Our COVID journey: Every day was a struggle

Published May 13, 2021, 6:13 PM

by Marian Catedral King

(The author is a Filipina married to an American. She worked for a Top 20 Fortune Oil Company as a Corporate Affairs Field Manager before taking an early retirement package in mid-2020.   Before she left for the U.S. in 2006, Marian was the corporate communications head of a major oil company operating in the Philippines.  The Kings will be shuttling between the US and the Philippines once possible.)

•    Marian’s husband Tony felt the symptoms on April 10; the next day, both were feeling ill.
•    An RT-PCR test showed that both were positive for COVID-19.
•    A teleconsult doctor advised them to go to a hospital because of their age and comorbidities.
•    One Hospital Command Center referred them to the modular hospital for severe and critical COVID cases.
•    There they did not get a doctor’s attention even after her husband had wandered out of his room in   and was delirious from a 41-degree fever.
•    A doctor visited Marian two days after she arrived and after she had written a letter of complaint outlining their condition to Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
•    They were transferred to St. Luke’s BGC where their journey to surviving COVID-19 took shape.  It included anti-viral drugs, convalescent plasma therapy, oxygen and a lot of sleep.

COVID just has a way of sapping your energy. It is now the month of May and I do not like to think about April when COVID happened to us. It was a totally bad experience which brought us to an isolation facility and then to a hospital.

I am grateful for God’s “silver linings” during our ordeal. A doctor who attended to us who I had asked if we were in a better position than other patients, said: “You are lucky to have been accommodated at a hospital. My siblings have COVID and I have to manage them from their homes remotely because they have nowhere to go.” Her response floored me.

This was our journey:

I had my first Sinovac jab on April 1, Holy Thursday.  My husband, Tony, did not get it because he is a senior citizen and at that time, the local government unit who was conducting the inoculation did not allow its use for people above 60 with co-morbidities.

It all started on April 10 when my husband complained that his chest felt heavy.  The next day, both of us felt ill. We self-medicated with the usual paracetamol and Guaifenesin. More symptoms emerged: chills, slight cough, headache. We also had lost our sense of smell and taste.

On Monday, April 12, we called for a home service RT-PCR test. By late afternoon, our results came – we were both positive.

We had a teleconsult session with a doctor, thinking we can quarantine at home. But with our co-morbidities and the symptoms of Tony, we were advised to look for a hospital already.

On Tuesday morning, our symptoms were getting worst and Tony’s oximeter reading was dipping below 90.  All the hospitals in Metro Manila were full. Finally, we were able to get through the One Hospital Command Center and they recommended us to a facility within the Quezon Institute grounds.  I learned that it is a modular hospital operated by the DOH and the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center.  A google search revealed that it is for severe and critical COVID cases and there will be specialists ranging from pulmonologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, etc.

The facility itself was brand new, very clean and each room was equipped with an oxygen. I was very impressed with what I saw.  Kudos to Secretary Mark Villar! The modular structure itself is a great concept.

We arrived in the facility almost 7 p.m. and were met by a couple of nurses. Our rooms were beside each other.  No doctor came to see us although there was a doctor via the intercom.

On Wednesday morning, April 14, I received a call through the intercom telling me to bring my husband in as he was wandering outside. I ran out and found him looking delirious.  I brought him back to his bed and took his temperature with our personal thermometer.  He had 41-degree fever and he looked so spaced out and was rambling.

I asked for a doctor and was told via the intercom that “no doctor goes around because if they do and they get COVID there will be no more doctors to take care of patients.”

I checked with the nurses if they had given Tony basic medicine for the fever, that is, if anyone had checked his temperature during the night.  No one did and so no medicine had been given to my husband, thus he was delirious with fever.

Meanwhile, I had to go back several times to the guard to check on the water we had requested from my sister as there was no potable water in the facility.  It was delivered to the facility at 8:30 a.m. but it finally got to me at 12:30 p.m.

I begged family and friends to do everything possible to get Tony out of that facility. Early that afternoon we got word that he would be taken to St. Luke’s in BGC and an ambulance fetched Tony at around 9:30 p.m.  There he had an x-ray which showed  that he had pneumonia. We had wasted much time at the QI facility where no doctor had seen him nor a chest x-ray was given.

Meanwhile, a letter I had written to Health Secretary Francisco Duque and circulated on social media must have pushed things to happen in that facility where I was still confined.  Suddenly, the x-ray that our external doctor had asked for the day before happened. I was picked up by the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital ambulance at 2:30 a.m. of Thursday and taken to a hospital for the xray.

On Thursday morning, April 15, I was pleasantly surprised to be visited by a female doctor. I asked her why she suddenly visited two days after I arrived in the facility.  She explained that the facility is still new and they were still organizing.  And they had received my letter of complaint.

That evening, an ambulance brought me to St. Luke’s BGC. There, Tony and I shared a room until we were discharged on Sunday, April 25.

Our journey to survive COVID-19 took shape at St. Luke’s BGC where we had a medical team attending to us –cardiologist, pulmonologist, infectious disease doctor – that gave us confidence that we could survive the virus.

Of course there were scary moments.  I had a major nosebleed –  like waterfall – which scared the heck out of me. It was caused by the blood thinner given to me because COVID has a tendency to thicken the blood causing bloodclots. I also had pneumonia.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with the cough. It was so very brutal. Every cough shook my entire body and I could feel my entire torso in pain.

The reality was –every day was a struggle.

On April 19, we found ourselves sleeping most of the time. Eating was an ordeal and the dry cough continued to wreck havoc on our bodies. The pneumonia had not gone away. This also affected our breathing and our breathing was aided by oxygen.

But we noticed simple wins: we could taste our food and had appetite. We could also walk around our room and do simple exercises.

On April 20, I was given convalescent plasma. Mayo Clinic says “Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood from people who’ve recovered from an illness.  The blood has antibodies to the virus that causes it.”

On April 21, our numbers were getting better. We were both on IV drips and antiviral drugs. We were also on oxygen. And we practiced on our spyrometer the whole day. The doctors were smiling now.  We were on our way to healing.

A few days later, on April 25, we were discharged from the hospital. I cannot stop thanking my family and dearest friends for all their prayers and for helping us keep the faith.