COVID-19 is not a death sentence, and for survivor Arlene Sy, anyone can beat the dreaded disease using a threefold approach.
Arlene knew that once she stepped foot inside the isolated Emergency Room tent for COVID-19 patients of a private hospital in San Juan City, there’s no telling when she would be back home.
She recalled asking her brother-in-law to take her to the hospital on July 25, 2020 after her cough worsened for two straight days after going into voluntary quarantine for COVID-19 at home.
At that moment, Arlene had a nagging feeling that she had contracted COVID-19 despite the negative result from a rapid test. But without the confirmatory results from the RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test and other tests, all that Arlene could do was to wait patiently inside the emergency room.
“The ER experience was the highlight of my journey, because when I got there I was able, unlike most of the other patients. So I was kind of people-watching and I really saw how the patients are really fighting for their lives,” she recalled.
“What I saw at the ER is really heart-breaking. I still can’t get over it visually,” she said.
Then came the bad news. The pulmonologist informed her that she was indeed COVID-19 positive. Worse, her situation has already progressed to pneumonia, with water slowly filling her lungs due to the dreaded virus.
But instead of fearing for her life, Arlene told her doctor to do everything necessary to help her get well.
Looking back at her journey during her confinement, Arlene said fighting COVID-19 is a battle that needs to be fought threefold: the mind, the body, and the spirit.
Mind over matter
Arlene pointed out that the mind is the first struggle that COVID-19 patients need to conquer. Most COVID-19 patients experience sleepless nights due to anxiety and paranoia of what might happen to them in the future. She added that most coronavirus patients may feel a sense of loneliness in isolation, especially when they start to think that they might not see their loved ones ever again, or that they might not survive from the malady.
“The battle begins with the mind. What you feed your mind may affect you physically. So you have to be aware of what’s going on in your mind,” she said.
Arlene shared that the first thing she did as soon as she found out that she was COVID-19 positive was acceptance. The moment she experienced the symptoms, Arlene said she had already accepted the possibility that she had COVID-19, even if the test results weren’t available at the time.
Accepting the fact that she might have COVID-19 enabled her to take precautionary measures in order to protect her family, such as going into self-quarantine in her room and voluntarily going to the ER to have herself checked by physicians.
In the hospital, she started writing her experience and thoughts in a journal to keep her mind busy. Arlene also stayed away from the television to avoid hearing or seeing negative news that may trigger her anxiety.
“Acceptance played a crucial role why I survived COVID-19. Through acceptance, I didn’t need to wallow in questions why I got the virus or how I got it in the first place. Acceptance also helped me to look at the positive side of my situation at that time,” she said.
“My mindset at that time was ‘I’m going to be okay and I would just weather the storm.’ I also put my full trust on the physician that they will do their best to get me better,” she added.
“From the time I was admitted at the hospital, I started writing my daily reflections which allowed me to share with my family and my circle. I don’t want to feed my mind with negativity.”
Listen to your body
During her road to COVID-19 recovery, Arlene also highlighted the importance of taking care of the body.
She recalled that she treated her stay in the hospital as a temporary “staycation” where she could completely rest and relax. Since she didn’t have any visitors, Arlene spent most of her time sleeping and eating healthy food while in the hospital.
For those experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, Arlene encourages them to take a swab test as soon as possible.
Most importantly, Arlene’s isolation in the hospital gave her the opportunity to communicate with God more often. She often played Christian music in the hospital to help her relax and relieve her anxiety.
“I think you cannot totally get rid of anxiety but of course, you really need to fight it,” she continued. To cope with her situation during that time, she resorted to “prayer, being silent, and remembering the goodness of God in my life,” she shared.
“This aspect plays such an important role in your battle. Since COVID-19 is invisible, your offense and defense should be supernatural,” she added.
Arlene Sy is the executive director of Visions of Hope Foundation and is back at work. Now, she wears another title across her heart: COVID-19 survivor.
About the Writer
Leonard James Postrado
Leonard James Postrado is WSP Inc. Senior Manager for media relations. He is also a former Manila Bulletin reporter who covered the Police, Local Government Units, Government Agencies, and the Justice beats for nine years. He also contributed stories to several news agencies such as Agence France Presse, Xinhua, Rappler, and GMA News. He joined the PR industry as a Communications Officer of Senator Win Gatchalian in 2018.
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