medical stethoscope and mask composed with red foiled chocolate hearts

I am COVID-19 Patient Bicol #39911

At first, I felt that the Covid-19 pandemic was so distant and would not directly affect my family.

However, there was also a lingering fear that the virus was just around the corner, waiting for just one wrong move, one slip, one mistake, and it will expose us to the threat that has always been present everywhere since it started last year.

Now, the time finally arrived when the virus we were all anxious about entered our door. It felt surreal, but this time it was real. 

This post is a narrative of my personal covid-19 experience, and I want to share it with you. I am grateful to the Lord that I only experienced mild symptoms and haven’t encountered breathing difficulties and other severe symptoms.

I decided to write this to take away the mental anguish and anxiety it caused me in the past couple of weeks since the onset of the illness.

I was feeling under the weather.

It was a Friday, October 1, when I woke up feeling under the weather. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was sure I had a fever. When I checked, my temperature was 37.5 degrees. Feeling a bit cold and sleepy, I decided to go back to sleep, thinking I just needed to rest.

Though I was not feeling well, I still proceeded with my scheduled consultation meetings with my students. However, by the afternoon, I was nowhere near 100%.

Then in the evening, my fever shot up, and my skull felt like cracking. I was experiencing one of the worst headaches I had ever felt in recent memory. That was how I would spend the first four days of October.

At the peak of my on-and-off fever was 39.2 degrees Celsius, and I was aggressively shaking in the cold. At first, I thought I had dengue.

In the back of my mind, I had a feeling that I contracted what I was fearful of — Covid-19. But I kept checking my sense of smell and taste. A good thing they were still there, well, on the first four days.

On those days, I also had a feeling like I’m drowning that I can’t totally explain. I can take deep breaths but I felt like I am underwater. It was a scary feeling.

Reporting and diagnosis.

I became a Covid-19 suspect because I was in close contact with my father, who was also close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient to add to what seemed like flu-like symptoms.

In the first four days, I had a fever, headaches, diarrhea, and colds. Then out of the blue, I lost my sense of smell. I knew then that what I was experiencing might not be the seasonal flu I was hoping for.

Losing my sense of smell was one of the weirdest things that ever happened to me. I always relied upon it when eating and even when reminiscing. I even had a fear that my sense of smell would return distorted or, worse, lost forever, just like the experiences of hundreds of Covid-19 patients.

The loss of smell is nothing like when we have stuffy nose due to cold. It was just blank, like you forgot what it’s like to smell and was scary for me.

The following day, my sister reported our cases to our local Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) and waited for their instructions.

It became frustrating that we still don’t have the smooth standard operating procedure we hoped to see after more than a year into the pandemic.

A day was wasted waiting for the promised ambulance that would take us to the covid testing facility for the Rapid Antigen Test. It was on the next day when the MDRRMO once again contacted us to have us tested.

To be fair, we knew that they were overwhelmed with more and more people testing positive, and, understandably, some patients were experiencing worse symptoms than us. We just hoped that the process would have been smoother this time around.

When we heard the sound of the ambulance, my father and I immediately went downstairs with our things prepared for probable isolation. I couldn’t help but pray that both our tests would come out negative. 

When we arrived in the swabbing area of the testing clinic, there was already a line, and we were number five and six. My father was the first to get the nasal swab, then I followed. 

I heard from friends that it was painful, but I guess they were just exaggerating because I almost didn’t feel anything on my nose when it was my turn.

After a few minutes, my father’s result came negative, but my result was withheld, and I was instructed to return to the swabbing area, where I was informed of the bad news that I was positive.

Isolation and RT-PCR confirmation

Immediately, different thoughts came rushing into my head. What will I do now? How would I teach and perform my other duties? Where will I get isolated? At that point, I quickly remembered that our school offered a building to serve as an isolation facility.

My father and I had to separate ways since he no longer needed to get isolated into a facility. So, the next thing we did was to coordinate my isolation in our in-school facility.

At that time, I hadn’t been in school for more than a week because I was self-isolated, but now I am entering my workplace again via an emergency transport vehicle.

When I arrived at the quarantine facility, I saw a colleague who is also a playmate in basketball. It was a pleasant surprise, not because he also has covid, but because there is a familiar face.

My first day was relatively comfortable because I was isolated in a familiar place, and that my colleagues were accommodating to my immediate needs like food and water.

The following day, I was fetched by emergency responders to drive me to the swabbing facility and take my specimen for my RT-PCR test – the gold standard for covid tests.

When I arrived at the swabbing facility, there were three of us anxiously waiting for the med-tech who would stick a long cotton swab down our throat and another swab deep into our nasal cavity.

When the appointed time came, I was second in line. The first one went, and after a few minutes returned with bloody red-eye, looking like he just cried.

Then it was my turn. The following two minutes were some of the most unfamiliar and painful experiences I have ever had. The long stick on my throat gave me a feeling of vomiting, followed by another long cotton bud pushed deep into my nose before the MedTech twisted it like a screwdriver tightening a screw. I was in shock for a few hours after that.

The waiting game and road to recovery

For the next five days, I waited for the confirmatory result. However, I was already prepared for the eventuality that I am a confirmed case because, according to a friend, once I become positive in the antigen test, it is also likely that the RT-PCR test will also return positive.

When the result finally came, it was from our municipal information office’s Facebook page. I knew then that I was patient Bicol #39911.

Though it confirmed something that I was afraid of, it was a good thing that almost all of my initial symptoms were gone, and I could finally smell again.

Though there were instances when I had difficulty breathing, my oximeter proved that my oxygen level was within the normal range. It seemed like what I felt like a heaviness in my chest must have been caused by anxiety and nothing more.

My isolation period lasted longer than I expected because I thought it would only take 14 days following the onset of the symptoms. But in my case, it took another seven days.

Lessons learned moving forward.

The first thing that I learned from this experience is that vaccines save lives. I can’t imagine if my parents were not fully vaccinated. I am just fortunate enough to be relatively stronger physically that even though I am still just on my first dose of vaccine, I didn’t experience any adverse effects. 

I also realized that the virus is already widespread that anyone can or already have it. My two isolation facility buddies were both asymptomatic. And if they didn’t plan to go out of the province and hadn’t been tested, they could have gone through their days just like usual and were unaware that they are carriers of the virus and may have infected others as well.

On the financial side, there were so many stories from mutual friends who sunk deep into debt due to their hospital bills ranging from hundreds of thousands to even millions. Because of those stories, I had to re-evaluate how I compute my emergency fund

I also saw the concern of everyone around our family and their willingness to help, through prayers and other ways.

I praise God for His healing and provision. I hope and pray that this pandemic will soon end and no more lives will be lost.

Keep safe everyone! God bless.

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