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I struggled for a bit with how to write this post. Privacy of family and medical histories are considerations, so I will not get into too much detail with that regard and limit it to Covid-related concerns. Other than that, writing about the experience might be useful to other people (and besides, if I didn't write this post, future me would find it weird!). The post ended up quite long!
TLDR: We got Covid19 and had to stay in the hospital. Covid19 is serious business, be careful and avoid it at all costs.
The Covid19 Run
Around the last weekend of September, my parents and I all tested positive for Covid19. Pa was the worst off, as his oxygen levels were in the lower part of the normal range and sometimes dipping further. Our family doctor (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) recommended we get him admitted to a hospital as soon as possible. My symptoms were milder, but I volunteered for hospital admission as well so that someone would be there to assist and take care of Papa.
The two of us were in the hospital by Sunday evening. Ma hadn't experienced much beyond a mild fever, so she stayed at home under isolation and observation in the meantime.
In the hospital, they monitored Pa mainly for his oxygen saturation; over the course of the first week they needed to gradually increase his oxygen support to stabilize it, and he also developed a serious pneumonia. He was also prone to getting tired or out of breath when walking or moving about.
My own symptoms were mild to moderate; my fever lasted for a few days, and I experienced some higher blood pressure. I also had mild pneumonia and some coughing. Early in the second week, my symptoms had subsided and they discharged me from being a patient; I stayed in the hospital as a caregiver ("bantay") for Pa.
Around the second week of a serious Covid case (7 days after symptoms first manifest) is the start of the so-called "cytokine storm" where the symptoms can get much worse. The doctors recommended some treatments to try to head off the storm.
Around this time, Ma, who was still under monitoring at home, started to experience lowered oxygen saturation as well, and we had her admitted as soon as we knew, a week after we were first admitted. The hospital wouldn't admit her by herself, and she can't stay in the same room as us, so we ended up hiring a caretaker to stay with her in her room and assist her and such. They gave her the same treatments for the storm as soon as she came in, even while she was still waiting in the ER for her room.
The second week was the most challenging one for us. I won't delve into the details, but suffice to say I spent more than one night unable to sleep while staring at the bedside monitor showing oxygen levels.
Their condition started getting better towards the start of the third week. The storm had run its course. Both parents were gradually taken off oxygen support as soon as they could handle it, and they strength and vigor gradually came back.
We were all discharged by the 3rd weekend of our stay; Ma had to stay an extra day because she developed her symptoms last and our doctor was strict about requiring 21 days isolation (from symptoms onset) for each patient. Apparently covid cases can be contagious up to the 21st day. Both parents had confirmatory negative swab tests before discharge. Since I was only a moderate case, the confirmatory swab was not needed for me (I was already symptom free for more than 10 days by then.)
Total hospital stay: 21 days (for me and Pa); 14 days for Ma
Notes About The Hospital Stay
- Once we had been there for a few days and gotten used to everything, every day felt pretty much the same. Intervals of boredom while waiting around for the next meal or medicine delivery or tests.
- I almost didn't bring a laptop, which would have been a terrible idea. Aside from the entertainment value, the laptop was useful when managing finances (online banking) and reviewing paperwork and such.
- Since I had a laptop, in theory I could have been productive with all the free time. Keeping up with my routines or writing on the blog or coding on some side projects or such. But it's like the hospital atmosphere saps away whatever necessary energy for that. A friend of mine said:
- "Yeah. Hospitals immerse non-doctors/nurses in that empty train station in The Matrix 3, where the only way forward is to get on the train, and if your ride isn't there yet, you can't leave the station or get on a different line, you're just stuck there"
- The hospital provided wifi, but there were limits. Couldn't access sites like Steam or Reddit (but old.reddit.com worked lol) or do streaming or large downloads. There was a second unrestricted wifi that was much faster but was only free to use for an hour per day; I used it to do stuff like update Steam or download episodes to watch.
- The hospital provides meals, but they're terrible lol. We tolerated them for the first week and a half of our stay, though we often couldn't finish them. After discharge, I opted to not have the dietary department continue to supply me with meals and instead had bread and various palaman (cheese, cold cut ham, butter, etc) delivered so I could make my own meals. While there was a fridge in the room, there is no microwave or anything to heat food with, so I couldn't store anything that would need reheating. By the end of the second week, Pa was having trouble finishing his meals; he already had low appetite from the sickness, but the quality and repetitiveness of the hospital food made it worse. By then we had started ordering fast food / restaurant meals; for me so that I wasn't eating bread all the time, and for the folks to help keep their appetites up. Towards the end of the stay we were basically ordering once a day.
- While we were very happy with the efforts of the doctors and nurses and other staff attending to us, it was painfully obvious that the hospital was understaffed. Scheduled meals and meds sometimes came late and often when I called in to the nurses station to ask for help with something it would take a while before someone would come about to the room. Part of that was also the challenges of staff needing to be in PPE all the time; they would often make sure to do as much as they can in one run to maximize the use of PPE, and that could cause delays.
- What I wish I did bring, but didn't because we were in a rush to pack:
- My fitbit charger (after the first week I no longer had a wristwatch and had to look at my phone all the time.)
- A jacket. The airconditioning was cold, and my cold tolerance is worse than Pa's, so I often had to set it a bit colder than I'd like.
- Water. We had to wait a few hours in the ER for our room to be ready and they charged us for the two small bottles of water we asked for. Once we got to the room, there was no drinking water available in the room. There was a dispenser outside we could use, but no one told me about it for the first three or four days, so we actually had a few liters of bottled water delivered. Even after I found out about the dispenser, we still had bottled water delivered every so often because there was only one dispenser for the entire hallway and you never knew when it would run out, and we drank a lot of water. (I suspect we were consuming most of the water from the dispenser actually.)
- Lotion? IDK why, but some of my skin was flaking off while in the hospital room, I guess it's not very humid in there? I found myself washing my face constantly.
- A microwave for heating food. Okay, I probably wouldn't have brought one, but it would have been nice.
With three of us staying in the hospital, you can imagine that the costs ran up quickly. I was asking for an update on the bill every 3-4 days so that we wouldn't get bill shock at the end of the stay. I won't discuss actual amounts, but we broke six digits a few days in and by the second week, I could see it would probably reach seven digits for each of the parents. The final bill for me came out in the low six digits.
The costs were worrying of course. Even my own costs as a moderate case would have probably devastated the savings of the average 20- or 30- year old middle class worker in the country, what more the much greater costs for the two parents.
Collectively the family had enough savings to absorb the costs, though of course the amount would still hurt. And we were worrying about how we would actually be able to settle the bills. Would someone need to withdraw cash over the counter and bring it to the hospital? We were adding up credit limits and such to see if we could use credit cards for convenience.
Luckily, there's Philhealth. Philhealth has a significant benefit package for confined Covid patients, with the amount of coverage depending on the severity of the pneumonia induced by Covid. The severity is based on specific criteria.
They classified my case as moderate pneumonia, which got a benefit package of around P143k. Still a significant amount! I was almost unable to avail of this because as a freelancer, I wasn't current with my Philhealth payments. My brother stepped up and made payments for me so that I could avail of the benefit. So I strongly advise everyone to make sure your Philhealth payments are current, especially if you are regularly going out and exposed to possible Covid infection!
They classified both parents as having critical pneumonia, which meant their Philhealth benefit package was a whopping P786k! That plus senior citizen discounts cut down the costs to a much more manageable level. Our doctor told us the hospital initially wanted to classify them as severe (which meant a lower benefit package), but that she argued they should be critical under DOH guidelines, so for that we are thankful. (Also, she mentioned that Philhealth hasn't paid out claims in a while, so hopefully they pay out, the doctors and the hospital and the staff deserve it!)
The total for all three of us came out well under P1M. Still would have been devastating for the average Filipino family, so please be careful when going out and in fact avoid going out as much as possible! We are still in the middle of the pandemic, despite the lowering of alert levels and such!
Aftermath and Recovery
As I write this, we have already been home for more than a week. Even after we got home, there would still be a recovery period. I was feeling pretty good, but the doctor told me to avoid strenuous activity for 2-4 weeks, so I haven't resumed my regular walks yet (though I think I can handle them and they aren't really that strenuous). Ma was also doing pretty well, though she opted to sleep downstairs so she doesn't have to keep going up and down the stairs.
Pa was the one who was hardest hit; when he came home he was still a bit weak and needed help walking around and his oxygen saturation still dipped when he exerted effort. We determined that based on personal preferences it would be better for him to be upstairs (only one of them could sleep downstairs), but we let him rest downstairs for a day before braving the stairs. He was able to manage the climb and I'm happy to report that a week later he is a bit stronger and more mobile and even came downstairs during the weekend. I ended up still continuing to play a bit of the caretaker role even at home as Pa often needs reminding of when to take his meds, and I had to learn to use a blood glucose monitor to help monitor his blood sugar.
We are hoping for a quick and full recovery, though our doctor could not guarantee either of those. Still, outcomes could have been much worse, and expenses were much lower than we were expecting. We also experienced an outpouring of love and support and help from loved ones, relatives and friends. For all of these we are thankful.