How it's like to have H1N1

June 25th, 2009 § 0

First of all, you should probably read the previous post before reading this, if you haven’t yet.

So. Yeah. Long post ahead.

Some people have been asking me how it’s like, you know, to have it. And since I have not seen any H1N1-positive around who had the courage to say something about it online, I thought, perhaps I could be the first. Besides, after last week’s post, I’m not sure how I can transition back to my giddy self in this blog without saying anything about this “hysteria” (if I may quote someone) that I caused.

* * *

Did you really have H1N1, Riz? Yes, I was tested positive for it.

I remember how my client even joked about feeling “starstruck” for having known someone who has The Virus. Yeah, I’m so cool.

Now I honestly believe that the 500+ recorded Filipinos who were tested positive for H1N1 were listed there because they dared to know that they have H1N1. Certainly there are others who didn’t bother being tested, because they didn’t feel sick enough. And certainly, others were probably sent back home by their doctors, because they weren’t exposed to someone who’s confirmed to have H1N1 anyway — just like what happened to me at Medical City. If I trusted that Medical City doctor‘s judgment, I would’ve gotten away, blissfully ignorant about the virus that I carried.

As a matter of fact, I think it can happen. You can have it, be cured from it by normal flu medicines and vitamin C, and not even know.

Anyway, case in point, another Atenean friend experienced flu-like symptoms after being exposed to J (the H1N1-positive friend I was referring to in the previous post). Plus, there was an outbreak in Ateneo too. Same as me, he went to the Lung Center to have himself tested, but, seeing the looong, scary-looking line of facemask-clad patients in the H1N1 Triage, he thought of alternatives. He made a quick call to his family doctor to ask if he really should still have himself tested, after all, he didn’t have fever anymore. His doctor scolded him for even going there, told him to go home immediately and just take vitamin C. He didn’t even leave his car anymore. He U-turned and left. He doesn’t have the flu anymore now.

Seriously though, I feel like you’ll get yourself even more sick lining up at LCP. It’s chaotic there! I remember coming back two days after I got myself tested. I got a call from the doctor telling me that my test was positive, and I had to come back to get my medication. You’d think they would give better attention to patients who were already tested positive, but no, after informing the attendant that I was already positive, she made me line up for 2 hours, along with other people who weren’t even tested yet. If H1N1 was really that contagious, then whatduhheck are these doctors and attendants doing, *knowingly* letting untested people to be exposed to confirmed H1N1 patients! Submitting yourself for H1N1-testing is a surefire way to be even more exposed to H1N1, indeed.

I really should’ve just followed my doctor-friend’s instructions — it’s okay not to get tested, just stay home and overdose on Vitamin C, after all, it’s going to go away just like the normal flu anyway.

But my conscience got the best of me. I had to get myself tested. I felt responsible for “causing hysteria“, hence I was willing to take the test, if only to prove that people need to stop being paranoid about being exposed to me, or being exposed to someone, who was exposed to someone, who was exposed to me. (Pede ba?!)

OR, at least if I was tested positive, I’d be able to get TamiFlu for my Mom and R, because they were the ones I was exposed to the most, and I didn’t want them to be sick (or be feared of) because of me. Apparently, these TamiFlu tablets, which used to be available over-the-counter, are not available that way anymore because as it turns out, they’re the only prescribed H1N1 medication. The government seemed to have secured all the available stocks of TamiFlu, and now you could only get it IF you’re tested positive. They give TamiFlu to people who are regularly exposed to H1N1-positive patients as well (i.e. family members), as preventive measure.

I wanted to get my hands on those TamiFlus. That’s why I submitted myself in for testing.

* * *

How does it feel like? Physically, it didn’t even feel like I had it.

I guess the worst part was on the first day, when I first had fever, as I narrated in the previous post. Medical City diagnosed me incorrectly, sending me home to take paracetamol when they could’ve detected right there and then that it was H1N1 that was making me fever-ish. The fever lasted two days, tops.

I didn’t have fever anymore when I got myself tested at the Lung Center. I was already feeling perfectly normal when I got the call confirming that I was positive. I coughed once in a while, and that’s it.

Not to be such a know-it-all when it comes to H1N1, but I’m saying these as I experienced it. It may be a different case for other people, but so far, the ones that I know of, and the ones I got to chat with while lined up at LCP, were joking about the same thing — “That’s it? That’s H1N1?

Like I told some of my close friends, I think the effect of H1N1 on me was more of emotional, rather than physical. And maybe psychological.

It made me depressed for quite a few days to know that people are afraid to be exposed to me, when I know in my heart that I was healthy and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Much more, that people are wearing face masks because someone was exposed to someone, who was exposed to someone, who was exposed to me. (Ugh, you get the drift.)

But now I think I know why DOH keeps our names confidential. And why people choose to not let the others know that they have the dreaded virus. (Or why H1N1 patients and potential carriers don’t just blog about it like I did, heh.)

Because people get scared and paranoid. They get scared of the virus, and of you.

Sure, the Department of Health has all the reasons to have you quarantined.  But I say, that’s the most awful part of being confirmed to have H1N1. It’s an awful feeling to “cause hysteria”. It’s awful to have people get scared of being exposed to you and anyone who’s exposed to you.

So I pray you don’t get H1N1, not because it’s going to kill you, but because you don’t want to have the awful feeling of being avoided. You don’t want the awful feeling of causing your loved ones to be quarantined too, not because they’re sick, but because they’re exposed to you. Oh, and that part where you have to line up at some hospital for hours, that part is just.. stressful.

I went with R yesterday, first to LCP, but seeing how the line to the H1N1 Triage has tripled, and people were impatient and scrambling for medical attention and fighting each other and cursing at the doctors for their super-slow process, we left and went to Medical City instead.

In the 4 hours we were at the waiting area of Medical City’s Triage, I witnessed ambulances arriving, one after another (I counted 8 in the span of 3 hours), carrying trauma patients — some unconscious, some struggling to breathe, some had tubes stuck on their throats. There were a lot of non-H1N1 patients there. One patient sitting one row away from me in the waiting area fainted right there, immediately alerting the doctors and nurses, putting her on top of the priority list. There were stretchers and wheel chairs. There were face masks, but not everyone had to wear them. (You see, not even in hospital waiting areas are people required to wear face masks.) People just keep coming in and out of the Triage. Some had to stand up because there weren’t any seats left. The lines to the cashiers were long.

As for us, we were at the bottom of the list because we didn’t need immediate medical attention. We didn’t have fever, even. When R finally had his turn, the doctor asked a few questions, and having known that he already took TamiFlu, he was released immediately. They didn’t even bother letting him take a swab test (the test you need to take to know if you have H1N1). He was informed that he can get his medical certificate in two more days. All those hours of waiting for nothing.

And that is just my point. H1N1 has been too sensationalized that you forget that there are far worse cases than H1N1.

And to fear being exposed to H1N1 is just crazy. I know I didn’t want to be exposed to it, but now that I had this experience, my views have been changed entirely.

H1N1 is everywhere already, no need to be scared of people like me. Or people who got exposed to people like me. You get exposed to it in the same way you take the MRT everyday and sit next to someone who has Tuberculosis. The same way you get exposed to Malaria while eating at the school cafeteria, or hanging out at the park or a carinderia with lots of mosquitoes. Same way you get exposed to second-hand smoke while buying from Burger Machine, just ’cause smokers like to hangout in that place. Btw, I know someone who will undergo an operation because she developed some sickness due to second-hand smoke. While she doesn’t smoke herself, she lives in a house with smokers and has been exposed to second-hand smoke for years. You should be afraid of second-hand smoke more than H1N1!

My point is, there are other scarier things than being exposed to H1N1, people. Take it from me. I didn’t vomit blood or anything weird like that. I wasn’t confined, even. I was around friends just before I got myself tested for H1N1 and none of them was infected. My Mom and R weren’t infected, even.

Now if, for some reason, you happened to have gotten H1N1, the chances of dying from it are less than the chances of dying from Malaria, or the normal flu. So relax. Besides, the DOH has got you covered. They’d even give you free TamiFlus. ;)

* * *

Finally, some open letters.

Dear Medical City, You guys made me spend over 10,000php in consultation fees, blood tests, and medication in the past month, but none of those cured me. I can’t help but wish you do refunds.

Dear Lung Center, Don’t get me wrong, I have high regards for your doctors and their heroism, attending to H1N1 candidates day in and out, even the ones who are just paranoid. I just hope that more doctors will realize the need for help in the H1N1 Triage, instead of having just one or two, as the line of people is growing looonger every day. I think the process should be faster and more organized, like separating the H1N1-positive people from those who are still under observation. Other than that, I salute you guys!

Dear Former USAP Colleagues, face masks are given to people who are already sick. Like I said earlier in this post, even in the Triage Area of Medical City, you wouldn’t be required to wear face masks unless you have fever or cough. Face masks are given to sick people so they won’t spread their virus. To give a bunch of healthy people face masks to protect them from getting sick is just absurd, especially since no one in your midst was a confirmed H1N1 patient anyway. The trick to avoid H1N1 is to take vitamins, stay healthy, eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, etc — in short, mind your body’s resistance, not wear face masks or avoid people who were exposed to someone with H1N1. :)

* * *

One last thing, getting H1N1 has made me appreciate life, and health, and the value of Vitamin C, and friends who don’t mind being exposed to you even when you’re tested positive for a disease that has made the whole world tremble at the sound of its name. (Thanks Mae, I really appreciate the visit.)

Having kept away from people and being left to myself has given me another *special* opportunity to think and to reassess life and to appreciate friendships, and to be still and trust that God knows what He’s doing in my life. If only for these things, I’m glad things happened the way they did.

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