Disease survivor: Howie Severino says ‘COVID-19 need not be a death sentence’
MANILA, Philippines — “I Am Patient 2828.”
With this remark, veteran investigative journalist Howie Severino on Tuesday revealed his own struggle to triumph over COVID-19.
Offering a message of hope albeit with a glimpse of hard realities while battling the highly contagious disease, Severino penned a narration of his personal experience on GMA News.
“After nine days in the hospital, a bout of pneumonia and a major scare, I think I can now be called a COVID-19 survivor,” he said.
“COVID-19 need not be a death sentence. I am living proof,” he further wrote. “A combination of good fortune, physical fitness and competent medical treatment probably saved my life.”
He said chances of surviving are higher than what present statistics seem to show.
“Don’t believe all the statistics. One false impression is that the fatalities outnumber the recoveries, artificially bloating the case fatality rate,” he noted.
“The reality is many of the recoveries don’t get counted, while the deaths often make the news, adding to the overwhelming sense of dread. The odds of survival are pretty good.”
He also emphasized that patients “choose to remain invisible” because of the fear surrounding COVID-19.
“This disease is one of the most stigmatized and loneliest in human history, perhaps comparable only to leprosy where quarantine can be forever,” he said.
On getting treated for the disease, he wrote, “It’s a tale of long painful needles that couldn’t find a vein in my hands, the swabs down my throat that made me gag, the torture of long sleep deprivation, and the team of doctors who formed a Viber group to discuss updates on my case and the experimental drug chloroquine that worked on patients elsewhere and eventually worked on me.”
The documentarist even shared lessons on being a patient and gave advice on how to provide support if one is caring for a COVID-19 positive person.
“Transparency is an obligation,” he went on. “While there are good reasons to keep this condition under wraps — there are even privacy laws that can justify it — it’s not fair to anyone who has had close contact with you.”
“For the greater good, we are required to disclose our COVID-19 status to the Department of Health. Contact tracing can go a long way in preventing its further spread.”
On addressing the loneliness that comes with being isolated due to the disease, he said: “The most someone can do for a COVID-19 patient is to stay in touch online.”
Severino then advised not only sending “get well messages” but also “family news, your playlists, jokes, and memes.”
“We do not need more pity,” he said.
He added that interactions with medical staff helped, too. “Even with this [online] connection, the regular visits of nurses to perform tests and take your vital signs were indispensable in maintaining a mental balance.”
He likewise spoke of getting past mental struggles while fighting to get better and credited his wife for helping him get some peace of mind.
“The debilitating effects of the disease and the medication combined with the uncertainty produced one of the worst nights of my life. Unable to sleep, I was delirious with visions of death crossing my mind,” he recalled.
“My wife calmly walked me through meditation and breathing exercises she learned at theater workshops.”
He also shared the realities of frontliners, including those who decline to handle COVID-19 patients. “One can’t blame them considering the risks and discrimination,” he said.
Severino said he hoped to not only help fight the disease through raising public awareness but also in advancing medical research.
“If it’s true that I will have antibodies in my blood that can help others fight off infection, I’ll be glad to donate this accidental gift. It’s a small price for all survivors to pay for the chance to see the sun again.”
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