Thoughts of an autoimmune patient on COVID19

It was in 2013 when I experienced the height of myasthenic symptoms – my breathing muscles were so weak I could barely breathe and had to be put in a mechanical ventilator. I had to be intubated for  6 weeks, and had to take my food through my nostrils. It was a dark time, and I vowed to do everything in my power to keep myself from going back there. Pneumonia is no joke, as it could be the death of those who do not even have pre-existing conditions. What more if you have a compromised immune system?

Then here comes the coronavirus, now identified as covid-19. Respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, and breathing difficulties are some of the signs of infection, and it can even cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and death. Death toll arises while I watch the news every morning and in the Philippines, the number of positive cases jumped from 4 to 35 in the span of 48 hours. Alcohols and disinfectants are sold out in the supermarkets and pharmacies. Face masks can no longer be bought since the beginning of 2020, and authorities strongly suggest to leave it so people in the medical field can use them as they are obviously in a much closer contact with those who are infected and are therefore more prone to infection. Classes are suspended in the entire region. The country only has 2000 testing kits for its 100 million people. Sessions in the senate are also suspended.

As someone who’s immunocompromised, I should be scared.

Yes, I am scared. Back in January, I’d lie on my bed for long hours thinking what to do the next day, as my stash of disposable face masks is about to run out. I refused to eat takeaways in fear of food contamination. I avoided crowded places. I talked to my doctor and he said I could go into a myasthenic crisis if I get the virus.  Memories flashed through my head, lonely afternoons of me lying on the ICU bed with all kinds of tubes stuck on me. Sure, I survived the first time. I made it the second time. Who’s to say I’d survive this time, though?

So I read more about the virus. I’ve always said that the more you know about the enemy the more likely you’ll win over it. That’s what I did with epilepsy and myasthenia gravis. I’ve read that washing your hands more frequently with soap and water is far better than using alcohol and hand sanitizer. I found out that the number of people who die of hunger each day is far much higher that the ones who die of Covid-19. That 80% of covid-19 positive suffered mild, flu-like symptoms, while 4% needed intensive hospital care. That 50% recovered while only 3% died. As much as I doubted the data presented by the country’s authorities, I figured that the worldwide numbers won’t lie that much.

As I continue to write this, the entire Metro Manila will be locked down. People who are allowed to go in and out in its major cities will be limited to those who can’t do work from home, those who are going to the hospital, and those who are buying food and medicine. Curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. has also been implemented, and uniformed men are everywhere to be found. By the looks of it, the situation appears to be more serious. People are panicking (at least those who are in the middle working class and above) and social media warriors suddenly became political analysts and social scientists.

Nicole always has the wittiest way of cheering me up. I told her my worries, of why I am starting to get even more scared.  Heck, I am even on the verge of backing out from our trip in August. But she simply said, what do you think [insert my crush’s name here] would say if you told him this? (oh yes, I am an official adult and I’m still swooning over a guy like a teenager). I smiled, and suddenly the cloud in my head disappeared. As much as I perfectly knew I just needed some time to think straight (I procrastinate on this too, apparently) I realized there’s not much time left for me to do the right thing.

So I started on the basics. I sent an email to my boss asking if I can be allowed to work from home for the next month, which thankfully he said yes to. I went to the pharmacy and refilled my prescription, a little bit more than enough to last me a month. I also dropped by the grocery store and stock piled on some personal items and canned food favorites (they ran out of Spam, sadly), again just enough to last me a month. I didn’t want to get more than what I need because I was thinking, what if the excess bred worms and stank just like what happened to manna when the Israelite gathered more than what they needed for the day? Kidding aside, I just don’t want to waste my time, energy, and resources for something that I am not doing alone. And also because I know that as long as I followed the guidelines given by the health professionals, I’ll be fine.

Today, let’s just chill and relax at home. This is the time for us to be good at social distancing. Start reading the items in your 2020 reading list instead of mindlessly scrolling through useless rants in Twitter. Work on pending projects instead of adding more panic by sharing unverified information on Facebook. I have no plans of stepping outside for the next 4 weeks, just open my bedroom window so I could soak in the 7 a.m. sun. And also pray for the frontliners – the doctors, nurses, other medical staff and even the uniformed men amidst this worldwide health crisis. Pray for the government’s wisdom to do the right thing, and to decide on what’s best for its people. Pray for everyone’s safety and for those who needs it the most.

“Don’t be scared. You’ll be okay.”

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