How battling coronavirus and surviving it changed Angara’s perspective on life

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2020 05:45 PM | Updated as of Apr 10 2020 06:58 PM

MANILA--Sen. Sonny Angara is a relatively healthy family man, frequently shooting hoops with colleagues, occasionally treating his children to burgers, and at times joining his wife for a few spinning classes.

But on March 26, Angara confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Tests showed that the senator suffered from pneumonia after the virus made its way to his lungs.

Angara credited doctors, nurses and health workers not just for his survival, but for giving him a more grounded perspective of the country's health-care system and how the government can improve it.

He talks about his experience in an email to ABS-CBN News. The full text is posted below:

SYMPTOMS

Nagsimula ang mga sintomas noong March 15 paggising ko kinaumagahan: nilalagnat, masakit ang pangangatawan, nananakit ang lalamunan, may ubo, nagda-diarrhea, at hirap sa paghinga. 

Dahil sa mga nararamdaman ko, ipinalagay ko nang ako’y apektado na ng virus. Agad akong nag-self quarantine sa isang kuwarto sa aming bahay, hiwalay sa aking asawa si Tootsy at aming mga anak. 

Noong March 16 ako nagpa-test at nakuha ko ang resulta nito noong March 26. 

Matapos akong magpa-test, nalaman ko na ang isa sa aking kaibigan at kasamahang senador na si Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri ay nag-positive na rin. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sonny angara (@sonnyangara) on

Lalo akong nakumbinse na posibleng apektado na nga ako ng virus dahil kaming dalawa ni Senator Zubiri ay laging magkasama sa iba’t ibang trabaho at mga kaganapan sa loob at labas ng Senado sa buong linggong iyon. 

So after many days of feeling bad, it was no surprise to get the official test results that I was COVID-positive that 26th of March. 

Not surprising but still quite a stunner when you are told you are positive for the virus. Thoughts go racing through one's head—of mortality, of having young children and wishing to see them pass through life's milestones down the road. 

Aaminin ko, nag-agaw sa isip ko—susuko ba ako o lalaban? There was an activation of one's fight-or-flight response, for sure.

CONFINEMENT

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Noong lumabas ang resulta, agad akong sinabihan ng aking mga kaibigang doktor na magpunta na sa ospital para ma-X-ray ang dibdib ko at ang baga ko. Hindi maganda ang resulta dahil lumabas na mayroon akong pneumonia. Nakita rin sa X-ray na may mga white spots ako sa baga na nagpapatunay na naroon ang virus. 

Doon ko na lang natanggap na mas malala ang kalagayan ko, kesa sa inaakala ko at nararamdaman ko. Pumasok na sa isip ko yung mga posibilidad na baka lagyan na ako ng tubo at ikonekta sa ventilator. 

Sa loob ng 36 oras mula nang matanggap ko ang mga resultang ito, nagmakaawa sa akin ang aking pamilya, lalo na ang aking mga anak na pumasok na sa ospital dahil yun naman daw ang payo ng mga doktor.

Noong una, tumanggi ako dahil iniisip ko—kaya ko pa. Pero nung sinabi sa akin ng mga doktor na kung inaakala kong bumubuti ang kalagayan ko, h’wag daw akong magtiwala dahil itong virus na ito ay “traydor.” 

Maaaring mabuti ang pakiramdam ko ngayon, pero bibiglain ako isang araw na ‘di na ko halos makahinga at kailangan ko ng oxygen. 

Thus began my hospital journey. 

We were told there were no rooms available in St. Luke's BGC but that I could stay in the emergency room (ER) while waiting for a regular room. 

I was placed in a makeshift corner of the ER where I stayed for four days waiting for a regular room. The room hardly had natural light and had grey concrete walls which partly dictated the mood for those four days of testing my heart, lungs and what have you. 

'BATTERY OF DRUGS'

Doctors prescribed a battery of drugs which in retrospect I realize were quite strong. Perhaps indicating I had underestimated the depth and strength of the virus. 

The much-bandied hydroxychloroquine (a known treatment for malaria and lupus) was prescribed with its attendant risks to heart health. As were lopinavir and ritonavir which is a known medicine for HIV patients. 

Sa loob ng ilang araw ng medikasyon, lumalabas na tumatalab ang mga ito sa akin at bumubuti ang kalagayan ko, sabi ng mga doktor. 

Palagay ko, malaki ang naitulong sa akin ng healthy diet na sinimulan ko noong Enero ngayong taon. Mula sa dati kong timbang noong nakaraang taon, nabawasan ito ng 10 pounds. 

Naging masigasig din ako sa paglalaro ng basketball sa iba’t ibang paliga—sa ngalan ng aking kalusagan at libangan. Malamang, malaki ang naitulong nito sa akin para labanan ang virus.

Nagpalakas sa kalooban ko ang suporta ng aking mga kaibigan lalo na ng aking pamilya. Libu-libong magagandang mensahe ang ipinadadala sa akin sa telepono at sa social media. There were also gifts of food and home-cooked meals (no disrespect to hospital food). 

Most importantly, there were letters from my wife and kids, and people saying I was in their prayers. 

When you are down there is nothing like tens or hundreds of your friends and school co-parents praying for your recovery. I thank the Lord, for I felt his intervention through friends’ and strangers’ acts of kindness. 

PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALING

Sa ilang araw ko sa ospital na tanging social media at Netflix ang kasama ko, doon ko nahanap ang oras na makipag-usap sa Diyos nang taimtim. 

Hiniling ko sa Kaniya na ituro sa akin ang tamang daan ng buhay. This episode has definitely strengthened and regenerated my faith and my conviction.

Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa aking pinakamamahal na maybahay na si Tootsy na itinuturing kong sandigan at sa aming mga anak na araw-araw ay pinalalakas ang loob ko. 

Araw-araw, pinadadalhan nila ako ng care packages, pagkain at mga sulat na gawa ng aking mga anak. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sonny angara (@sonnyangara) on

Their love, I leant on every single day, never wavering and perpetual. Yung buhos ng pagmamahal nila ang lalo pang nagpapalakas sa akin sa bawat araw. 
 
I spent another 4-5 days in a regular hospital room which was a welcome change—one had a window with natural light, a television, a warm shower which were absent in the ER. 

Again, the treatments prescribed were all effective and I improved every day. 

Doctors told me it was just a matter of time before they sent me home. They just needed to have negative results from the latest COVID swab tests.

A few days ago, I got that result and my doctors sent me home. Going home was pure joy although again I had to self-quarantine for 14 days to protect my family and kasambahay/househelpers.

Lahat ng bagay na hindi ko halos pinapansin noon, ipinagpapasalamat ko ngayon: simpleng pag-inom ng mainit na calamansi juice at hot chocolate, mainit na pandesal habang pinanonood ko ang paglubog ng araw. 

How we take some things for granted, it occurred to me. 

'UNDERVALUED' FRONTLINERS

All the while in my hospital stay, I received the best, most professional assistance from my doctors and nurses. I am eternally grateful to these brave, courageous men and women.

Habang panahon kong ipagpapasalamat sa kanila ang pagdudugtong sa aking buhay. 

Sa araw-araw kong pakikpag-usap sa kanila, nalaman ko kung gaano kahirap ang kanilang pinagdaraanan sa mga panahong ito. 

May isang nag-kwento kung paano ilan sa kanila ay nagiging biktima ng diskriminasyon. Pinalalayas raw sa kanilang tirahan. 

Ang iba nga, hindi na lamang umuuwi at sa ospital na lang namamalagi o kaya’y sa malalapit na housing. Ang iba sa kanila, nagdo-double duty pa sa ibang mga ospital dahil kulang sa staff ang mga ospital ngayon. 

Those were just some of the stories which make up the human tapestry of our health professionals. 

I would go home and celebrate our youngest child's birthday with him whereas they faced an uncertain future with the risk of the coronavirus staring them in the face EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I thought: "How brave and undervalued these people are in our society."

I thought as a public servant how we need to invest even more in our health system, as we see how different health systems all over the world cope with varying degrees of success with the virus.

A city like New York City with the most number of billionaires in the world had a hospital and health system stretched to the limit with people being turned away from hospitals and crucial equipment like PPEs or protective equipment and respirators in short supply. The irony of it all. 

There was the realization that the choices made by leaders matter so much in times like these.

Ilang araw makalipas akong makalabas ng ospital, balik trabaho ako kahit dito lang sa aking tahanan. Lahat ng problemang kinakaharap natin, tutulong ako sa paghahanap ng solusyon. 

Kailangang ihanda natin ang bansa at ang bawat isa sa napipintong paglala ng sitwasyon. Kailangan, siguruhin nating walang magugutom, at tiyaking maisasalba sila sa tiyak na kapahamakan sa araw-araw; pagtitiyak na ‘di babagsak ang mga negosyo o industriya at mawawala ang mga trabaho sa bansa sa gitna ng krisis na ito na walang katiyakan kung saan tayo dadalhin.

This is our generation's war and unlike past wars, we are not called upon to bear arms and confront death everyday like our grandparents' generation. 

We are simply called upon to sacrifice our many freedoms and stay home with our families. 

It's not easy, but keeping things in perspective it's not terribly difficult either. 

It is a test of our fortitude. It is also a test for our leaders. And I have no doubt that if we work with each other we will pull through.