The road to recovery

By Jules Vivas

Four months have passed since the first discovery of the novel coronavirus, yet no specific treatment for Covid-19 has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The World Health Organization (WHO) is still coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat the deadly disease. But with appropriate care, many do recover from COVID-19 and four weeks since the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), more and more of them are emerging from the ordeal with inspiring tales of recovery and homecoming.


It can take several weeks to fully recover from illness, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, explained during a briefing in Geneva in early March. He said that it would take up to six weeks to recover from Covid-19, even months for the severe cases.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) data shows that recovered cases take an average of three weeks to be completely rid of the virus.

A person may be infected with the virus for one to 14 days before developing symptoms such as fever, tiredness, and dry cough. About 80 percent recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

‘For the most part, I was unconscious. But I was in so much pain whenever I woke up. I was constantly gagging on my own saliva and phlegm. But I told God I had no plans of dying. My family needs me.

Those with mild symptoms but are not hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be considered recovered if they meet a set of criteria that includes the non-recurrence of a fever for 72 hours, the alleviation of other symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath, and two negative results from tests given in a row, 24 hours apart. If there is no access to COVID-19 tests, the first two criteria will do, but they must also wait for seven days to pass after the onset of symptoms before they can be considered safe.

Severe cases of Covid-19, however, are a different story. The virus attacks and destroys tissue in the lungs, but sometimes also induces an overreaction of the immune system, creating dangerous levels of inflammation. The lack of oxygen with widespread inflammation can also damage other organs such as kidneys, liver, heart, and even the brain. These patients are left unable to breathe on their own, some even dying in hospital intensive care units or at home.

Healthcare entrepreneur and father of five Jojy Azurin, 56, is among the unlucky patients who experienced the worst of Covid-19. His fever began on March 5, followed by difficulty in breathing and fits of dry coughing that soon brought him to the emergency room of Medical City, in which he was intubated while waiting for over a week for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to free up. "For the most part, I was unconscious. But I was in so much pain whenever I woke up. I was constantly gagging on my own saliva and phlegm," Jojy narrates to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. "But I told God I had no plans of dying. My family needs me."

Similar to how our immune system responds differently to the virus, recovery also varies from person to person. Jojy told The Manila Bulletin that he owes his survival and continuing recovery to four important things.

1. Trust in doctors and nurses.

Jojy relied on the medical practitioners, following all of their instructions diligently. “Their encouragement and affectionate stroking of my head and hand had a calming effect on me. The team of doctors and nurses at Medical City is world-class. I owe them my life,” he said.

2. Malaria and HIV drugs

Many studies have reported that the drug called Hydroxychloroquine works well on Covid-19 patients. It’s commonly used to treat malaria and fight HIV. “I assumed they also tried other drugs, but it was this one I reacted to positively,” said Jojy. “They also made sure I had regular bladder and bowel movement just so I could flush out as much of the toxins as possible.”

3. Count on prayers and support.

Receiving physical treatment is a given, but emotional and moral support also plays a huge part in the recovery process. “Our Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF) ministry, our ex-officemates, our friends, classmates and co-parents from Marist, University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, La Salle Greenhills, De La Salle University, and Saint Paul College Pasig were all praying for us and giving my family emotional support. They also provided logistics, funds, other means of showing us that we weren’t alone in this fight,” Jojy intimates.

4. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Jojy also believes that his physical fitness helped his body combat the virus. “I was a track and field varsity member at Marist High 40 years ago. I've been running ever since. Even up until three years ago, I was doing seven to 10 kilometers almost daily. Oxygen is vital to running endurance. I trained and disciplined my lungs to do a timely cadence of breathing, so I could focus on other things such as speed or strategy during competitions,” he said. “The pneumonia was trying to kill me. My lungs, sensing no oxygen, automatically went into a cadence of breathing because they thought I was running. I could feel my lungs doing a breathing cadence though I was unconscious.”

Jojy's victory against COVID-19 is only one of the many stories of hope and recovery in this Easter issue. Another empowering story is that of executive coach Carla Villanueva Manas, who organized a donation drive on her hospital bed, where she was gripped by pain and fear. Having since recovered, Carla has also a tale to tell of redemption and homecoming.

For more of the stories of COVID19 survivors Jojy Azurin, Carla Villanueva Manas, and more, turn to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle on page B6.