(Ms. de Vera, 26, is the Manila Bulletin reporter covering the health beat.)
I thought I was invincible but the virus got me.
Since January 2020, I covered the developments related to the current pandemic — from the time it first appeared and was being called a “mysterious disease from China,” to the time it was officially called the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
During the press briefings, local health authorities constantly reminded the public to strictly adhere to the health protocols. I wrote that in each of my stories and soon the protocols became instilled in me.
I followed the advice of experts who said following health protocols are “still the best defense against COVID-19.”
At home, we sanitized commonly touched surfaces. We always bring hand sanitizer, face mask, and face shield whenever we go outside. Taking two capsules of Vitamin C also became part of our daily routine. We were being careful but despite our efforts, the virus still found its way in.
My family decided to get tested on April 8, 2021 for our peace of mind after we got exposed to someone with COVID-19. At that time, I only had a stuffy nose. During our 30-minute drive to the testing center, I was confident that my result would be negative.
We first decided to undergo the rapid antigen test since it produces test results faster than the RT-PCR. Few minutes later, a healthcare worker clad in a blue PPE suit, announced “Si Analou positive.” Her tone was casual. I, who was sitting on a white monobloc chair, stared at my parents’ faces. I was in total disbelief. Both my parents tested negative.
My father asked if the result was accurate and the healthcare worker said that the rapid antigen test is “80 percent accurate.” She then suggested that I undergo the RT-PCR test, which I did.
I felt like I was in a movie. When my parents approached me, I immediately told them “lumayo kayo sa akin.” At that time, I just wanted to douse myself with alcohol, fearing that I might get them infected.
As we were walking back to our car, I kept my distance. I told them that I’m scared to go back home because aside from them, I may also infect my brother, his wife, and his 10-month old baby.
When we arrived home, I sat in our backyard while waiting for my mother to finish preparing the bedroom where I would isolate. My brother, from a distance, asked why I was still outside. I replied: “Positive kasi ako.” Then, I burst into tears.
On April 9, 2021, I got my RT-PCR test result and I was indeed positive. I sought medical advice via teleconsultation and the doctor prescribed some medicines. On the afternoon of April 10, an ambulance picked me up and brought me to a quarantine facility in Marulas, Valenzuela.
My symptoms worsened. Aside from stuffy nose, I experienced cough, headache, tiredness, difficulty breathing, loss of smell and taste.
On April 14, I experienced my first episode of severe shortness of breath. I immediately phoned the nurse and requested for a nebulizer. The nurse immediately went to my room and checked my vital signs.
Despite my comfortable quarantine room, I was having a hard time getting some sleep. My chest felt heavy and I also experienced back pain. Since my first day at the facility, I always kept the lights on every time I slept at night because I had nightmares. Also, I would sleep on the right side of the bed so I will be near the telephone to immediately contact the nurses’ station just in case something worse happens.
Midnight of April 16, I once again experienced difficulty in breathing.
I was brought to the hospital on April 17 because the doctor at the quarantine facility requested a chest X-ray. That was the first time in my life that I went to a hospital without my parents assisting me. I was diagnosed with mild pneumonia.
Guilt and encouragement
Aside from my symptoms, I also grappled with guilt. My sister-in-law was also infected. I cried when I learned about her condition. My parents were also unable to go to work because they also needed to undergo quarantine.
I began to wonder if I was to blame for those misfortunes. I was also having thoughts on where I would end up in the “daily case bulletin” — recovery tally or death toll.
There was not a single day that my family would not call me. They always encouraged me to get better soon and would always say that they already miss me at home. But aside from my family and close friends, there was one person who really motivated me to recover soon — my mentor in news writing. Every day, she would send a text message — “how are you today, Analou?” followed by well-crafted words that always warmed my heart.
I also found solace by observing strangers on the street through my room’s window, wondering what’s on their mind. Sometimes, I watched on television the replays of 90s educational shows “Sineskwela” and “Math-Tinik” which reminded me of my childhood, and that made me better. Good thing, the facility is also equipped with Wi-Fi, thus, I was able to watch some Korean television series.
I stayed at the quarantine facility for 14 days. Before going home, the nurse congratulated me and told me that I should never come back again.
When I got home, I was again isolated as a precaution. Three days later, my test result was still positive and I had developed some symptoms again. My doctor advised me to continue my home isolation for a period of seven days as a precaution although I’m no longer infectious, she said.
In total, I was under quarantine for 21 days. I’m thankful that my case was only mild. This experience served as a reminder that the virus is real. Do not let your guard down because you never know where or when you could catch this.