Doctor and researcher Renz Paas, a COVID-19 survivor, is willing to rejoin to the frontlines as soon as he can.
In late March, the frontliner started experiencing dry coughing and shortness of breath, followed by anosmia (the loss of the sense of smell) and dysgeusia (the loss of the sense of taste). Running a continuous fever, he went on home quarantine, temporarily leaving his post as a resident doctor in a prominent Quezon City hospital.
After a chest x-ray detected pneumonia in his lungs, Dr. Paas was admitted to a hospital. He learned a week later that he was positive for COVID-19. He believes he contracted the coronavirus from a patient.
“So far, the epidemiologic data about COVID-19 published in NEJM, The Lancet, and etc. were all true,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The anosmia and dysgeusia were initial symptoms. And you can get pneumonia even [you're in your] 20s!”
In an attempt to treat the ailment, Dr. Paas was given broad-spectrum antibiotics. According to him, this was standard, as COVID-19 is “managed and treated as pneumonia,” he told PressOne.ph in an online interview. Later on, he agreed to take hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that is still under debate in the United States but has received approval from both the DOH and the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
On April 4, Dr. Paas announced that he had been discharged from the hospital, free from COVID-19. Despite the coincidence of his hydroxychloroquine intake and his swift recovery from the virus, Renz has made no claim as to the drug’s virus-battling capacity.
“Until now, the treatment regimens available are based on small clinical trials. There is no absolute treatment to COVID-19. Let's keep safe, practice social distancing, and WASH YOUR HANDS,” he wrote on Facebook.
"During the first few weeks of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, when the cases were starting to increase, I was assigned at the non-COVID unit of the hospital. So we used standard attire for non-COVID cases. At that time, it was already recommended to wear N95 masks for extra protection since some patients in the non-COVID unit might have previous exposure and were asymptomatic," Dr. Paas told Preview.
"We wore the recommended personal protective equipment when dealing patients who were eventually diagnosed as Person Under Investigation (PUI). But I think despite these careful measures, we still had inadvertent exposure to patients who were asymptomatic or subclinical at that time. And I think that’s where I contracted the virus. Since then, we implemented stricter rules for protection. A lot of residents and fellows-in-training from other institutions had the same experiences—some were admitted and some were quarantined. The exposure is unpredictable so it’s very important to take extra measures especially in preventing cross-contamination," he said.
"Since the cases are increasing, it’s important to be very careful and protect yourself first as a frontliner. [Act] as if everyone is a possible carrier of the virus. We now have clinical practice guidelines and hospital pathways to follow in handling patients—especially in resuscitating Covid-19 patients. I think it’s important to follow these guidelines to protect ourselves, since we cannot afford to lose more frontliners in this battle. I also appreciated the compassion and care showed to me by the nurses I have worked with in the hospital as they took care of me as their patient. Compassion is really needed during these trying times," he said.
As of writing, a vaccine has yet to be proven effective against the disease. Studies are currently underway to validate whether the blood samples of COVID-19 survivors will prove useful to the development of a cure.
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