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

By Patrick Jerome Guasa

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 September) – It started with a dry throat last September 5. I treated the dryness of my throat as the result of tiredness. I had not been sleeping well for at least two months already due to my reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine (I am a bipolar individual that gets affected by the change of the seasons).  The pain in my head really got me tired, and I was certain that my level of immunity was also affected. But I needed to go out and get things done.

Patrick Jerome Guasa gets vaccinated against COVID-19. MindaNews photo courtesy of Patrick Jerome Guasa

Four nights later, I had to isolate myself. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I took a medication for flu and anti-biotic that we keep handy in our medicine box all the time. I also immediately set an appointment with the General Santos City Red Cross Chapter for a swab test, which was scheduled in the afternoon of September 10. The positive test results came out on Monday, September 13.

A doctor-cousin of mine based in Cebu prescribed a medication for me. I also bought a fingertip oximeter to monitor my oxygen level (the normal oxygen level is usually 95 or higher). I was starting to experience difficulties in breathing.

At around 2 a.m. of September 15, I had a hard time breathing. The oximeter reading was down to 84, and my vision was blurred. My heart was beating so fast, I felt that I would pass out. I did my best to calm myself, since I was all alone. I had to take rapid, shallow breathes just to make sure I was still breathing consciously. I had to keep breathing like this until the sky outside of my window started to glow bright. By 5:30 a.m., I felt so exhausted, my shirt was wet with sweat. I thought of getting back to sleep. But I was scared that I might not wake up again. I had to sit up and stay quiet. In the silence I started to count my breathing and take in deep breathes. I noticed it was difficult to take deep breaths.

This episode of breathlessness occurred five more times in the succeeding days, often between 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. This reminded me of that part in the Beowulf story where a monster would devour 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 would survive the breathlessness that was hitting me. My oxygen level would go down between 85 to 87 each time. I just had to remain calm, and consciously do rapid shallow breathing.

We attempted to get an oxygen tank, but that became an ordeal. The cost of the tank was prohibitive, and the delivery time took longer than necessary. I had to settle in doing conscious breathing every time breathlessness took over 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 a hard time breathing. My heart rate still goes up every time I try to breathe in deeper. My sense of taste and smell have returned, but there is this funny feeling in my stomach. I feel full and hungry at the same time.

I feel so concerned now because there are still many of us who have not been vaccinated. I believed the COVID-19 vaccine gave me a higher survival rate. But even if I am vaccinated, I am still vulnerable to the other effects of COVID-19 on my body.

I feel my lungs have become much weaker. My heart is a bit over worked, just to pump blood with oxygen. My internal organs seem messed up too. The risks of losing my breath, experiencing a stroke, and liver or kidney failure have increased due to COVID-19.

These details need to be told to all.

COVID-19 is real. The virus is not a hoax. Vaccination helps a lot. Getting infected with COVID-19 affects your over all 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, eating well and exercising daily. More importantly, you need to stay safe with your loved ones all the time!

Yesterday, I went back home after staying in isolation for 17 days. I will be in home quarantine for another week to strengthen my immune system. This will be a long recovery, and I am ready for it!

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