Other complications experienced by Covid-19 patients

Published August 3, 2020, 7:14 PM

by Jules Vivas

Even the asymptomatic struggle from the coronavirus 

As told by a concerned Covid-19 victim who wishes to remain anonymous.

DYING INSIDE Asymptomatic patients suffer from anxiety and discrimination, illustration by Ariana Maralit

I was patient number… I don’t even know anymore. That’s how busy the healthcare system is right now.

I rushed myself to the nearest emergency room (ER) when I found out that one of my officemates tested positive for Covid-19.

I was both anxious and frustrated. There were a lot of “what ifs” coming in and out of my head while I was at the triage area. What if I was positive? What if I infected someone in my family? What if I passed it on to my boyfriend? Or to my friends?

What do I do if I did have the coronavirus?

I took two tests, rapid and swab. Most of us, or at least the well-informed, know how long the results of the swab tests are normally released, which was why I opted to take a rapid test, just so I had an initial idea or result as I waited.

I have anxiety disorder so I needed something I could hold on to, something that would ease my mind. After 30 minutes, results of the rapid test came out and it turned out negative. 

Somehow, I felt relieved. Pero, alam kong hindi ako dapat makampante. I shouldn’t be too confident yet.

I went home and decided to isolate myself. I asked my brother not to stay in my room until I received my swab test result. 

A couple of days went by, and I couldn’t sleep very well. I was feeling super anxious.

Four days after I was tested, I followed up with the hospital for my result, which they sent me late in the afternoon. It’s still too vivid for me. I got the email in the middle of a conference call. I read it immediately.

Nanginginig ako nung nabasa kong positive ako. I couldn’t stop myself from trembling when I learned I was with Covid-19. I didn’t want to believe what I read at first, so I messaged some of my doctor friends to interpret the results, and they confirmed the findings — I was positive. I couldn’t stop crying. Posthaste, I sneaked out of the con-call and messaged my teammates that I was positive.

In my room, I went full-blown hysterical, crying my eyes out. I was horrified and miserable.

My mom told our neighbors about my situation since they were in contact with me. You see, our neighbors usually loiter around our house. Even if it was difficult to admit I was positive with Covid-19, we still explained to our neighbors, out of respect, and for them to be cautious too. It was the right thing to do.

I also messaged people with whom I had been in contact over the previous two weeks, and called our barangay health center to coordinate and seek assistance. It was frustrating because they took too long to respond. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice, but they had no sense of urgency. I needed to find someone from the “inside” and use the connection just so they could manage my case, so they would notice me. 

I was asymptomatic. As of writing, it has been 20 days since I first got tested. I truly felt nothing, no signs or symptoms of the disease whatsoever. It really is hard to fight something unseen. Yet, I am very grateful that my case wasn’t serious, and that no one from my family got infected.

What made my situation difficult were my neighbors, who suddenly changed when they heard the news about me. To think, most of them are our relatives.

I am thankful to those who early on expressed sympathy, who offered to help buy the things we needed, because we were in strict quarantine. I appreciate those who sent fruits, those who sent food. But while there were kind people, there were many more rude ones as well. Some of our neighbors would unnecessarily talk about my condition, by my window where I could see and hear them. They would speak about me not to spread awareness but as a topic to entertain themselves. I became a victim of our so called chismis culture or gossip culture. They were fabricating stories about me, suspicions on all of my moves and actions before everyone found out about me being ill. Other people would rush and run around my house whenever they needed to pass by. They were afraid of the virus. They were afraid of me.

Here in my neighborhood, the houses are cramped. You can completely hear what is happening or being discussed around you. “Why wasn’t she admitted to the hospital? Why wasn’t she taken to the barangay isolation center?” My neighbors would demand.

Photo by Anucha Naisuntorn

The answer is simple. Because I had no symptoms, and the facilities were full. It was the local officials who told me and allowed me to observe home quarantine. And they made sure to monitor my status and my family’s condition via call daily.

My mom would always disinfect not just inside the house but also the vicinity. She would wake up at 5 a.m. every day just so that people would not see her cleaning outside, so that outside our home, everything would be decontaminated and sterilized by the time everyone else woke up or went out.

Even so, the discrimination was unbearable. I recall one time when one of our neighbors splashed bleach outside our house, and told us that that was to sanitize us. Mind you, that happened right after my mom just finished disinfecting. I could never forget how much my mom cried that day; she had never so felt insulted in her life. It was heartbreaking. 

From time to time, some of our good neighbors would message me about everything that was going on outside, about the misinformation they would spread about me, all the gossip directed at me and my family.

As a patient, it was hard enough to simply recover from the disease. Imagine how much harder my situation was, given all the added mental and emotional stress. I could even consider everything that happened to me as traumatic.

Everything bad that would happen to me each day, I would dream of at night. I couldn’t sleep right. I was living a nightmare, so to speak. And whenever I tried to close my eyes, I was tormented by the very same horrors. There was not a moment’s rest. I was pressured to recover right away.

Aside from this, it was kind of costly to have to be tested repeatedly. I spent P8,000 in a private hospital for my first test. While it’s true there is free testing, the results are incredibly delayed. Sometimes, it would take two weeks to make the results available. Just think of the things that could possibly happen by then.

The experience is truly agonizing, especially the discrimination. I once heard someone say about me, “eh pasaway kasi.” I got the disease at work, so I would always ask myself if it is really my fault that I needed to make a living. By the way, my company did not shoulder anything. In fact, I am still working from home so that I can feed my family. I am the bread winner.

I let everything pass. Because I desperately need the money. Because I have a brother I need to send to school and a family to support.

Isolation is painful. Discrimination is painful.

Masakit na ikaw na ang pasyente, pero ikaw pa rin ang kailangang mag-adjust. It is painful being a patient, but it’s still you who need to adjust to everyone.

I understand that discrimination is rooted from fear. But it is never an excuse to be rude and disrespectful. To all the patients out there, and frontliners too, may awa ang Diyos. Laban lang! (God is merciful. Keep on fighting!)