, her condition improved, Dr. Kaye adds.

Antonina is medically a person with “comorbidity factors” that puts her at a greater risk of developing serious complications from COVID.

Recent studies here and abroad have shown that people with advanced age and diseases like diabetes or hypertension have increased risk of dying from COVID.

Dr. Kaye says Antonina tested negative in a recent repeat swab and is now free of symptoms.

“She is a fighter, that made all the difference,” Dr. Kaye says about Antonina.

For someone fighting COVID, simple things – like eating or drinking supplements – seem difficult to do

Her family’s devotion was another.

“They took care of her; she was in caring and loving arms,” the physician adds, a sense of relief apparent in her tone amid the increasing cases in Himamaylan with the return of former stranded residents and OFWs.

“That love made a whole lot of difference,” she adds.

Antonina is well now.

Dr. Kaye continues to face the challenges of the pandemic, unsure when the crisis would end.

But today, with a lola healed from COVID, she knows there is hope.

She is inspired.

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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