MANILA – He was looking forward to his return to the province to celebrate his birthday with family for the first time in 5 years. But he fell sick on February 29, a few days after he returned from United Arab Emirates. He had fever, dry cough, and colds. He was so weak that he could not walk or even stand up.
The following day, his fever was gone, but the cough and colds persisted. A week later, when he lost his sense of taste and smell, he knew he needed to go to the hospital. When he got to the emergency room, he was asked about his travel history and samples were taken from him. Then on the exact date he turned 25, he was told of the result: he has COVID-19.
“Ang hirap sa loob ko na kaarawan ko, wala akong kasama, isolated ako physically, mentally. Ang daming pumasok sa isipan ko na masasama, na bakit ako out of 105 million Filipino people? Nalungkot ako, sobra. Nalungkot ako na hindi ko alam ‘yung gagawin ko. Parang nawalan ako ng gana sa life. Parang naapektuhan ‘yung mental health ko. Parang nawalan ako ng goal so umiyak lang ako,” the patient filed as PH15 told ABS-CBN News in a video interview.
(It was difficult that I was alone on my birthday, I was isolated physically, mentally. A lot of bad thoughts occurred to me, like why me out of the 105 Filipino people? I was truly sad. I was sad that I did not know what I should do. I lost willingness to live. My mental health also took a hit. It was like I lost my goals so I cried.)
(NOTE: He was admitted to the hospital prior to his birthday, so official records from the Department of Health state PH15 is 24 years old.)
It also worried him that there is no known cure for this disease, so he did not know if he would ever recover. He also did not know if he would develop complications along the way. Then, there was also the uncertainty on the preparedness of the Philippines in handling this pandemic.
There are reportedly some 209,000 people infected by this new coronavirus, with around 8,700 deaths. Although it was first observed in China late last year, COVID-19 has since been confirmed in 169 countries and territories. As of writing, the Philippines has a total of 307 cases.
The World Health Organization said COVID-19 symptoms include fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
For 8 days, PH15 was isolated in the hospital. His dry cough, colds, and body pains remained, but he’s grateful the fever never returned. Through the different medicines and vitamins he had to take and the healthy diet he was given while admitted, he “gradually” felt better.
Doctors and nurses periodically checked on him, and he often talked to friends, family and co-workers to ask if they are experiencing the same symptoms he did. All alone in his room, he turned to news articles about reported recoveries abroad to give him hope.
“Nakatulong din siya sa akin mentally kasi alam ko na may pag-asa pa pala, na hindi siya dead end para sa mga magpo-positive for COVID-19. May recoveries, may pag-asa na gumaling so doon ako nag-focus, magbasa ng mga positive news,” he said, adding that he had to log out of his social media accounts which had become toxic.
(It helped me mentally because I knew there was still hope, that it’s not a dead end to test positive for COVID-19. There were recovered, there is hope to get better, so I focused on that, reading positive news.)
On March 15, his turn came. His doctors told him he had tested negative twice.
“In that moment, sobrang saya. Sobrang tuwa, sobrang ginhawa. Alam mo ‘yung feeling na para kang… nahimasmasan ka talaga, na ‘yong pag-asa, meron pa talaga,” he said.
(In that moment, I was so happy. So much joy, so much relief. You know that sobering feeling, that there truly was hope.)
PH15 was discharged from the hospital that day and was asked to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days since first testing negative. His doctor said he’s “free in the wild again,” but afraid to expose his family and friends to the virus even if he had been cleared, he is temporarily staying in Makati City.
He is one of the 8 patients in the Philippines who have recovered from COVID-19, but he is holding off any sort of celebration, knowing that there are 19 others (as of writing) who perished from the disease and the number of cases in the country continue to rise.
“It is very scary and painful to hear these people who were more at risk of not being able to make it just because they were old and they had these pre-existing conditions. Masakit talaga, hindi ka pa rin talaga makapag-celebrate dahil ongoing pa rin pagtaas ng cases (It is truly painful, you also cannot celebrate because the cases are increasing),” he said.
He agreed to this interview but insisted that his face not be shown for fear that he would be discriminated long after the pandemic is gone. Still he decided to come forward and share his story in attempt to calm the worries of many that contracting the disease is like a life sentence.
“Sa totoo lang, meron pa talagang pag-asa kasi actually ‘yong COVID-19, especially sa mga bata at sa mga wala namang pre-existing conditions, medyo mild lang siya, hindi naman talaga ikaw maaapektuhan. Huwag tayong mag-alala kasi kung malakas ‘yong resistensya mo, kung wala ka namang ibang sakit na iniinda or wala ka namang mga asthma, pneumonia, etc., dapat huwag kang mag-alala,” he said.
(In truth, there is hope because COVID-19, especially if you’re young and do not have pre-existing conditions, it will turn out mild, you won’t be affected so much. If you have strong immunity, if you do not have previous ailments like asthma, pneumonia, etc, you really don’t have to worry.)
He said it’s the older ones and those with pre-existing conditions who would need closer care and more insistent prayers. So he advises the public to practice social distancing and other preventive measures prescribed by the government and health officials.
As he is stuck in Makati while the entire Luzon is on lockdown for a month, he shared he is “super excited” to head to the province “once everything settles” to see his parents and siblings and finally celebrate his birthday with the rest of his relatives.
“This experience provided me a better outlook in life. I was given more time to reflect and also to pray to God. Medyo nalayo kasi ang loob ko sa Kanya (My faith was a bit shaken). I also give the credit of my recuperation to Him and to my prayer warriors. I am very thankful for the chance to be healed,” he said.
“Aayain ko talaga sila magsimba para magpasalamat (I will invite all of them to Church to give thanks). That's how we will celebrate.”