I’ve been warned by those younger and more fit that it’s a hard and long way back to where we were—if we ever get there. And, having gone through what I have, I could believe them.
In our home, I was the first to test COVID-positive, in fact the only one really ill. Vergel, Rob and Mona tested positive, too, but only my son Rob and I had to take antibiotics. Mona, my granddaughter, had a cold, and that was it; she only needed vitamin supplements. So did Vergel, who felt nothing at all unusual and was declared “clinically asymptomatic.” Kasambahay Lanie, the one who went out on errands, tested negative; never missing a beat, she continued cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking.
All except Mona had received two Sinovac vaccines.
I was diagnosed a moderate case, and would have suffered worse if I had not been vaccinated against COVID and before that had not had my annual shots against flu and pneumonia. Still, it was the most debilitating illness I had ever experienced in all my 81 blessed years. Sometimes it felt too uphill a battle. I felt exhausted all the time, ran a fever and was rather hard of breathing. I had to stay on top of the situation, sorting about 10 medications after every meal. I tried to stay hydrated and nebulized twice a day, gargling afterward.
I continued to plan weekly menus and prepared grocery lists. I had to remember what was in the fridge and in the freezer. I had to make sure about having balanced family meals, in the case of my online Grade 8 student, served at lunch and snack breaks and early enough before bedtime, at 9 p.m.
Pre-COVID, I wasn’t bad in my role of parent-detective, having been trained by Belgian nuns who saw malice just about everywhere and were right most of the time. I could be a real pest constantly checking if my 13-year-old was on the same page as her classmates or watching cartoons on one side of the screen. She gave me the hashtag #mamitaisapimple, for my sudden, unwanted appearances. COVID, however, made me so distracted and sloppy I had to delegate the job to my very willing and able partners, Vergel, Rob or Lanie.
My ordeal started Sept. 10. Cold and fever prompted the test. The result came in the night, and the very next day everybody else had their tests. Good survival instincts made me reach out to a dear friend, JB, who had been a far, far more serious case: He was eventually hospitalized. As young as my son, a regular at gym and jogging, he knew his body well—or so he thought. He had not been vaccinated yet when he was stricken. I was keeping tabs on Facebook on his remarkable recovery from a close call.
JB came into the picture at the perfect time. Armed with every experience of triumph and error in his own COVID management, he immediately took loving control.
He arranged for his pulmonologist to come on board. He established a thread on Viber. Being the most serious case at home, I got the most attention. Several blood tests were ordered. Teleconsultations were arranged. My oxygen level went to the thread three times a day. While I had every confidence in my pulmonologist and JB, I knew the rest was up to me, and my body.
I may have lost my sense of taste and smell, but never the sense of being loved by family and friends, which amazingly included some from the younger generation and from different corners of the world.
Perhaps to compensate for the loss of the two senses, I became extremely emotional, moved to tears by the generous outpouring of prayers, words of support, delicious catered food, fruits, baked goodies, bread, etc. I was lavished attention, extremely spoiled, such that my appetite, aided by imagination and pleasant memories, held. I looked forward to every meal, every dessert. All my favorite foods were pouring to coax me back to health and life, and it worked.
I was also reaping the love of the families of Mom’s old friends, a love now carried on across generations to me. A cousin on the Reyes side baked me a fruitcake, in answer, I guess, to a telepathic craving. He is a natural when it comes to all things beautiful and delicious. He is one of those who loved his Tita Lita, and I inherited his affection. Even before I fell ill he would send me bright and eloquent morning greetings. In recent years, Vergel and I have become a part of their Sunday family lunches.
After completing my 14 days of home quarantine, I was picked up by two earth angels, JB and Jon, from our condo, JB coming down and buzzing me not only in genuine, affectionate greeting but also, he said, for neighbors to see, without my having to wave around my doctor’s pronouncement, that I was no longer contagious. Jon and JB drove me to the hospital to my chest CT scan and fourth blood extraction, for a final clearance, with handheld tenderness and care every step of the way.
I missed writing two Sunday columns, but I’m grateful to God for everything, especially for the lovely people who stepped up. I felt, and ate, all their love! No one waited till I was gone.