Till this day I still wonder how I got the virus.
The Philippines has one of the longest lockdowns initiated to combat the COVID 19 Pandemic. We are now at the six-month mark with three thousand new cases daily.
My house became a workplace, living place, amusement place. My whole life revolved around it.
Sometimes when I go sit by the balcony I think and miss my former life. Going out to meet family and friends over shared meals. Having coffee with someone special. Browsing through books and promising to just buy one but ending up with three.
All of these stopped when the government announce the Enhanced Community Quarantine which is basically a lockdown all but in name.
Life stopped. Businesses, schools, religious centers and transportations were all closed as the number of patients continued to rise.
Every two weeks the government would extend it giving it new names like Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine to General Community Quarantine. Each one introducing idiotic plans and policies that clearly showed they did not know what to do.
So I stayed inside. Lucky enough to be able to work from home. Able to afford to get things delivered instead of lining up for 2-3 hours waiting in lines in supermarkets and stores. Had enough things to enjoy like books that were unread, series to binge, and trainings to take.
Four months in the lockdown I suddenly got sick. I had fevers that were on and off. I developed a cough and on the 5th day started getting diarrhea. On the 7th I had difficulty breathing.
My lips started turning blue and the colors beneath my fingernails paled. I tried taking long, deep breaths to no avail.
I was rushed to the hospital and the attending physician in ER placed an oximeter and was alarmed at how low my oxygen saturation was.
He called for a wheelchair and got me hooked to an oxygen tank. It finally felt a bit better.
ER was packed with people. Accidents, illnesses and of course COVID.
I really did not want to be there. I was afraid. I did not want to get infected.
They decided they could not release me with my oxygen saturation at below 85%. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available so I spent 3 days in ER with cloth curtains separating me from other patients.
My second day they did a swab test and the next day I received a negative result for COVID 19. I was relieved and yet my vitals were still falling.
It went critical when my oxygen saturation reached 77%. They needed to intubate. I had apprehensions, no I was downright scared. Everything that I read and watched about COVID 19 how painful being intubated is. How you already have one foot in the grave. In my mind, it was game over. So I refused. I was going to get better without it.
It kept falling even with the oxygen being pushed into my lungs. Family and love ones implored that I get intubated. To give myself a fighting chance. They did a second swab test and it came out as COVID 19 positive and like that, I felt my world ended.
The doctors pointed out that I am relatively healthy without any preexisting conditions. I don't smoke and drink. My blood pressure normal. So I have a good chance of surviving but intubating would give my lungs a chance to be helped in breathing. I finally said yes.
I was sedated and a tube inserted down my throat and attached to my airway. I was then hooked into a ventilator to assist my breathing. It went without any hitch and then I woke up.
I woke up alone and it was dark. I felt the tube choking me. One of my nostrils had a tube running down to my stomach. I had a catheter attached to my privates. I could hardly move. I was choking in the dark, was panicking and thinking is this how I would die?
My heart rate was rising. One of the machines started beeping loudly. I could not reach the call button for the nurses. No one was coming. I could see people walk by and yet no one was looking my way.
It felt like forever but it could have just been 5-10 minutes after regaining consciousness when someone finally checked the beeping. She said she was sorry as there were so many people in ER but to fret not since I was going to be moved once they have an available room. She held a syringe and said it was a mild sedative to help me sleep. So rest well fighter and be well.
I woke up in ICU. Dressed in a hospital gown and wearing a diaper. An oxygen mask strapped tightly to my face and a tube firmly attached to it. Wires attached to my chest and a blood pressure strap on my right arm. I had IVs on both arms. The painkillers were wearing off. I could feel the tube choking me again. The worst was still to come.
I was told by one of my doctors that they would use Remdesivir as medicine to combat the virus. I was regularly sedated and every day at six AM I would be woken up and three vials of blood taken from me to run a battery of tests.
I hated those needles. My arms and wrists turned black and blue as each day those needles would pierce my skin and draw blood. The sensation of broken veins left me feeling both in pain and numb. I would be X-rayed almost every other day as they monitored the fluids in my lungs.
There would be times when fluids would fill the tubes. It comes from the condensation from the air. my breath and occasionally from the phlegm and fluids in my lungs.
The fluid would slowly build up and flood the tube and it would need to be suctioned. That was the worst. The phrase to drown in a glass of water comes to mind. It means to be easily discouraged and in a way it was discouraging whenever I needed to be suctioned. It felt like a mini drowning each time. Funny how you can drown on a half glass of water in the lungs. It was morbid but I was thinking that each time. I felt like giving up.
Twice I really thought I was a goner. Three days into ICU I could see the fluids fill the tube. I tried to breath slower, I tried to move the tube so that it would collect on a different area and not hinder the oxygen. I was losing this battle and my next breath filled my lungs with the fluid. I started to cough hard in an effort to expel it. It felt like my airways were blocked and I couldn't breathe.
I pressed the call button and the nurse was quick in coming in my room. She had to put on additional gloves, fixed her face shield and she started to vacuum the excess fluid, moving tubes and sliding plastic rods to close and open valves. It felt more than a few drops of fluids. She called for more help. Things started to turn gray, sound slowly disappear, the beeping ceased and time slowed down. I could still feel my heart racing as I started to panic and then it slowed down. Then everything went still as if time stopped.
I slowly felt my heart start beating. Color started coming back. The sound of the monitors beeping its frantic sound. I was back.
I asked the nurses and doctors what happened during that time. I was lucid, hyper lucid and yet they said my heart did not stop long and I should just focus on getting well. It did not stop long.
I had another episode but not as vivid as the first one. Eventually, I started to get better. The medicine was taking effect and they removed the tube on the 8th day in ICU.
I was moved to a regular room, started eating solid food. When they removed the catheter I was finally able to stand and go to the bathroom by myself. Taking that first piss by myself was so empowering after wearing a diaper.
Two days before I was discharged I got my last swab test and got the result that I was now COVID 19 negative. I had beat the virus. I have survived it and recovered.
Admittedly until now I still feel my lungs are weak and not 100%. It has been more than a month since I was discharged from the hospital but I am still afraid.
The science shows that each month the antibodies in COVID 19 survivors are decreasing so immunity is still not possible. So I take every precaution and still do not go out.
This brings me back into wondering how I got the virus. I always wash my hands, disinfect with alcohol every time I hold something. I use a sterilization box for all delivered items and disinfection with alcohol solution.
I still don't know how I got it but please be careful. Take every precaution you can do, take vitamins and strengthen your immune system by eating right, sleeping well and minimizing stress.
I am grateful to be alive and be counted as one of those that recovered from this virus. So be safe and know that COVID 19 is no joke.