My two brothers, one fully jabbed, got COVID
Illustration by Hersam Sato

My two brothers, one fully jabbed, got COVID

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2021 - 12:00am

COVID-19, even if it is mild, is a cause for alarm. But like all challenges, a silver lining looms and the prospect to hope for better days is real.

My eldest brother Ronnie, 55, and youngest brother Rod, 45, tested positive for COVID-19 almost two weeks ago. It was “mild” virus, to borrow the description of the experts in the hospital. They developed cough and fever and lost their sense of taste and smell. How they got the virus is a mystery considering that they both observe health and social-distancing protocols in the times they needed to perform their duties.

Days before he showed the symptoms, Rod, a public school teacher, went to a store to have his thesis for his master’s degree printed. He had his face mask and face shield on. He was fully vaccinated, but received his second jab only a few days before he caught the virus.

On the other hand, Kuya Ronnie, who had been wearing a face mask for years now even before the pandemic, made sure he was protected every time he helped in distributing the local government’s ayuda in the neighborhood. Their condition started with being positive for dengue and typhoid fever. Then an RT-PCR swab test confirmed they were positive for the virus.

They are doing well in the hospital now — with Rod dancing away his worries via TikTok and Kuya Ronnie wishing he could do the same. They find humor in their condition while being treated in a public hospital in Cabuyao. Even if they are on their way to recovery, utmost care is still always extended to them. The silent enemy is treacherous and we can’t leave to chance their welfare.

Rod got infected a few days after he got his second jab of Sinovac. Doctors attribute his being fully vaccinated to his mild symptoms. It could have been worse if he were not vaccinated at all, given some of his comorbidities.

Kuya Ronnie developed his symptoms on the same days Rod exhibited signs of his infection. They stay together in the house with our mother and my two nieces. Because he has no comorbidity, he is not yet a priority in the vaccination line. But big thanks to that because, according to a doctor, having no comorbidity means a COVID patient has a better chance of fighting the virus.

The bigger scare we faced was to make sure our 77-year-old mother was safe. An RT-PCR test was conducted on all other family members living in the compound. Thank God everybody tested negative. (I also had my RT-PCR test in Makati even if I had very minimal exposure to them because, for months now, I alone occupy the house of Kuya Ronnie. I also tested negative.)

Logistics of dealing with the virus

If it were not for well-meaning friends, our family’s journey in dealing with COVID would be a test. Because every member of my family in Gulod had to isolate and stay put, nobody would be there for Kuya and Rod when they needed something bought or brought to the hospital. Paula, Kuya’s daughter, a nurse, is the one who is always in the hospital. But her movements are limited, too.

So we relied on Edzon Aguilar, a family friend, to do many of the errands, from buying meds not available in the hospital to cooking meals and delivering them to the hospital every day. He is so sweet that he even cooked for my family and placed the Tupperware of cooked meals outside the gate of our home. Charmie Capisanan, another family friend from Gulod, is in charge of arranging necessary documents needed by the patients. Caloy Palomar, my BFF in the barrio, and Wennie de la Cruz, Rod’s co-teacher, are ready 24/7 for other errands. Paula, because she works at Ospital ng Cabuyao where my brothers are confined, has also tapped on the kindness of other hospital staff to make things better for her father and Tito Rod.

In the time of COVID, friendship heals. It is the time when friends are needed the most. So Rod and Kuya’s hospital rooms are filled with food from our friends. Rod, a popular teacher among his students and co-teachers, always has food delivered to his room. Boxes of fruits also make a parade to their place of healing. They share their blessings.

It used to be that COVID was just in the neighborhood — not inside our house. We heard of friends infected or slain by the unseen enemy. We wore our masks and imaginary defense suits, hoping, wishing, praying that they would protect us from the enemy. But the enemy betrays at the slightest moment we put down our defenses. It’s different when it enters the home. The anxiety is numbing and only faith can thaw the fear.

Connected by love

You also lose neighbors when COVID knocks at your door. We understand that because they also have to protect themselves. All of a sudden, the tambays who used to seek refuge under the shade of our robust narra tree outside our gate were gone. They heaved a sigh of relief when the LGU sent a team to disinfect our whole compound.

Nanay, who’s clingy to me, had to give me a stern rule: “Don’t go home. Not yet. Stay where you are.” So I’m staying in Makati until the end of the month.

Nanay celebrated her birthday last Sunday. It was a simple, bittersweet celebration. She was used to cooking up a storm on her birthday because she wanted to give also to our neighbors. She was not in the mood. “Sigurado ako na hindi naman nila kakainin ang ibibigay ko. Natural lamang yon. Okay lang yon. May COVID kasi sa atin (I’m sure they will not eat whatever food I will give them. That’s normal. That’s okay. There’s COVID in our compound),” she said.

But it was a celebration nevertheless as we had a family Messenger call on her birthday. It felt like we were a transnational family. Connected by technology. Connected by love.

TikTok saves the day

The minute Rod found out he was positive for COVID-19 was also the moment he went public about it. He announced it via Facebook with a TikTok dance. While many others try to conceal the truth about their infection for fear of being ostracized, Rod went the other way and used the social media to inspire others with the virus to “fight, fight, fight.” Every day, he posts his dance moves to infect others with a positive vibe.

“The virus is the enemy, not me. The virus is the enemy, not the COVID patients. I don’t care about the stigma,” says Rod, who is always honest, funny and witty.

With prayers and the mercy of God, Kuya Ronnie and Rod are doing well in their journey. They will be discharged soon from the hospital. That’s the silver lining in my brothers’ journey back to health — the mercy of God.

Keep safe, everyone.



(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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