Notes & Essays

The COVID-19 Battleground at Home

A mother fights the potential COVID-19 battle within her own fortress.
ILLUSTRATOR Warren Espejo
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Ever since this pandemic hit, I've made it a point to be extra-careful, to a point of exaggeration, with our home safety procedures.

A friend of mine, a military officer, told me early on that the first line of defense in any conflict should be avoidance, in the hope that an actual battle is prevented; because in the latter case, loss of lives of combatants and civilian casualties is inevitable.

I believed him, because he has been to many battles, and lost so many of his men.

So I tried to make our home our fortress. I put a home-made footbath on our doorstep, a pail of soapy water in our garage for clothes used by our designated runner, reminders to wash and disinfect on stickies all over the house. Everything that comes in is wiped down with disinfectant.

Despite my precautions, my daughter developed high fever several nights ago, after going out only to pick up bread from the store. Fever was accompanied by severe head and body ache; her upped vitamins plus other meds caused very severe stomach acidity that she could not hold anything in. She had to be completely isolated in her room. 

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And so our fortress was overrun and our home became the frontline of the battle.

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You know, it’s no easy thing taking care of a sick child (she's a young adult but my child nevertheless) in this time of COVID-19 because you can’t even rub her back while she is puking or help her do a sponge bath.

You have to call her on her cell phone to prod her to take her temperature, oxygen level and heart rate every hour, and drink her concoction of medicines at the appropriate time despite her physical weakness.

She cries in frustration every time she throws up her food or meds because she knows she has to do it all over again until she is able to hold them down long enough for the body to be able to absorb them. And all you can do is to hollowly assure that this will be over soon.

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You want to bring her to the hospital for better management, but know that bed space is precious at this time and doctors and nurses should prioritize patients who are worse off. I wear a mask and gloves while delivering her food on a table set up outside her room, and even while washing her dishes and even pulling out her laundry.

Together with my sister, who is a doctor, we monitor her via video throughout the night because a high fever could make her delirious.

We were able to get her tested for COVID-19 because she fit all the markers. She had to be picked up from our home and brought to the facility by strangers wearing protective gear. I was crying because I wanted to be there to hold her hand through the very uncomfortable swabbing, but could not because we are all classified as suspects who may have the virus too. 

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She came home with a bag of puke after the test and the ride aggravated her tummy situation. 

To make things worse, our youngest daughter also developed a fever last night, and her Ate feels responsible, adding to her distress and mine. We are fortunate to have the luxury of being able to isolate the kids in her own rooms.

I have since asked my husband to send out for four different kinds of thermometers and a couple of oximeters because I am hopeful they are just not reading accurately. Because she is too young to take care of herself, I have taken the chance of staying with the little one to give her sponge baths, take her vitals, and give out medicines on schedule, despite my own co-morbidities.  

I’m not sure if our kids have COVID-19 as we are still waiting for the results of the swab test. However, having any illness at this time is completely overwhelming.

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The best situation is to not get sick.

While we can argue that quarantining is so old-school and we should just catch the situation by treating the sick, what the infected go through is really daunting, overwhelming and scary; and it’s just as difficult for their families.

I do not wish this sense of vulnerability on my worst enemy, and I cannot imagine how those who do not have the means to safely care for patients at home will triumph. As it is, and despite my frustration in having to manage my sick kids at home, I know better than to strain the last line of our defense against this war.

I beg everyone to please stop doing our own analyses of figures, comparing numbers with other countries, and making conclusions on what the right way to manage the situation should be in consideration of economic impacts.

Those making decisions for us have been studying epidemics for years. We shouldn’t think we are better than they are just because we are able to read what is fed to us on the internet.

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We need to concede to our decision-makers, to science. Despite my initial frustration, I have come to understand that there is wisdom in target testing of only the symptomatic (as against mass testing), because of the likelihood of false negatives (carriers may not test positive until they are symptomatic) that will embolden those who tested negative to wander about, only to become symptomatic a few days later, potentially having exposed their families and the public in the meantime.

Our bread store owner assures me their employees all tested negative before they were allowed to come back to work, but who’s to say none were carriers meantime.  

There is much to be desired in the handling of this pandemic. But this is not the time to call for resignations or targeting of positions. Our thrust should just be to survive this, and let’s just act on lessons learned next election day.

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I am keeping a brave front in this battle.

My husband and I are both high risk for COVID due to co-morbidities. Our eldest daughter is pregnant and living with us. Two of our helpers are seniors who have been with us since our kids were young. If this really is COVID, it will wipe us all out.

I pray this battle will not test your own home fortress. I can only imagine what will happen when people start going out when ECQ is lifted. Every home fortress will be tested, and like mine, many will fall.

God be with us all.

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