For Lionel Lansang, a 47-year-old hemodialysis technician at Astoria Dialysis Center in New York, USA, the telltale signs of COVID-19 began on the morning of March 29, when he woke up to severe migraine, high blood pressure, a racing pulse rate, and muscle soreness and stiffness.
The symptoms worsened in the following days. Chilling from a fever of 100.5F, he wore layer upon layer of clothing to keep warm. Unable to breathe when he tried to sleep, he shifted from lying on his back to sitting on a chair every two hours “just to get air into my lungs,” he said.
On a video call with his primary physician, Lionel learned that he might have the novel coronavirus, a bitter pill to swallow for this father of three young sons. “It was hard to accept because I was fully covered from head to toe at work,” says Lionel in an email to My Pope Philippines.
Lionel recounts the dark and difficult days of battling COVID-19 alone at home—and what he did to pull through. (READ: Christopher de Leon: “Healing from COVID-19 was a spiritual journey”)
How do you think you got the virus?
I thought I got the virus from my patient, a 30-plus-year-old Spanish male dialysis patient, who was the very first COVID-19 positive patient who entered the unit. He passed away after six days. Three weeks later after contracting the virus, I kept thinking who got the virus first among the staff. I remembered a male nurse who was showing some symptoms at work (fever of 100F-102F, diarrhea, headaches). I remember having a conversation with him before he mentioned his symptoms to the staff. (Read: Here’s why you should dry your hands with paper towels instead of automatic hand dryers)
Did you take the test to confirm if you had COVID-19?
I took the test on April 7 at an urgent care clinic in New Jersey. My primary medical doctor had to write me a prescription for the test. The tester inserted a very long swab, first in my left nostril all the way inside the nasal cavity, and then in my right nostril. It was painful and I ended up in tears. The results were made available in 7-10 days. (Lionel’s test came out positive.)
Even if you had symptoms, you continued to work and just rested at home.
My rest at home was bizarre. I first had a fever, fatigue, coughing, loss of appetite, body aches, sore throat, headaches, and chills. I looked pale and was very irritable. Everything around me smelled like rust. On my way to the urgent care clinic, I stopped by Taco Bell and asked for the fire hot sauce; I put it on my tongue but I didn’t feel the spice.
I rested at home a few times then went to work the next day. I never had a self-quarantine during the pandemic because my clinical manager wanted me to continue working, though I mentioned I was not feeling well. (READ: 5 Filipino nurses who’ll inspire you to stay strong and compassionate amid COVID-19 crisis)
How did you address your symptoms?
I was told by my primary physician to take Tylenol every 4-6 hours. But the more I took it, the less effective it was at relieving me of my symptoms. Since Tylenol was sold out in many pharmacies and I was desperate to take anything to reduce my symptoms, I saw Bayer [aspirin]. It seemed nobody was buying it because everybody was focused on Tylenol, and when I took it, I got better faster.
I have a high tolerance for pain, but the pain I felt was almost unbearable. Bayer helped ease my fever, muscle pains, and headaches. I didn’t have any appetite so I forced myself to eat Campbell’s chicken soup because I was getting weak. I drank lots of hot tea with lemon to keep my dry throat moist. I also used Vicks VapoRub and took an Ester-C 1000 mg tablet daily. (Read: 4 Key Facts to Remember When Buying Health Supplements)
Did you think this was going to be the end for you?
On April 8, that’s when I experienced asthma-like shortness of breath. Whenever I took five steps, I would lose my breath and end up on my knees. I couldn’t make it to the bathroom or kitchen so I crawled. I really felt I was not going to make it that night.
What kept you going?
I cried because I didn’t want my young children to grow up without a father, so I told myself, “I need to fight this and see my kids grow up.” It was my kids that kept me going. I spiritually fought the COVID-19 virus and I didn’t want people to remember me dying of it. I wanted to die an old man. I couldn’t see my kids for several weeks and I didn’t want them to get the virus. (Read: GMA News’ Howie Severino recovers from COVID-19, shares his eye-opening experience)
How have you been since you recovered?
The next day after I’ve fully recovered, I immediately went to work. I lost 18 lbs. within just two weeks. Now, I greet friends with an elbow bump, practice social distancing, wash my hands for 20 seconds, use hand sanitizers, and wear a face mask in public.