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Sunday Lifestyle

What Cesar and I went through: Bacterial pneumonia, mini stroke, negative then positive for COVID-19

CURTAIN CALL - Joy Virata - The Philippine Star
What Cesar and I went through: Bacterial pneumonia, mini stroke, negative then positive for COVID-19
Author and husband Cesar during pre-lockdown. ‘‘Today, we stay in separate bedrooms quarantined from each other,’’ she says. ‘‘I miss my husband but we talk on the phone.’’

It hits you. You don’t know why or when.  You wash your hands, you stay home, you alcohol, you wipe you think you’ve done everything and still it can hit you. Those pesky little devils apparently can cling to anything even, I read somewhere, cloth. Then when they find the minutest opportunity, they attack!

In February I was in the hospital for a heart problem. I recovered and resumed my activities, mostly having to do with church and choir.

Early March, once again my husband Cesar had to rush me to the hospital late at night because I couldn’t breathe.  I was admitted for bacterial pneumonia. The doctor said it was hospital-acquired because I had been in the hospital in February.  But because I had a helper who had just traveled from her home province, I was classified as a person under investigation (PUI) and given a COVID test. They said I had to be admitted and had to wait for the results that would take maybe a week.

That week was the longest week I ever had. I was put into an isolation room with no visitors, no “bantay,” and every time I had to call the nurse she had to put on the complete protection outfit. I was attached to a couple of IV lines — one of them for antibiotics, which I was given twice a day—and I had to struggle every time I went to the bathroom pushing two stands, the IV and heart monitor.

I had blood examinations sometimes twice a day and since historically my veins are hard to find and are very fine (to comfort myself I jokingly say that’s because of my royal heritage — my grandmother was a Stewart — which doesn’t really help when they are digging around to find a vein), every drawing  is always painful.  They finally got everything from my arms and hands so they had to resort to my feet.  I told my doctor son that I thought bleeding had gone out with the Middle Ages.  Also, I had completely lost my appetite.  Everything tasted like sand.

But waiting for the results was the hardest to bear.  I had been told it would take three or four days. It was eight days before the results came. Negative!  Yay! I was sent home but my stomach still was in turmoil, I couldn’t eat, and I had absolutely zero energy, which was very unusual for me. When I got home I self-quarantined and mostly slept.

Two days later, I was in my room dozing, and my grandson rushed in saying they had to bring my husband Cesar to the hospital because something was wrong. I went out and he was sitting in his wheelchair. His grandson and his driver brought him to St. Luke’s. I couldn’t go.

I was told he had had a mini-stroke and was being tested for COVID-19. He stayed in the emergency for several days and his test came out positive. He had to be intubated and he stayed intubated for more than a week. He had to wait several days before he could be transferred to the ICU because there were no beds available. Finally he was transferred to the ICU. All this time he was under complete isolation. Finally, miraculously, his intubation could be removed and he was transferred to a private room, still under isolation. A few days later he called me using the phone of his bedside nurse. His first statement was,

“I need to get in touch with Violy (his secretary). I need to know what my appointments are.” “What?” I said. “No one has appointments with anyone anywhere!”

I realized he didn’t know the extent of the lockdown. (My daughter thinks he didn’t think lockdowns included him.)

From then on it was a waiting game once more. He could breathe with minimal oxygen support and all his vitals were good. All he needed was to be cleared of the virus. He had had two negative tests. He had to have one more before he could be discharged. That seemed to be so long in coming.

Meanwhile I was desperately trying to find a couple of nurses to care for him in the hospital and when he came home. None of the nurses I talked to would agree to care for him in the hospital when they discovered what he was in for. I don’t blame them.  I really admire the nurses and doctors in the emergency, ICU and isolation floor who put themselves at risk and take care of so many patients. His bedside nurse would even send daily updates on his condition.

When I knew he would be discharged it was easier to find nursing prospects, but still, some who said yes would back out for some reason or another and some wanted to wait until his third test results came out.

Finally the third test came out: Negative!

Good Friday I got a call from my husband that he could come home because the test was negative and the doctor said he could be discharged.

I still hadn’t found a nurse. I was cleaning his room with Lysol. I was arranging with the Serendra administration about the nurses, since special arrangements had to be made for them because of the lockdown. They had to stay in, I was told. So, where to put them? The master bedroom would be for my husband, who had to be quarantined for 15 days even if he was negative. The second bedroom would be for me and my granddaughter, whose assignment was to take care of me. The third room was a study that was packed with junk (my husband hates it when I classify his books and papers as “junk”). There was only one full bathroom. Just before the lockdown I had decided to remodel my second bathroom and it had been completely stripped for retiling and new plumbing when the lockdown came and so was unusable. There was a guest toilet but it had no shower.

Meanwhile I finally found a nurse who was willing to come the next day. My granddaughter and I cleared out the study (unmindful of someone’s future wrath) and put everything into the unfinished bathroom.

My husband called again. When was I sending his driver and car and clothes for him to wear home? I said I would as soon as possible, but asked him if he was he cleared to come home. He said the doctor said he could. But it turned out that only one doctor had cleared him and he had three more to go.

Saturday the nurse came. (It had to be a male nurse because my husband, in a bed for three weeks and with difficulty walking to begin with, and not having lost any weight no matter his condition, could not stand or walk by himself.) And we waited. I still had to find a second nurse. And we waited. I got a notice from the bedside nurse in St Luke’s. Cesar had not been given clearance.  Still he called: where was his driver, where were his clothes?

Easter Sunday he called.  His other doctor had given his permission. Where was his driver? Who would pick him up? Where were his clothes? His bedside nurse said there was one more doctor to go.

Easter Sunday night: He had not been cleared.

Monday morning I found a nurse who would come the next day. Monday afternoon Cesar was definitely coming home. As we waited for his discharge I was given the results of a COVID test given by the city of Taguig the week before. I was positive for the COVID virus.

Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “What more, Lord, what more?”  But I stop myself.  Why should I question? Why should I complain?  He has been good to me.  First of all, my husband, at 89 years of age, survived COVID-19. That is a miracle in itself. I needed two good nurses. He sent them to me just in time. I needed to find oxygen late that first night and couldn’t find an open drugstore that could supply oxygen. He answered my frantic prayer by telling me to try the hospital.  Success!  Also, although both Cesar and I are under quarantine, and my helpers were on vacation when the lockdown came and couldn’t get back, I have a family who are well, who are caring for Cesar and me from the outside and who take charge of everything so we won’t have to worry.

I have the wherewithal to pay for medical expenses, food, and care. I will have to live in a room that I joke is about the size of a jail cell for a couple of weeks, but it is a pleasant room. I miss my husband but we talk on the phone. I am way, way, way, way better off than thousands of people. I have friends who pray for me, are concerned about me, send me food to tempt my capricious appetite.  We have friends who pray for Cesar constantly and ask daily about his condition. I have my church that keeps me strong and reminds me of God’s faithfulness and His love for me. And, despite everything, I feel a peace that truly passes all understanding.

My first test was negative. Three weeks later it was positive. They’ve taken another and once again I’m waiting. Negative, positive, negative, positive. COVID or not COVID? That always seems to be the question. But there’s no question who will always be with me, holding my hand, listening to me and answering my prayers, caring for me, and steadying me when it seems life’s winds threaten to blow me away. He is the rock that I cling to.

COVID-19

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