Out of work and with just enough money to pay the taxi for a one-way ride to the hospital, Abu Dhabi resident Aubrey Escano found out she was coronavirus positive on May 1.
Uncertain about how she would pay for her medical bills and unsure of whether she would survive the illness, finding out she was infected with COVID-19 was "one of the most depressing moments” in her life.
The 27-year-old Filipina was employed as an administrative manager at a dental clinic in the Capital, from 2017, and she was asked to go on unpaid leave from work for two months due to the pandemic’s impact on the business.
“I had no income and I was currently in the process of renewing my visa,” she said.
Escano would send most of her pay home every month to support her younger brother's education. So, she did not have much cash in hand in the UAE.
Added to that her fiance, who is also based in Abu Dhabi and works in the industrial district of Musaffah, contracted COViD-19 from his place of work. He was cash-strapped himself.
Fatigue, cough and wheezing...
At the same time, she developed symptoms of the dreaded COVID-19. “I was fatigued, coughing nonstop and unable to breath. I had to get tested,” she said.
She made her way to a private hospital in Abu Dhabi on April 25 where she was tested and sent home to wait for her results.
Once her tests came out positive and her condition worsened, she decided to go to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, a public hospital in the emirate.
“I didn’t have a single fil in my pocket when I entered the hospital, I used the last of my cash to pay the taxi driver,” she said.
By this time, Escano had completely lost her appetite, and sense of smell and taste.
The medical staff immediately assisted Escano and conducted a number of tests that ranged from an Electrocardiography (ECG) to X-rays and swab tests. "I was surprised that all the tests were done completely free of cost," she said.
She was then sent to a hotel that has been turned into a quarantine facility.
“It was a great relief to be taken there because I had no money or means to self-isolate,” she said.
Escano said that she was provided everything from three meals per day to laundry services and medical assistance at the facility.
“Every day doctors would check up on me and call to ask about my condition. I am so thankful for their effort and treatment,” she said.
Escano stayed at the facility till May 10, for eight days in total, after testing negative twice for the disease.
“I tested negative the first time but my symptoms had not decreased. The doctors told me to stay, and I was sent home only after being tested negative on May 9 for the second time,” she said.
The Filipina, who has no family in the UAE besides her fiancé, is currently quarantined for 14 days.
Dealing with the isolation
At the hotel, she had her phone, access to wifi and television for entertainment. "It was a fully equipped hotel setting, minus the contact with other people," she said,
She chatted with her parents online, updating them about her conditions and whereabouts. "I did not video call with them because I did not want them to see me when I was ill," she said.
"I assured them that the UAE governement was taking good care of all the expats here," Escano added.
'Big thanks to UAE leaders'
The expat was all praise for UAE authorities and credits her recovery to them.
“I was amazed by how the authorities have instructed all medical professionals to take care of those affected by coronavirus. "Everything went smoothly. I want to extend a big thanks to them,” she said.
Escano was relieved that all worries about expenses were completely set aside. “I did not spend a single fil throughout being treated. This was only possible because of the leadership in the UAE,” she said.
Extending her thanks to those who are fighting the pandemic in the emirates, she said: “I would like to thank all doctors, nurses, and frontliners for their unbelievable effort.”
She also has a message for those battling the illness: “I would like to tell COVID-19 patients to not lose hope, not to worry and continue the fight because the UAE will not let them down.”