“I think you should call 16000 and ask if you can be tested.” The doctor told me after telling him how I feel.
Anxious. I tried to defend myself as he asked his nurse to give him a pair of gloves and a face shield before he examines me. That day, I went home more anxious than ever.
It was February 27 when my husband came home and told me the news. They will start rescuing citizens of the country where we reside from infected countries. They will bring them home and put them in a hotel for quarantine. There was no known case here during that time. But the government gotta do what they gotta do to keep their citizens safe and expats like us don’t really have a say on that matter. February 28 when we transferred to our new house since we are newly married. We were excited to start a new life together in a house that feels like home. We were excited to invite family and friends over. But, 2:00 AM of March 1, 2020 when I woke up with severe body pain, chills, and a sore throat. I asked my husband to take me to the hospital. We drove our way to the only nearby clinic that is open. The doctor examined my throat, told me I have pharyngitis, prescribed antibiotics and ibuprofen and sent me home. I rested and skipped work the following day.
I was hopeful that maybe after finishing the course of my medications, I will finally get better. I was wrong. My condition did not improve so I went to see another doctor. With the same diagnosis, he sent me home and gave me paracetamol. The sore throat persisted. I have learned how to manage it and was able to go to work.
At work, I used to check the news about the pandemic every morning and would report it to my colleagues. So the citizens were already repatriated and now in quarantine. Days later, they started confirming cases. 3 cases will be 6 after a few days. 6 will suddenly become 8. And now, there are thousands of confirmed cases. In a country this small, having thousands of confirmed cases can be quite frightening. It was then when I started having anxiety. My panic attacks are like a thief in the night.
At the same time, stress from work became intolerable. The number of positive cases are going up everyday. The work continues. There were no restrictions. I interact with different people on a daily basis. For someone who is not feeling well and anxious, the thought of going to work everyday was excruciating. I have been absent from work for a week. My boss said I have to come to work even if I’m dying. That pushed me to resign. It didn’t help with my anxiety at all. I was obliged to come to work to finish my notice period. Every time I come home from work, my anxiety level was high. My heart was palpitating.
My sore throat persisted. I went to another doctor and then to another one. They all gave me the same diagnosis and the same medicines. Another doctor thought I have acid reflux so I took a lot of medications for acid reflux. I have tried different gargles and home remedies but nothing seemed to work. I started having body pains and chills from time to time. One time my sore throat got really intense and I went back to my doctor. “Why are you so afraid of corona? I think your anxiety is causing you this.” I felt judged and offended. I was not joking. I do have a sore throat. I told myself that I would go to a different doctor and will seek for another and final opinion.
I have seen 4 different doctors already and went to 3 different hospitals. It’s crazy. I asked recommendations from friends for a good ENT Doctor. Many sent me messages. (Thank you, guys!)
One of my friends works as a nurse and asked me to try their ENT doctor. She immediately booked me an appointment.
My tolerance for pain is really low. I can’t handle injections or blood tests. So when the doctor conducted an endoscopy from my nose to my throat, I almost fainted. He told me I have an inflamed lymph nodes. He ordered a blood test and a neck ultrasound. We went back the next day for all the procedures. The neck ultrasound turned out fine except for the inflamed lymph nodes which can go away on its own. But, my white blood cells (WBC) was high which means that there is an infection.
The doctor gave me antibiotics. He ordered me to get intravenous antibiotics for 3 days. Those days were excruciating. We had to go back to the clinic everyday so I could get an IV antibiotic since it works faster than oral ones. I felt better but on the third day, the doctor examined my throat once more. He said “You feel better but your throat is still congested. Usually, patients who receive IV antibiotics get better after the second dose.” He extended my medications. He ordered oral antibiotics and told me to take it for 5 more days. So I did. I did not get better. So I went back to see my ENT doctor. He did the usual examination and ordered 4 more oral antibiotics and told me that it would get better after that. When I finished my medications, I went for a final check up. Another endoscopy. It is a lot more painful than the first time I had it. I nearly choked. The doctor told me that all is well. I will start getting better in no time. My husband and I happily exited the hospital and wished to never have to come back to that place again.
Later that night, I started feeling a severe pain in my throat and I started feeling unwell. I thought maybe I can sleep it off. I was awaken by body pains and chills around 2 in the morning which was hard to ignore. I took paracetamol and hoped to get better. I usually feel better during the day and would feel body pains at night. I tried to self medicate for a few days. Until one time, I suddenly felt so weak. My legs felt sore. It continued until the next day. I tried to fight it out. But it only got worse.
My husband and I have exhausted all medical help. I have seen 6 different doctors in 4 different hospitals. Nobody can diagnose me. I can feel how stressed out my husband was. With the current pandemic, it is stressful to go back and forth to hospitals. We have spent a lot of money with consultations, tests, and medications. (Thank God for insurance!). But, among all of these, we have exhausted all our mental and emotional capacity. The fear of the unknown is just too much. My husband seeing me suffer is just too much for him. I knew he felt helpless. We fought about it sometimes. It was really stressful. I can’t even put it into words. For a couple who just got married, I believe we don’t deserve to be stressed out that way at this stage of our marriage. I am grateful for my husband. I am grateful for his love and care. (I might put that in a separate post.) I am grateful that God did not let him get sick knowing how weak his immune system is. I was in so much pain but I was grateful.
Knowing how stressed out my husband was, I was hesitant to tell him to take me to the doctor for the last time. I just need another opinion. So, we decided to see a doctor of internal medicine. He willingly brought me to see my 7th doctor.
The doctor studied my history. He looked at me with a scared look on his face and told me to call the Ministry of Health to ask if I could be tested for Covid19. It has been my greatest fear. The doctor looked so sure of his diagnosis. I felt numb. I felt scared. I felt somehow angry.
He ordered me to get another blood test to see if my WBC is still high. He ordered an Xray to check if there is any sign of pneumonia. He swabbed my throat to check for bacteria. He told me if my WBC remains high it means I still have infection and it is not bacterial because I finished my course of antibiotics and no effect. If the throat swabbed came back negative for bacteria, it only means that my infection is not bacterial, it is viral. Meaning the cause of my infection is a virus. And, the most important test of all, the Xray. It can either make or break me. Then he sent me home. He reminded me again to call the Ministry of Health and to ask for a test. They would just call me if my test results are out.
I wanted to get over with it so I called them. I told them about my symptoms and my history. The ministry representative was so polite and very comforting. She told me that since I never had a fever, I am not qualified to have the test. However, I should wait for my Xray because it can determine whether I can go for a test or not. Before cutting the call, she reminded me to make sure I wear my mask all the time, to sanitize any surfaces that I touched, and to isolate myself until my Xray result is out. I started to develop an extreme fear. I fear for my husband more than myself. What if I am really infected? What if I infect him? He is asthmatic. I cannot bear the thought.
The waiting time was a complete torture. I cannot wait for another day to get my results. My anxiety level spiked up. I cannot calm myself. I started having chest pains. It felt there’s a big rock on my heart. I felt paralyzed. I cannot move. I was frozen with fear. I didn’t know how I will be able to sleep that night. Fear was all over my body. I wanted to scream and cry but I can’t feed my emotions or else I would totally breakdown.
A video call from my best friend saved me that night. She stayed with me on the phone for hours. We talked about random stuff. We talked about my fears. What’s causing my anxiety? How could I change my perspective?
“Tomorrow will be my judgment day.” I told her.
She told me “It’s not like you’re gonna die tomorrow. Why don’t you look at it in a different way? Instead of thinking about it as a problem, why don’t you just think of it as a solution to your problem? Because tomorrow you can get a diagnosis, and when you get the right diagnosis, you can get a proper treatment and eventually you will get better. If it is Covid, yes it is scary, but your symptoms are mild. I am sure your body can fight it.”
She made sense. She always does. I felt better.
We said our goodnights and I took one capsule of melatonin to aid me to sleep.
Wrong decision. It didn’t help me sleep. Worse, it caused me severe abdominal pain.
We went back to the hospital. I complained about my abdominal pain. My doctor associated it again with Covid. I was almost convinced that I have Covid. It fed my anxiety even more.
So my test results came out.
My swab test came back negative with bacteria.
My WBC was higher than before.
All of these are red flags for the doctor to consider me as a Covid positive patient.
The Xray was clear for pneumonia. It was a relief.
But still, the doctor can’t rule out Covid. He was as frustrated as I was because we don’t understand why my WBC was still high despite taking 3 different antibiotics. He ordered more tests. I told him that the ministry representative made it clear to me that they will never test me if my Xray came out clear. But, my doctor insisted that there’s still a possibility for Covid. He mentioned how he once had a patient whose Xray came out clear but still turned out to be positive. He suggested I take a CT Scan for my lungs, abdominal ultrasound, blood smear, and Urine Analysis. They said the CT Scan is clearer than Xray. They have discovered Covid patients by doing a CT Scan.
My husband and I were fed up with the idea of Covid that our doctor kept on insisting so we spoke up. We told him that maybe there’s a different disease that we can’t diagnose because we are stuck with the idea of Covid.
“Doctor, I started having sore throat on March 1, that was 2 months ago. I never had a fever. And I have interacted with a lot of people during those times. If I am infected, I would’ve infected a lot of people already. They’re all fine. My husband is asthmatic, if there is someone that I would infect first, it would be him. He’s still fine. And you can’t tell me to let the ministry test me because no matter what I do, they won’t. You kept on saying that I have Covid. You have no idea how much anxiety it is causing me. It’s too much.” I was about to cry but I was able to stop it.
There was silence.
I think the doctor was in shock and he may be contemplating what we just said.
The doctor asked about my medical history, it was then that I remembered that I had my blood tested September last year. Thank Goodness for the modern technology. I can access my previous results online. I opened my profile. It turned out that my WBC was the same level as it was last year. Apparently, this might be my normal range. My WBC is naturally high.
“Why didn’t you tell me about it? We kept on trying to find out what’s wrong. I kept on talking about Covid because it is really strange that your WBC is still high despite the antibiotics.”
We were all relieved. But we still decided to go for the further testing. I complained about my anxiety and how I cannot sleep. He gave me antihistamine to help me sleep.
On that same day, I had an abdominal ultrasound, CT Scan of the chest, blood smear, and urine analysis. It was exhausting. We were in the hospital for nearly 8 hours. We haven’t eaten yet. We were emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially exhausted.
The next day, I received a call from the doctor. I knew it from the start that my CT scan would come out clear.
“Your CT Scan was okay. So, no Covid.” We both laughed.
“We found small stones in your kidney, bacteria in your urine, Vitamin D deficiency, and a possible cyst in your ovary.”
The doctor finally ruled out Covid, but the anxiety it caused me needs time before it goes away.
He suggested for me to see other specialists but I chose not to. I don’t want to go back to the hospital again and expose my husband and I. So I just booked a phone consultation with the government hospital.
I had to tell my medical history again and again. After hearing my history, the doctor told me not to worry. Most of the results are incidental findings. The more we do tests, the more we would find that something is wrong. She told me that maybe my anxiety is causing all my symptoms. That if I learn how to manage it, I will start to feel better. He advised me to maintain a healthy lifestyle, get some Vit D from the sun, eat healthy, sleep well, unfollow news about Covid or any triggers, surround myself with positive people, do fun things, plan my day ahead, create a routine and stick to it.
It is really a conscious effort. I knew I had to take some action.
I started unfollowing any Covid related pages and updates. I try to drink as much water as I can. I make sure to have a 30min walk under the sun in front of our building. I reconnect with friends. I started cooking and baking again. I always try my best to keep myself busy. I started to feel stronger physically. There are still some weird physical discomfort at times but I don’t let it bother me as much as I used to before. Slowly, I have gained my physical strength back.
It is not an instant process. I don’t want to force myself to be better so I am taking it slow.
During the time that I was sick, I used to get jealous of people who are in good shape during the quarantine. I used to wish that I, too, can do the things they do. I used to wish that I wasn’t stuck in bed all day. I stopped wishing and I started doing. I helped myself. I accept help from people who care. Even the doctor who thought I had Covid became a friend who calls me everyday to ask about my day and if I am doing okay. I started thinking of my husband’s wellness. And I know he is well if I am well. So instead of doing it for myself, I do it for us.
My previous health battle was truly a test of marriage, a test of character, and a test of faith. I remember praying: “Lord, we have exhausted all possible medical treatments but nothing seemed to work. I know You are my healer and I trust that this is just a test and you will soon heal me.” I have learned how to surrender fully. I remember the times I held on the cross just so I can sleep. I remember crying out to the Lord to make me feel better. I remember praying over my husband while he sleeps just so he can remain strong and healthy as we both face my situation together. I remember waking up early just so I can pray in front of our altar. I remember questioning God and asking Him what He wants me to take away from this experience. I remember begging Him for strength to endure the pain. I remember praying over each part of my body that is in pain. I remember staring blankly into our altar trusting that God knows what I want to say when I cannot find the right words.
Being sick for so long and dealing with the fear of the unknown really made a huge impact into my being. I still cry inside whenever I remember. But I cry even more whenever I remember the love that I receive from family and friends.
There have been a lot of times that I felt weakness in my knees. I used to just stay in bed whenever it happens. But then, I realized that the only thing that I should do when I feel weak in the knees is to kneel down and pray.
Let’s trust that God is healing us. He is healing the world.