What it's like to experience mild COVID-19 symptoms

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A Filipino millennial based in Germany shares her experience of recovering from the novel coronavirus from her home. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 2) — Filipino student Racquel Helena "Kelly" Dicolen Abagat had sore throat on March 14, a day after returning from a study trip to Brussels, Belgium. Since she's a fan of sweets and softdrinks, she didn't make a big deal out of it. That was until she got a headache and a 38.2 degree Celsius fever the next day.

Her symptoms got worse in the succeeding days. She lost her ability to taste and smell. Swallowing became a task — making it hard for her to eat and drink water. Then the cough came.

"Middle of the week, ‘yun talaga ang difficulty of breathing. Parang may dumadagan sa dibdib mo. Tapos you can’t sleep na totally flat ang bed, kailangan elevated ang katawan mo so you can breathe well,” Kelly said in a Viber interview.

[Translation: By the middle of the week, I was having difficulty breathing. It felt like something was on my chest. You cannot sleep on a flat bed, you always have to be elevated so you can breathe properly.]

The 24-year-old graduate student based in Berlin was having a hard time doing normal chores, such as cooking, because she would be easily exhausted. It reached a point that her chest would feel so tight that she had to breathe through her mouth.

She realized these are all respiratory symptoms linked to the coronavirus disease.

Germany's COVID-19 protocol

With her recent travel history and COVID-19 symptoms, she qualified for testing. She went to a designated testing center in Berlin, Germany on March 16. Health workers sent her home after taking her samples.

After three days, they called to deliver the news: Kelly has severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2 for short.

A Quarantine Certificate also came in the mail. Enclosed are the protocols on staying at home for 14 days and on ending her quarantine.

She was also asked to send a form to everyone she was with two days before the onset of her symptoms, telling them to watch out for any indication of COVID-19 infection.

“The doctor advised me, since it was just mild symptoms, to just stay home,” Kelly said.

The doctor didn’t prescribe any medicine, but only told her to boost her immune system. She began eating vegetables and regularly took Vitamin C and Zinc while recuperating.

Kelly recalled her doctor saying: “Don’t panic, be calm, be well rested.”

Her fever went down after a day. But most of her symptoms lasted for a week. She recorded her condition daily in a monitoring sheet.

“I check my temperature 3 times a day, mark when I have a symptom. Doctors call you everyday to check up on you if you are on home quarantine,” Kelly said. “Kinakamusta ka nila, tinatanong nila kung kaya mo pa. Kasi kung hindi na, they might admit you (to a hospital).”

[Translation: They ask how you are, if you can manage. If you tell them you cannot manage anymore, they could admit you to the hospital.]

She was only tested once. In Berlin, the protocol is for the one-time testing to confirm if the patient has COVID-19. Kelly was declared to have recovered from the virus on March 29.

"Two days before your 14th day of quarantine, if you don’t feel any symptom at all, then the doctor may clear you from quarantine or declare you recovered," she said.

Fighting the invisible enemy

Being infected with COVID-19 isn’t only a fight for physical recovery; it could also take a toll on one’s mental and emotional state.

Living alone in Germany, with a disease that forces her to go on isolation, is hard. She said she always cried at night, but she often prayed as well.

“Ang sakit na ‘to, ang mga tao hindi pwede bumisita sayo, alagaan. Feeling ko at times nakaka-down sya in a way na you’re fighting the virus physically pero, dapat meron ka pa ring disposition na i-encourage ang sarili mo na kaya mo ito kasi ang dami sa news na nagkaka-pneumonia na sila o kaya nagiging critical na kondisyon nila,” she said.

Her friends, family, and even strangers would always comfort and support her. The Philippine Embassy in Germany and members of the Filipino community would also check up on her from time to time.

“Encouraging messages from friends and from family. My friends bring me food, they leave it outside the door,” she said.

Low risk doesn't mean no risk

Kelly is young, practices good hygiene, and has no existing illness. This means she belongs to a group of people considered at low-risk of getting infected. She believes she contracted the virus while she was travelling — no matter how cautious she was.

“Feeling ko dun sa public transportation kasi noong papunta ako nag-train kami, nung pabalik ko nag-plane, and there is a lot of people there," she said.

[Translation: I have a feeling I got it while traveling because we took a train and plane. It was crowded.]

She now understands no one is immune from the invisible enemy that has infected close to one million people and killed 47,200 people.

"To be honest, ito ang medyo ironic, I was so cautious. I wash my hands every single time. I go to the bathroom, even in public areas. I carry with me my alcohol and sanitizer wherever I go. The point here is it can happen to anyone, even millennials," she said.

[Translation: It's a little ironic because I was cautious. I always washed my hands in the bathroom, even in public areas. I always carry my alcohol and hand sanitizer. The point is it can happen to anyone, even millennials aren't spared.]