COVID-19 survivor: I had to be my own Beowulf to beat this monster

FACES AND VOICES OF COVID-19
By Patrick Jérôme Guasa

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / September 27) – It started with a dry throat on September 5. I treated the dryness in my throat as a result of fatigue. I haven’t been sleeping well for at least two months already due to my reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine (I’m a bipolar person who is affected by the change of seasons). The pain in my head really made me tired, and I was sure my immunity level was affected as well. But I needed to get out there and get things done.

Patrick Jerome Guasa is vaccinated against COVID-19. Photo by MindaNews courtesy of Patrick Jerome Guasa

Four nights later, I had to isolate myself. I have lost my sense of smell and my taste. I took flu medicine and an antibiotic which we always keep on hand in our medicine box. I also immediately made an appointment with the General Santos City Red Cross section for a swab test, which was scheduled for the afternoon of September 10. Positive test results came out on Monday, September 13.

A Cebu-based doctor-cousin prescribed me medication. I also bought a fingertip oximeter to monitor my oxygen level (normal oxygen level is usually 95 or above). I was starting to have difficulty breathing.

Around 2 a.m. on September 15, I was having trouble breathing. The oximeter reading had dropped to 84 and my vision was blurry. My heart was beating so fast that I felt I was going to pass out. I did my best to calm down, since I was on my own. I had to take quick, shallow breaths just to make sure I was still breathing consciously. I had to keep breathing like this until the sky outside my window started to glow. At 5:30 am, I was feeling so exhausted that my shirt was soaked in sweat. I thought about going back to sleep. But I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up again. I had to sit down and be still. In the silence, I began to count my breaths and breathe deeply. I noticed that it was difficult to breathe deeply.

This episode of shortness of breath occurred five more times in the following days, often between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. It reminded me of that part of Beowulf’s story where a monster devoured sleeping warriors. Beowulf stayed awake to fend off the monster and kill it. I had to be my own Beowulf. I had to make sure I survived the shortness of breath that was hitting me. My oxygen level dropped to between 85 and 87 each time. I just had to stay calm and consciously take a quick, shallow breath.

We tried to get an oxygen tank, but it became a challenge. The cost of the tank was prohibitive and the delivery time was longer than necessary. I had to settle into a conscious breath every time the shortness of breath took hold of me.

I have been in isolation for 16 days now (September 25). Yet I feel that I am not yet fully recovered. I still have trouble breathing. My heart rate always increases every time I try to take a deeper breath. My sense of taste and smell has returned, but there’s this funny feeling in my stomach. I feel full and hungry at the same time.

I feel so worried now because many of us still haven’t been vaccinated. I believed the COVID-19 vaccine gave me a higher survival rate. But even though I am vaccinated, I remain vulnerable to the other effects of COVID-19 on my body.

I feel my lungs have become much weaker. My heart is a little overworked, just to pump the blood with oxygen. My internal organs seem to be in a mess too. The chances of losing my breath, having a stroke, and liver or kidney failure have increased due to COVID-19.

These details should be communicated to everyone.

COVID-19 is real. The virus is not a hoax. Vaccination helps a lot. Being infected with COVID-19 affects your general well-being in the long term. You need to be aware of your breathing, your heart, and your internal organs. You need to make sure that you are well rested, eat well, and exercise daily. Most importantly, you need to stay safe with your loved ones at all times!

Yesterday I returned home after being in isolation for 17 days. I will be in home quarantine for another week to strengthen my immune system. It will be a long recovery, and I’m ready for it!

(Patrick Jerome Guasa is an environmental planner based in General Santos City.)

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