Abu Dhabi: Their last two months have been a blur, but a Filipino family that saw four members infected with the coronavirus has finally recovered from the disease.
“We fell sick in March, and it was only in the first week of June that I finally began feeling like myself,” Mary Kim, a 27-year-old nurse, told Gulf News.
“It was so scary because my six-year-old daughter and both my parents also contracted the virus. The virus itself is debilitating, but I have to say that the hardest part was that we were all being treated in isolation, often at entirely different facilities,” she said.
The experience brought the tight-knit family even closer and Kim said she was enjoying every passing day as much as possible.
“Looking back, I am so thankful that we have this second lease of life,” she added.
The infections begin
Kim was the first in her family to get infected. Employed as a nurse at Burjeel Hospital, she had been going to work regularly when one day she suddenly started feeling very cold.
“I also had body ache and fatigue. When I reported it, my supervisor asked me to get myself tested and stay at home. Three days later, the test results confirmed that I had COVID-19,” Kim said.
She says she had been isolating herself in a room since she began feeling ill, but within a few days, her 49-year-old mother, Marryline Pabiano, also started showing symptoms. A day or two later, her 54-year-old father, Alejandro Pabiano, was taken to the emergency department when his fever spiked. A week later, Kim’s daughter Casey, too, fell ill.
An ill father
“The puzzling thing was that my father, who is employed as an engineer, had tested negative twice. The last test was done two days before his fever spiked. He was fine until then," Kim said.
Following the diagnoses, the four members of the family were all hospitalised. But they were all kept in different facilities and it was not possible for them to contact one another.
“I remember running a fever for two weeks, and I needed intravenous fluids and medication. But as my body was fighting the virus, I was worried sick thinking about my father and daughter,” Kim said.
Fortunately, her husband was able to stay with Casey at the hospital, and Kim said that the doctor who was tending to her father – Dr Faisal Dalvi, internal medicine specialist at Burjeel – had been extremely kind and attentive.
“I was very worried about my father because he has comorbidities like hypercholesterolaemia, sleep apnea and diabetes. He also had a kidney transplant in 2005. He definitely suffered a lot and when his oxygen saturation dropped to less than 80 per cent, they transferred him to intensive care,” Kim said.
The care team administered high-flow oxygen in a bid to stabilise him without intubation. Fortunately, the treatment plan worked. After five days, Alejandro was good to be moved to a regular ward.
Connecting over Zoom
Kim said she was also blessed because her manager gave her daily updates about her father’s condition, even when he was in the ICU.
Another thing that kept the family afloat was connecting over social media platforms.
“We were on WhatsApp all day long, and every evening from 6pm onwards, we would all log in to Zoom and pray together. This, along with my mother’s unwavering belief and positivity, helped us weather the storm,” Kim added.
Finally, on May 10, Kim was discharged along with her daughter, and the two were able to come back home. Her brother and aunts had remained at home during the entire episode, and the family kept awaiting the Pabianos’ return.
By May 20, both Alejandro and Marryline were approved for discharge. The family then began the journey of regaining their full strength and health.
“We bought a pulse oximeter to ensure that my father’s oxygen saturation remained within acceptable limits. In addition, Dr Dalvi continued to check on my father, and we are so grateful for his care and concern,” Kim said.
Kim said her brush with COVID-19 was extremely unpleasant, marked by shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhoea and fever. And like many other patients, she too had no sense of smell or taste for a long time.
“It was torture knowing that I could not do anything for my daughter or my parents, even though I am a nurse. But God has been good to us,” Kim said.
On May 21, Kim posted about the family’s ordeal on her Facebook page, saying that they are now “COVID survivors”. Adding that the coronavirus does not discriminate, she thanked her colleagues at Burjeel, friends in the Christian community and family members back in the Philippines.
“I wanted to pass on the positivity to other people affected by COVID-19. It is a tough fight, but God is telling us not to fear because He is with us,” she said.
And on June 6, a day after Alejandro received his second negative COVID-19 test result, the couple celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.
“After almost two months of isolation in separate rooms, we were able to eat at one table. We have lots of things to celebrate in our second [chance at life], and I pray that my parents can celebrate many more years together,” she added.