Forced retreat

By: Michael L. Tan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | December 06,2022 - 08:00 AM

It was my first, and I hope the last, time to get COVID, more than two years into the pandemic. I was going to title my column “To hell and back” but no, bad as it was, this Omicron variant was milder than previous ones. I lost many friends and relatives, especially to the Delta wave last year.

But the description “mild” can be deceptive. The sore throat and dry cough were ordeals, as was the brain fog, a real bummer given that I teach and do research.

COVID’s very real and even mild Omicron does infect—and kill. The perception that it’s mild makes it dangerous, people letting their guard down—as I did—and thinking the pandemic is over.

Worse are claims from some quarters that there never was a pandemic in the first place, and that the vaccines only caused harm. Well, I know having the full dose and two boosters made a difference.

But I want to talk more about how I handled COVID, largely on my own, which I felt was an accomplishment, especially being a senior citizen.

That included “disaster preparedness”—I was pleased, and proud, of a contact-tracing system crafted in the school I’m running right now. A student contacted me right after he tested positive, worried that he might have infected me, and asked that I inform others. I’ll write about this important sense of collective responsibility sometime soon, and how important it is to keep gaining on the very tentative lead we have right now over the virus’ spread.

Worried doctor friends insisted I check into the hospital but others, also doctors, said that was asking for more trouble, given my age and the infections, besides COVID, that I could pick up in the hospital.

I chose to stay home, knowing what to monitor, especially oxygen levels (which fitness watches now handle!). I kept myself hydrated and forced myself to eat even when I had no appetite. Other than maintenance medicines, I was pretty much drug-less. No vitamins, minerals, or the many supplements friends were recommending. All I took was plain old paracetamol, and a saline nasal spray when I’d get very congested.

The hardest part was being alone, a forced solitary retreat. We had a family vacation scheduled, and I insisted they push through, assuring them this was mild, and so off they went, including Chi, the dachshund in the photo.

But we Asians tend to be too dependent on others for care, and I was seeing this as a dress rehearsal for the inevitable geriatric illnesses when we might be forced to hack it alone. Last month, I had a bout with vertigo and managed.

I shut out the world, knowing screen time could aggravate problems with my vertigo, especially balance and vision. I begged off phone calls, pleading the sore throat. And I slept a lot; oh, but sleep was so very comforting, sometimes outdoors in the garden, under the sun. Free vitamin D.

I appreciated the many more “idle” moments I had, making me vow not to pack my appointments after all this is over. Wink, wink.

I’m proud I handled this on my own, but I know next time around, I’ll make sure I do have more human, and canine, contact.

Keeping a sense of humor was important, and I thought I’d share a hilarious episode from this COVID encounter.

On my fourth day of COVID, anticipating my kids coming back to visit after their vacation, I did a home antigen test early in the morning. Still sleepy, I dragged out the stuff for the test. Swab, mix, drop into a “cassette.” But then I noticed the liquid was not moving as it should. No thin red line which would be the control, to be followed within 15 minutes either by a second line (positive) or no line (negative).

I was puzzled, and checked the cassette’s package, breaking out laughing when I realized the Chinese manufacturers had made the mistake of packing a non-COVID test into the box. What they had put in was a test for pregnancy!

So much for Chinese reliability.

I did do another test. COVID negative. I’m pretty sure, too, I’m not pregnant. Too old for that.

To hell and back, laughing all the way.

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TAGS: COVID, COVID-19, disaster preparedness, doctors, Omicron, sleep
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