For awhile I thought I was immune from this deadly COVID-19. I have a number of close friends who had it early on and I still met them as I worked with them but for some reason, I didn’t contract it. Then suddenly I felt different. I seldom catch a flu. I think the last time I had fever was at least 3 years ago. So, when suddenly I wasn’t feeling good, I had to get tested and sadly, it was what I feared--the virus got to me.
I isolated myself right away. The first 2 days were okay, it was still normal for me. When the third day came, that was the start of the struggle. I couldn’t eat and I had to literally slow down. Even just charging my phone was a struggle. As much as possible, I had to just stay put. So, how could I get sunshine? I still tried, but it was really a struggle. A walk of just a few meters made me really catch for air. It was like I was running for more than 5 kilometers. What really was alarming for me was when I could no longer appreciate eating. Considering that I love eating, I love cooking, I simply love food and suddenly, I couldn’t eat. For 4 days, I couldn’t eat and that’s when I decided I had to be in the hospital.
Good thing I have so many friends who were really monitoring me, calling me almost every hour and asking how I was and asking me to get myself to the hospital. It was only when I started getting really weak that I decided to get to the hospital. And there I was in the hospital, but I had to stay in the Emergency Room (ER) for 2 days before I could get a room. At least, I told myself, now I’m in the hospital. Professional care is there and I am safe, until I started questions.
The hospital staff were quick to ack when I was at the ER. My blood was tested, had my x-ray and CT-scan, and my oxygen level and temperature were regularly checked. But I didn’t get any result of several blood tests that I already lost count. When I was in the room, my blood was again taken so many times that I started to ask for the results so that I could at least try to understand what was being done to me and, of course, the state of my health. Three kinds of oxygen machines were brought to me successively and when I asked what for, all they could say was the result of the blood test says I needed it but strangely, they could not give me any copy of the result/s nor could a doctor tell me in detail what the results were.
On my fourth day in the hospital, I was already feeling okay. Actually, I started eating and appreciating food again on my third day at the hospital. On the fourth day, I thought all was back except for my strength. Still, I was asking for the results of my tests, including the result of my swab when I was at the ER. Note that it was my second week with COVID-19 already when I decided to get to the hospital, so I was by then battling the virus for about 10 days. The sad part was, no one could give me any answer when I asked for the results of my tests.
On my ninth day at the hospital, that’s when I really demanded to leave. There’s none they can use to keep me inside anyway as there was no result whatsoever. Good that again, I have friends who would never get tired of telling me to stay, complete the process and just listen to the doctors. That was the main problem. On my tenth day, only twice do I remember a doctor introducing herself to me visiting with nurses who could also not answer my questions on test results. On my fourteenth day, that’s when I said, no matter what, I’ll be going home. Good thing that, of course, they know the procedure. I was feeling okay and it’s the fourteenth day, I can go home, and so I did.
Looking back, and the policy and governance geek in me got me thinking: Yes, it’s damn difficult to contract the dreaded virus, but more than that, I was asking how and why should one get it in the first place and what to do do about it. The bottom line is that: 1) the government is not able to contain it, whatever the reason is; 2) we are the ones directly hit and we should be able to do something about it considering that there is so much more to be done. It is not only the Philippines or poorer countries that are finding it difficult to contain the virus. Even most advanced countries are failing; 3) I thought each household should be the first line of defense or the “real” frontline. It was only when I started reflecting on my own experience that I realized, the hospital was really understaffed that they couldn’t get me my results and that the doctor saw me only twice.
COVID-19 has become the death knell of everything we have been doing: the plans of governments and businesses, of associations, families, and the individual. Everyday, we hear someone died and worst, someone we know, even someone close or related to us has gone. On my fifth day in the hospital, I got a call that a very close former student, friend and colleague died. I couldn’t say anything to the one on the other line. I thought, I could have done something to prevent it, but how could I? I myself was stuck in the hospital.
The virus has been with us for more than year now. The race to get the cure is still ongoing without any certainty when it could finally happen. Meanwhile, it has been hitting us in the most important facets of our lives and it seems it's just a matter of time before it hits you. Something can be done and only you, me, our own selves can do it. We have to act and we have to act now. As I continue to think about it, a close friend who survived it himself early was already talking to me about it. It makes sense as all the things he told me contributed to my surviving the damn virus myself. Then a few days after we talked about it, I got an invitation to attend a webinar to talk about household care. I thought, it’s good that many are now talking about how to combat it themselves. Imagine if we can combat it with our community, local and national government? All hands on deck. This is what it means and this is exactly what is needed now, instead of bickering and blaming whoever we can blame. There is definitely something wrong, even self-interest in government that have weakened the fight against the pandemic. No doubt there has to be accountability and I’m inclined to think that after the 2022 elections, those responsible will be made to account. On the other hand, we can’t and should not be we are facing grave danger and we have to act.
The point is that we have reached the fullest, even beyond the fullest level of our medical facilities. I don’t know exactly with the private hospitals. I’m getting mixed anecdotal reports. It’s saddening that some of these private hospitals, especially in the provinces, simply refuse to accept COVID-19 patients. As for the public hospitals, it’s really beyond question that they have reached way over the maximum. Meanwhile, even with so much precaution as individuals, among many of us, we still contract it. There has to be a way to face it when it’s already there. So many have done it, why can’t the others do it as well.
With the technology with us, it is easier to know more about the virus and how to deal with it, be it prevention or cure. Of course, all these have not been really proven scientifically but much of it has been proven to be effective. The government can and should prepare the most reliable information, especially when the virus hits one in the household, and popularize this set of information. As much possible, if the care can be given at home, it is best to just stay at home. All we need to have at home is a thermometer and an oxymeter, both fundamental as one who’s afflicted with COVID-19 has to be checked regularly, especially his temperature and oxygen level. It would also be helpful to have an oxygen tank available in case it gets to a point when it is needed. It will however require a nurse to advise or even help activate it, especially the appropriate level for the patient. Of course, vitamins and good, healthy food should always be available.
The necessary medicines should also be available, hence the need for a doctor who can be consulted even only by phone or video call. There are medicines which can be bought from the drugstore without prescription which the household should always have: Paracetamol, Vitamin C with zinc, Vitamin D3, Aspilets, and Sinecod. Antibiotics are fundamental too, for example, Zithromax, but will require doctor’s prescription. And then there are other medicines that have been reported and espoused by many, Lian Hua and ivermectin. I’m no doctor so I’d leave it to your doctor to advise you on those. Though I have to say there have been really many remarkable cases where these 2 medicines have been effective. The point in all this is that the household should be ready to act anytime. Many of the recoveries I know have one thing in common: early detection and immediate action.
In summary, each household should have:
1) Good ventilation and sunlight;
2) A place or room where a would-be PUI or Patient Under Investigation may be quarantined;
3) Good food available regularly;
4) As much possible, someone to check on the PUI while on quarantine, check the temperature and oxygen level and, of course, attend to the PUI’s needs;
5) The medicines I mentioned in the foregoing;
6) A doctor who can be consulted and contacted at any given time.
These are all that’s needed for the household to be able act.
It would be best if there’s coordination with the barangay. This coordination can help solve the need for doctors who may be consulted in case the household doesn’t know one. In case of emergency, the barangay can be very helpful as well. The barangay is, of course, linked to the local government, i.e. city and municipality hence completing the needed organization to help fight the ongoing pandemic. The monitoring, contact tracing and all the coordination needed should also be easier as a result. Hopefully, the local government can even provide a kit for each household.
There have been so many discussions by experts, institutions, international organizations, including, of course, various governments, that we can no longer do lockdowns as we battle the dreaded virus. In fact, the public has debated on the lockdowns versus the need for the economy to recover. Friends and colleagues have also debated this heatedly. What is not debatable is that many have lost their jobs and businesses. We have to learn how to battle the pandemic and at the same time, get back on our feet now before it’s too late.
(The author is the Executive Director of the Local Government Development Foundation and a professor of Modern Local Governance at the Ateneo School of Government.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.