COVID-19 has been spreading across the globe since last year, and here in the Philippines, the situation is especially dire. The active cases have been at an all-time high, and new cases average around 10,000 daily. The numbers are probably much higher due to instances of underreporting, under-testing, and a general inefficiency in the contact tracing department. Nevertheless, recently, I was also part of those numbers. This is the story of my brush with COVID-19, and hopefully, this gives people an idea of what the world is dealing with.
Yes, I tested positive for COVID-19. The virus gave me mild symptoms, but it placed the people around me in a great state of worry and anxiety. My story is to warn you to never take this virus for granted.
I am an otherwise healthy male adult. I eat a fairly healthy diet, I am on my feet several hours a day, and I completely took my health for granted. Sure, I wear a mask, I wash my hands, I avoid crowds when going out. But looking back, I was placing myself in far too many opportunities to catch the virus. I did not think it could happen to me. The truth is, we never know.
On March 15, the symptoms started to kick in. I felt tired, and my legs ached even if I didn’t walk as much as I used to. I also had a runny nose. Probably just a general case of colds, I thought. I felt a bit hot, but the temperature reading was normal. Thinking I would get over it right away, I took some Ibuprofen and slept. But the symptoms never went away and after a few days, I also developed dry cough. After a few days, I lost my sense of taste. The soda I was drinking tasted like sparkling water, and the chips I ate tasted like crackers. It was when my sister also started reporting the same symptoms that I had myself tested.
I had an RT PCR saliva test at the local Red Cross office and another rapid antigen test at home a few hours later. Both results came out positive.
I quickly went into isolation with my sister and my brother (who developed the same symptoms three days before mine). We stayed in a school near our home since the school has temporarily closed and isn’t being used. The area is also away from houses, so we were isolated from people.
A few days later, a friend who probably got the virus from us and also tested positive, went into isolation with us, leaving his wife, his one-year-old son, and his mother-in-law at home.
While in quarantine, I drank a lot of multivitamins. I also took mucolytic for my dry cough, which was more annoying than threatening.
My symptoms cleared around day 8. However, due to some confusion regarding our city government’s quarantine protocols and the lack of coordination between the Red Cross and the Department of Health regarding test results (it’s really too complicated to summarize, plus I don’t want to relive the experience), our stay extended from the required 11 days to 18 days.
This gave me a lot of free time but with very limited options of what to do. Aside from the physical effects of COVID-19, there are the mental effects as well. There’s anxiety from the disease, of course, but the pandemic in general tends to mess up your mind. The isolation minimizes your sense of significance, amplifies your doubts, and makes you question your purpose and goals. Things you regularly did, like watching movies or shows, writing, or taking pictures, now feel tedious. And where you usually felt happy, sad, or even angry, you’ve now grown numb.
But one good thing about this is that it reveals to you the people who care, the people who constantly check on you, who constantly are concerned with how you are. And to those people, I want to express my gratitude.
After 18 days, we were finally cleared to leave. But this isn’t the end. This virus is real, and this pandemic is not a small thing. People around the world are still dying and medical resources are being stretched thin. There are collateral damage as well: people have lost jobs, businesses have closed, and the world as a whole is in a terrible economic crunch.
But we can beat this. Let us do our part in flattening this curve. Again, maintain social distancing, wear a mask when going out, and always wash your hands. If it’s available, go get vaccinated.
And continue to hold authorities accountable. Call out their inefficiencies and shortcomings. Demand better leadership. Denounce the inequalities that widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Admonish the rich for hoarding the resources while leaving the poor with scraps.
Medical frontliners are continuously risking their lives, and there are those who were unfortunate to have gone before they could see the end of this. Let’s not make these sacrifices amount to nothing.