COVID-infected doctor vows to return to frontlines after full recovery

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Photo from Dr. Carmina Fuentebella's Facebook account

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) — A doctor who has fallen critically ill due to COVID-19 commits to recovering in order to tend to more patients battling the fatal disease.

Dr. Carmina Fuentebella, a resident doctor of the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Weekend, “I promise to go back to the frontlines so that I can be of more service to my patients.”

Fuentebella, who recently celebrated her 27th birthday while in an intensive care unit, has already been transferred to a regular ward and is now on her way to full recovery.

Once discharged from the hospital, the young doctor said she will head home to Bulacan where she intends to recuperate “emotionally, mentally, and physically.”

Naniniwala ako na kailangan maging magaling muna ako para mapagaling ko mga pasyente ko,” she said.

[Translation: I believe I have to recover first in order to treat my patients.]

Since she has no underlying medical conditions, Fuentebella thought her experience with COVID-19 was “going to go smoothly,” as most of the young patients only experience mild symptoms. However, following the onset of fever, the doctor said she had difficulty breathing and eventually woke up already intubated.

“When I woke up, it was so difficult. It was the first time in my life wherein I had to count every second of pain,” she said. “It was at that moment I asked God, ‘Why me?’ It was so difficult.”

Fuentebella attributed her better condition to a strong support system, including everyone who cheered her on as she fought for her life. The doctor has received an outpouring of prayers and well-wishes from friends and strangers alike, after news of her COVID-19 fight circulated on social media.

“A lot of my doctors talked to me, the internet was talking to me, [telling me] to fight. That's when I realized that I wanted to live,” she shared.

“After going through this disease, I realized that I am not alone. A lot of people were fighting with me. And I think that it is important for us to fight together so that we can get through this pandemic,” she added.

Fuentebella said she plans to use her personal experience with coronavirus to “empathize more” with her patients in the future.