'I can’t be strong now. But I can be brave': Dr. Ted Esguerra on testing positive for COVID-19

Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2020 09:56 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2020 01:08 AM

Teofredo “Doc Ted” Esguerra is a known survivalist.

High-intensity earthquakes, super typhoons, all-out conflicts– you name the emergency, he has most likely prepared for it.

In his house, you’ll find all sorts of equipment that would go handy in any sort of apocalyptic event.

A bag that doubles as a bulletproof vest? Check. A bracelet that can unfurl into a rope to use in case a building’s on fire? Check. A go-bag filled with supplies to last weeks? Check.

Trained in war medicine and disaster response, Esguerra is the go-to-guy for worst-case scenarios.

But on March 29, there was one he didn’t see coming: he tested positive for COVID-19.

He knew that it was a possibility. But it still felt surreal to hold a piece of paper that confirmed what he dreaded.

Before the results came out, Esguerra had been dealing with symptoms that come with an infection from the novel coronavirus.

“Nanghihina ako. May mild fever tapos may occasional dry cough. ‘Yong sakit ng katawan, kakaiba siya. Hindi ako makatulog. Kapag lumapat ‘yong katawan ko sa surface, masakit siya. Sige ka ng pihit. Hindi ako makatulog. Nagigising ako sa sakit. Di ko maintindihan,” he said.

Esguerra was in self-isolation for weeks. His whole family was.

On March 13, Esguerra’s wife – a doctor who works in a government hospital – came in contact with a patient suspected of having COVID-19. Although his wife was wearing personal protective equipment at the time, the family decided to go on a self-imposed quarantine in their home.

“Hiwa-hiwalay kami ng kwarto dito sa bahay. Nasa first floor sila. Ako nasa third floor. Nag-uusap lang kami sa text ‘tas kapag kakain na, naghahatiran na lang kami ako ng pagkain, halfway, sa labas ng kuwarto.”

While his family did not exhibit symptoms, Esguerra did.

On March 25, after experiencing difficulties in breathing, he went to a hospital to seek medical help. There, he was tested for the disease before going back home and locking himself again inside his room.

It took days before test results came. And the agony of waiting hung in the air.

Esguerra’s family heard news of other health workers, some of whom are their friends, who have lost the battle against the new disease.

“Umiiyak ‘yong anak ko na babae. May mga namamatay na mga doctors. Worried siya. Sabi ko, hindi naman siguro bibigay katawan ko. Binibiro ko na kahit mag-push up ako ngayon, kayang-kaya ko. Para hindi siya mag-worry. Naluha ako because she was pleading for me to be well.”

Esguerra mounted a Philippine flag, in half-mast, by his balcony to honor the frontliners who have fallen.

“I’m proud of being a doctor. Mayroon ako na mga kaibigan na namatay. These are beautiful people. Ang hirap tanggapin na malagas sila sa ganitong paraan. Nilagay ko ‘yong watawat…para lagi ko maalala na mayroong manggagamot na parang mga sundalo na willing to give up their lives para lang umayos ang sangkatauhan.”

Now, with test results in, Esguerra hopes to survive the disease. He has since been brought to a hospital to get the medical attention he needs.

“Suggestion ng mga doctors ko na magpa-ospital ako para ma-monitor ako pati sa lungs. Baka kasi overconfident ka, marami ka hindi mapansin. So I will obey ‘yong utos nila.”

Esguerra however doesn’t want to dwell on him being COVID-19 positive. He wants to focus instead on keeping himself positive even if he’s alone in the hospital.

“Kailangan paningin mo sa buhay, positibo ka para sarili mo na para ‘yong immune system mo ma-build up. May mga sariling sundalo tayo sa katawan natin at ‘yon ang kusang lalaban. Kailangan positive tayo. Huwag tayo basta-basta susuko at taasan ang paniniwala natin sa Diyos.”

Esguerra is a known survivalist. This time is no different. He’s hoping to get better so that he could go home, be with his family and find ways to help his fellow doctors.

“I am ready for everything. Anything can happen. I can’t be strong now. But I can be brave.”