Shares 11 helpful tips on how to get through this harrowing experience

By Michael Cheng

This is the story of how our family experienced and surmounted COVID-19. We hope that it can help other families who are going through the same experience or would like to better prepare themselves for having to live with the virus.

We are a family of five. I’m Michael Cheng, 44 years old, and I am the vice president for innovation and technology in one of the progressive packaging companies here in the Philippines. My wife Maryanne is 45 years old and we have three children, Julian, 11, Nathan, 9, and Andrew, 5. We didn’t have household help when we started experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Our eldest Julian experienced symptoms the previous day, Aug 11: fatigue after class, and a headache that seemed to be crushing his head all around. He said that all he wanted to do was to lie down. We decided to immediately inform our pediatrician, who advised us to take the RT-PCR test immediately. We scheduled one through a lab that does home-service sample collection, for the morning of the next day, August 12.

Throughout the morning of August 12, Julian started to manifest other symptoms: light coughing, a clogged nose and itchy throat, and joint pains. By early evening, his temperature went up to 38.3C. The entire day, we were hoping that all he had was the common flu. 

We got the positive result that evening. This bit of news went down like a hammer hitting us. After getting through our initial shock, we immediately had a tele-consult with our pediatrician who prescribed some medicines to manage the symptoms. We then went on to prepare the rooms

so that we could isolate Julian from the rest of the household. My wife and I decided that I would sleep in with Julian, so that I could look after him. She would sleep in the other room with our two other boys. That night, I tried to sleep when I could, but I would be waking up frequently to check up on Julian and give him medicine.

We decided to take the test for the rest of the household on August 13 and got our results the next day, August 14, which showed all four of us remaining negative. It was most probably a test taken too early though.

My wife started to experience symptoms on August 14, Saturday. She had a nasal drip that proceeded to an itchy throat. The next day, August 15, she started experiencing fatigue and 38-degree fevers. That night, my wife started sleeping and confined herself in our living room.

My two other sons soon followed with their symptoms. On August 17, Tuesday, Nathan started to cough and had a 38-degree fever. Andrew also started to have fever and a runny nose. My wife and kids had a retest done on August 17. They were confirmed positive on August 18.

FATHER HOLDS THE FORT. Michael Cheng stayed strong and healthy to take care of his wife Maryanne and three children, Julian, 11, Nathan, 9, and Andrew, 5.

At this point, I was the only member not experiencing any symptoms, and effectively running the household: checking up on my wife and kids, making sure they take medication, managing their symptoms (sponge baths, massage), purchasing medication, updating the doctors, preparing meals, and cleaning up. For several months, we had been getting our food from our “suki” kitchen, and family and friends have been sending food and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) our way, so this was one less thing to worry about. I made a routine and stuck to it.

As we were worried about our kids getting hospitalized, my wife and I asked about home protocols from our attending physicians, and we were given a set of guidelines and activities to follow, and what symptoms to watch out for which meant that we had to rush to the hospital. The most important symptoms to be looking at were the fever (number of days had), oxygen levels (going below 94 percent) and difficulty in breathing.

The medicines prescribed depend on the exhibited symptoms: there will be medicines to manage fever, cough, colds, body pain, and antibiotics to handle pneumonia. If necessary, steroids will be prescribed. To boost our immunity, we had multivitamins and probiotics for the kids, vitamin D, and generous doses (3000 mg throughout the day) of vitamin C with Zinc for us adults. We supplemented this with lots of fruits, and fluids. For some, ask your doctor if aspirin is recommended.

To those who would like to know, I and my wife also decided to take Lien Hua and Chinese herbal tea, and during the worst moments of her symptoms, we both took Ivermectin, following the protocol of Dr. Landrito. At all times, communicate your medication with your physician.

A person assigned to the Covid Command center of our city made calls to us, as well as a barangay-assigned case tracker. We discussed with them our situation with our children, and we agreed to a home-isolation condition. They would ask for updates regarding our symptoms.

We let the virus run its course. My eldest eventually lost his sense of taste, but his fever subsided and did not return after his third day of symptoms. The coughing, headache, and lost sense of taste gradually diminished during the 14-day symptomatic period. My youngest had the quickest recovery: after one and a half days, his fever and runny nose subsided, and he did not experience any more symptoms. My second child took a while to shake off his fever. He stopped having his fever on the third day of his symptoms, but it returned on the fifth day. Also, his coughing was the loudest and most frequent among our children. Our doctor had to make adjustments to his medication.

My wife took the longest to come out from her more debilitating symptoms. Her fever stopped on the ninth day of her symptomatic period. We had to change to a stronger anti-pyretic, and she had to start on her steroids along the way. Her coughing up to this point was on a crescendo. On August 23, her oxygen level went down to 93 to 94 percent after a coughing fit and a short walk to the bathroom. We used an oxygen concentrator that we purchased several months back, to help restore Anne’s oxygen to normal levels. After 15 minutes of use, her levels went back to 98 percent. 

After this tense episode, she seemed to get over the hump. Her fever did not return, and her coughing, though still continuous, was less frequent, and productive. To be sure about her condition, her doctor had ordered a chest X-ray and some blood tests to confirm if she had developed pneumonia. Her x-ray showed some small areas of collapse related to the excessive coughing and viral infection, but did not have any severe densities that showed that pneumonia had set in. We were so relieved.

As for me, my body finally succumbed to the virus on August 24. I had a runny nose on the 23rd and I experienced fever and chills on the 24th . My main symptoms lasted for three days; I was without fever and colds on the 4th day of my symptomatic period. I lost my sense of smell on the fifth day. Since then, I have progressively gotten my smell and taste back.

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Looking back, I would like to share the following realizations:

  1. Establish/re-establish your communication with your doctor and ask for referrals early on. Report to and have an open line of communication with your attending physician. The more accurate and updated your information to your doctor is, the better the management of symptoms and outcomes of your loved ones will be.
  2. Never underestimate or dismiss your symptoms. We have all heard stories about people shrugging off their symptoms as just ‘the flu’, which delay the immediate actions necessary. Isolation strategies and early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in the spread of the infection and outcomes of the household affected by the virus.
  3. Have a strict schedule of monitoring symptoms and diligently note down symptoms. The thermometer and oximeter are your best friends. I kept a regular log of whatever my family was feeling, how tired they were and after which activity, how much they coughed out and how often. I was especially concerned about signs of inflammatory syndrome with the kids prolonged fever, rashes, red eyes and a strawberry tongue. Keeping a record can also help you keep track of time: at one point, fatigue made me miscount the dates, but going back to my record helped me remember what things happened on which day, during my updates to the doctor.
  4. Also, another point: Covid is a treacherous disease; depending on your body’s resistance and reaction to the infection, your symptoms will vary and fluctuate. Covid may also have longer term effects even after the initial infection is subdued, but more on that in a later paragraph.
  5. Follow safety protocols as much as you can. Though l slept in the same room as Julian, I still wore my surgical mask, wore my glasses when I approached him, and slept 3m away. My wife and I wore our masks all the time, except when eating. During the day, we opened the windows and positioned the fans so that the air in the rooms would circulate and flow out of the windows. We used separate utensils for each family member. Since we live in a single level with just a few rooms, it was only a question of when each one of us would get the virus. But since I was able to hold out for as long as I could before getting infected, minimizing viral load was important. For those of you who can do so, isolate early and completely.
  6. Follow the treatment protocols provided by the attending physician. It was a challenge to have the kids take in their medicines at times, but this regimen had to be implemented strictly. You can’t get well without the proper treatment. Especially for the strong antibiotics, I would say making my kids take this in the proper timing was one of my most important tasks.
  7. Maintain a present-looking, positive, must-do outlook. Keep in mind the information that you read, but do not be caught stuck up in what might happen. Identify and address symptoms as they come. Prepare, but do not use up a lot of time in the present moment to dwell on your fears. Stick to your regimen, but do not be too hard on yourself though if you miss some items in your routine.
  8. Rest whenever possible and keep your immune system strong. During my routine, I would nap on the table or beside my kids on the bed, wearing my mask on. Some days, there will be successive activities that you will need to do. Take advantage of any downtime as it comes. Closing my eyes would be enough to quiet my mind for a while, aside from resting my body.
  9. Reach out for help. I can never stress enough the importance of your circle of support, who would never know about your situation unless you speak out. The physical, emotional, and spiritual support provided by your family and friends are a critical component of your capability to win over the virus.
  10. Take the time to rest and recover. As I have mentioned above, Covid has lingering effects. In both of our cases, my wife and I have discovered that after the 14-day symptomatic period, there are still effects to our bodies because of them encountering the virus. Both of us cannot talk for extensive periods of time, without having to go hoarse and catching our breath. My wife’s legs feel very tired after a period of standing up, and she has to rest afterwards. I have been experiencing brain fog, which I can describe as a point where I cannot form a coherent idea from all the ideas in my mind, and my brain just refuses to think intentionally anymore. I can only last for a certain period doing intentional thinking, and this fog would inevitably roll in. With enough rest, we recover from these effects, and every day we try to see what our new limits of endurance are. But we cannot rush making our bodies recover faster; it is like a nine-month pregnancy that must happen on its own time.
  11. Pray incessantly and unceasingly. During and after the entire ordeal, but especially in the moments where I was weakest, I would turn to prayer to the Source of all our strength. Our understanding and experience of this disease is at its infancy, and there are a lot of blind spots along the way. Our faith and hope for a better tomorrow, recovered and fully restored, can only come from a quiet and expectant heart that fully trusts the One up above.

As a last point, we would like to venture how we got the virus in the first place. We had rarely gone out except for a quick visit to our parents, and the timing of the infection was beyond the incubation period if we start counting from those visits. We suspect that it was through the improper handling of packages that were delivered to our home. Our household help at the time (she left us right after our eldest son started experiencing symptoms) was haphazard in cleaning the packages that came in, and was several times caught not washing/sanitizing properly some food packs despite our express instruction to do so. The more contagious variant that is making the rounds these days most probably infected us this way.

We would have to learn how to live with this virus. We as a species build on each other’s ideas and contributions, to bring about a future reality markedly improved from the present. It is my hope that through this article, I have done my part in helping us move forward.

Source: Manila Bulletin (