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From a quarantine diary: Testing positive for COVID-19

By: - Social Media Specialist / @JMRiveraINQ
/ 08:00 AM April 02, 2021
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INQUIRER.net artwork by Marie Faro

As part of my duty in delivering news, I posted the breaking graphics of the very first case of COVID-19 in the Philippines. Since then, I was always scared to be infected, and be a reason to also infect someone. I never thought that after a year of reporting about COVID-19’s daily cases, I will also experience it firsthand. Now, I realize that my fear during the past year is nothing compared to the fear of actually having the disease. That year of fear of acquiring the virus is nothing against my two weeks of being ill.

When I’ve read the email that I’ve tested positive, the first thought that came into mind was “I hope I haven’t infected someone.” Second, “It’s gonna be okay.” I told myself that I should not panic given the fact that I am young and healthy and can easily survive from the virus. But as the day went on, when I started to think of the possibility that I may have infected my parents who are both senior citizens, the fear got worse. It was hard to be positive in attitude and not overthink. Though I always read about the number of daily cases and was always updated about it since Jan. 30, 2020, and updated up until now, I still get scared.

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Now I agree that one doesn’t really know the feeling unless you are actually experiencing it. Having COVID-19 is not just about the daily physical struggle because there’s the constant battle in your head that you also need to overcome. I have been sick for five days straight before I found out that I was positive. Having fever and the worst sore throat I’ve experienced in my life, the result didn’t come out as a surprise anymore – but the fear was. I never thought that fear can be unbearable, especially during the first three nights that I was sick and were just in my room, constantly praying to God to keep my parents away from this virus. They have existing illnesses, too, given their ages, and the fear and guilt of me infecting them beat me up at night.

Two days before I found out that I’m positive, I decided to self-quarantine in my room. But my mother still entered my room and massaged my back, a thing she always does whenever I have fever. I told her not to because I’m scared she might get infected in case I got the virus. But she insisted, and while she was massaging my back, I silently cried and kept praying to God for the COVID test result to be negative, otherwise she would have been infected by me.

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Before I got sick, my mother and I were not on good terms. It’s because I feel like she always demands so much from me. I feel like she always has these expectations that I can never reach. I feel like she has a way of somehow making me think that I’m not good enough. And then I got sick, and was overcome with guilt for being mad at her and not talking to her for the past week. Right at the moment when she was massaging my back, I remembered all the mean things I’ve been thinking about her, and I realized I was wrong, so I told her I was sorry.

Two days after that, I received my result. During the first night, I tried to sleep early, but my fever, sore throat and worries made it impossible. On the next days, I started losing my sense of taste and smell. My throat was literally aching. I had no appetite. I felt so tired though I didn’t do anything the whole day. I felt worse during the whole week. Having never been confined in a hospital, I can very well say that getting the disease was the worst sickness that I’ve experienced in life, and the mental stress added up to it even more.

When I received my result, I decided not to shed tears about it and constantly reminded myself that I’m going to be okay, and that after two to three weeks, everything will go back to normal. Three days after, I burst into tears after reading about a friend’s parents who died from COVID-19. Suddenly, I was panicking and imagining worst-case scenarios that may happen to my parents, all because of me. With those tears, I let out all the frustrations on acquiring the virus even right after vaccines have become available in the country, and I let out the anger for the delayed action of our city health office to give swab tests to my parents.

It was all thanks to my family who have been very caring, friends who were there to give comfort and constantly pray for me, workmates who have been very understanding, and all the people who offer words of encouragement that I’ve been able to recover.

Truth be told, being in the shoes of a COVID patient made me personally experience the incompetence of government units in caring for their people and families affected by this pandemic. I also felt heartbreak from people who would rather put blame on patients instead of offering encouragement through even the littlest means, like asking them how they are coping.

To close this entry, as I still see COVID-19 ravaging us, I would just like to offer a simple plea to those who might know other COVID patients, whether they are your family or friends – instead of asking them, “Where did you get it?” please ask, “How are you?” That is more comforting, and that can help them heal.

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Jerah May Rivera works at INQUIRER.net. She loves sunsets and writing about people’s stories. She also loves to play badminton, and although tone-deaf, loves music. She hopes that her account of her illness and recovery enlightens others to always be kind, even in times of crisis.

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Image: INQUIRER.net/Marie Faro

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