(Leony is one of BusinessMirror’s Supplements writer. She has been working from home since the pandemic broke out. Even if she is already fully vaccinated, she came down with the virus. Here is her story)

DON’T take Covid-19 lightly. Never let your guard down and get all possible protection. That’s because anyone can get the virus.

I’ve been working from home since the lockdown part 2 in March 2021. My family of five stay home all the time, with two members going out alternately only to buy the essentials. My eldest daughter also works from home. Further, we have all been fully vaccinated since July and September this year. Thus, it was far from my mind that my family would one day have its own Covid journey to take and share.

Rainy days and the flu season

My husband contracted the flu on the third week of September 2021. He took OTC (over the counter) drugs—paracetamol for fever, pain reliever for body pain and butamirate for dry cough. Every morning he bathes under the sun for hours. He was up and about in a week’s time.

My youngest daughter, 18, caught the flu the following week. She had a high fever at 38 and up, runny nose and coughs. She was crying of back pain on the third and fourth day and she requested us to bring her to the hospital. We said no because she could easily catch the virus in the hospital. She belongs to the vulnerable group—she’s battling Rheumatic heart disease/mitral regurgitation.

I feel my heart being pierced every time she says, “I will go to the Lord if you do not bring me to the hospital!” I believe the back pain must really be painful because she’s almost a master of pain with her twice-a-month antibiotic maintenance injection for 11 years and counting.

Just like her dad, we gave her OTCs. Fortunately, it was also the time for her to take Sumapen 1000gm/day because her penicillin injection was delayed for a week because of the flu. Just like her dad, she got well in a week’s time. Thanks to Sumapen, the antibacterial medication which could have helped her and even aided relief to the back pain she has had.

My time for the flu came on the fifth and last week of September. But thinking it must not be the flu and that I’m quite protected—courtesy of my 2nd dose of AstraZeneca on September 3—I did not take any medication.

“I am just tired from weekend’s household chores. A cup of my favorite freshly brewed barako coffee would be enough to cure my tired body and lift my heavy head and spirit,” I told myself. I did not stop working from home and therefore, I didn’t have time to “baby sit” my sickness.

On the 3rd day, that was Wednesday, however, I had chills which was quite weird because my temperature was normal at 36. On Thursday, I lost my sense of smell and I started experiencing body aches which were tolerable.

Thinking that it must be the pandemic disease, I asked myself, “What’s next, I cannot breath.” I immediately cut the grim thought and chided myself, “Remember that you are fully vaccinated.”

I went to the pulmonologist the following Monday. She prescribed Azithromycin 500mg for five days and requested an X-ray and swab test for me. “You may not opt for the RT-PCR test but make sure to quarantine for 14 days,” she said. “You may not come back after five days if you feel well already,” she added.

Even if I fully recovered my sense of smell after seven days, I felt I needed to come back and see my doctor again because I developed back pain and my dry cough persisted and was still unproductive even after a week of the mucolytic which she also prescribed.

At the hospital, I decided for the X-ray examination and the swab test to finally determine what’s really bothering me. It took me two to three hours to convince myself that I needed the RT-PCR test. That was October 11 and my specimen was taken at 3:00 pm. I did not see my doctor anymore as I did not have any test results to show her.

The following day, at lunchtime, a certain Ed messaged me that he is from the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) informed me that traces of Covid-19 were detected in my specimen and hence I am positive for the virus. He also informed me that the contact tracers from my Barangay would be coming over to see my family.

Help is available

Feeling the persistent back pain, I knew that I needed help, that I needed another set of antibiotics at least for one week. Based on my experience with pneumonia four years ago, I took an antibacterial medication for 10 days and I was up and well after that. I was thinking of the same pattern for my medication this time around.

Since I can no longer see a doctor face-to-face, I registered for Bayanihan E-Konsulta, a tele-consult program of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) via Facebook. After answering the questionnaire, a friendly volunteer, who requested anonymity for this article, called up and connected me to Dr. Faustino, a physician volunteer. With the five-days of Azithromycin I took from October 4 to 8, Dr. Faustino said, I would be on my way to recovery. But I should take the paracetamol cum pain reliever tablet twice a day to ease the back pain. My cough, since it’s unproductive should stop.

“You are feeling the back pain because you had an infection in your lungs. It’s infected that’s why it is painful. Others would be feeling chest pain instead of back pain,” he said. “What was seen in your swab test are remnants of the virus. You would be alright after days of rest,” he assured me and sent his prescription via FB messenger.

Journey to facility quarantine

Two Barangay Gulod contact tracers came at around 9am on October 13 to interview me and my household members. It took less than hour to record and fill up some forms for five persons. They said they would be back shortly to perform the RT-PCR test for my husband and three children.

True enough, the swab team came at 11 am and did the specimen collection. I would be brought by the Barangay ambulance to the facility and my family would undergo home quarantine for 14 days should they test negative – or they would be going to a facility as well should they turn out to be positive. (Thank God, they all tested negative! The lab test result came after three days, on October 16.)

One of the contact tracers was trying to convince me that I would enjoy my stay in the quarantine facility. “Maam, the facility is okay. You will be able to rest and relax well. It’s clean, quiet and the food is good. All your medicines and vitamins will be provided for free. I experienced it myself last year when I had Covid-19.”

The Barangay Health and Emergency Response Team (BHERT) or the ambulance, picked me up the following day, October 14, at 10 am. The night before, the BHERT staff actually asked me to select my preferred facility. She said that the one in UP is almost a hotel with a strong WiFi connection. But I settled for Hope 2 Community Caring Facility (KorPhil IT Center) knowing it has a good internet connection as well. Besides, it was just 15 minutes away from the house.

The ground entrance of KorPhil was made into a hospital triage complete with a mobile X-ray. After a short screening by the medical staff of Quezon City District Hospital and a mandatory X-ray examination, I was ushered into the facility. At the ground floor entrance, nurses on duty asked me to check my vital signs.

After a while, my meds, along with a gargle formula (to ease my irritated throat due to dry cough) was handed to me along with a pail containing the bed sheet and a pillow before directing me to my assigned room on the second floor of the three-story building.

I was relieved that Dr. Javee Anne Pelayo, the facility’s physician-in-charge, prescribed twice-a-day 250mg of antibacterial meds along with butamirate for my coughs, three times a day for five days. To summarize, I have two medications to take at the facility: Cefuroxime and butamirate. But I decided to add the paracetamol cum pain reliever which was prescribed by Dr. Faustino.

Covid care kit and other essentials

While on my way to the facility, Nicole, another volunteer from OVP called me up informing me that my Covid Care Kit is in transit for home delivery. I have just settled on my “nest” for the week or two shortly before 11 am when my daughter informed me that they had received the box containing various meds such as butamirate, paracetamol, antihistamine, mucolytic, vitamins (C and D3), amlodipine 5 mg (my hypertension maintenance) plus other essentials such as alcohol, disinfectant, face mask, a gargle solution, oral solution powder sachets, a thermometer and a pulse oximeter.

I requested my child to send over the oximeter and the D3 vitamins only because I also received the same set from the city government. Except for vitamin D3, the LGU kit has the virgin coconut oil capsules. Thus, aside from my three essential meds, I also took the VCO and Vitamins C and D to boost my immune system during my vacation at the facility.

The OVP’s Covid Care Kit comes with a daily call or text to monitor my vitals and other symptoms. Volunteer Liana Mojica religiously called or texted me for 14 days to check on me.

Meanwhile, I also received regular calls from Dr. Pelayo herself, or from her medical staff, to check on my progress. TanodKontra-Covid, an online health check from the government’s Department of Health, was also sending me a link daily for updates on my symptoms.

Admitted at the facility are those with mild symptoms as well as the asymptomatic individuals. In my case, my symptoms were back pain and dry cough at the time of my confinement. My room is actually the Animation Center of the IT Center turned into a big ward with six cubicles with one hospital bed each. Being an IT school, there are two high-powered air-conditioning units in the room but we, “housemates,” opted not to use them for us to get better the soonest.

#14daysofHOPE and recovery

I’ve set my mind that I would be staying in the facility for 14 days (the required number of days for quarantine), especially when I felt extreme back pain at bedtime on my 5th day on October 18. I nearly requested a blood test to determine what’s on my back, whether I contracted pneumonia or tuberculosis. Thank God the pain subsided the following day. Though still feeling unwell, I was more than happy to receive a call from Dr. Pelayo. After tracking down my medication, she informed me later that I am scheduled to go home on October 21. Not fully convinced of my homebound schedule, I went downstairs at the nursing station to verify it. And the nurse on duty said, “This is how the facility is counting your stay. Your swab date plus 10 days. You will be out by October 21.”

I was swabbed on October 11 and I stayed home for three days before I was brought at Hope 2 on October 14.  October 21 would really be the 11th and “independence” day for me.

Is 14 days enough to recover Covid patients? Recovery periods for patients vary even for those with mild symptoms like me. For me, 14 days are days of hope and the road to recovery. It was time to rest and sleep, relax and recharge, disconnect from the daily hustle and bustle of life in the quiet and fresh environment which Hope 2, the Korea-Philippines IT Center, offers.

The KorPhil, surrounded with trees and greenery, is housed within the 4.42-hectare compound of the Quezon City University Main Campus located along Quirino Highway in Barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches.

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