Updated: Aug 14
Marietta B. Pangan
Caps & Lenses Photography by Marietta
I often shy away from the classic me, myself and I type of subject whenever I write stories, and I have created several. When I opt to consider this rarity, I will deliberately choose to zero in, on what I deem compelling or insightful.
I am mostly free-spirited, cheerful, active and result oriented. Often people find me the typical "A" type, perfectionist or even superwoman. On the surface, my pains are shadowed by a positive outlook, a happy personality and a smiling presence. The world doesn't know that more than once when this warrior got wounded and become a child.
A handful of times, this half-century of existence of my life had been put in peril. I vividly remember the childhood of August of 1976, when the entire family fled and took refuge on higher ground as the vast flood swallowed our house by the raging current of the Pampanga River. This was followed by a 3 am call in 2011, that the entire family in the Philippines is marooned on the rooftop. An ordeal for almost a week with no sleep, assisting my village remotely and simultaneously being concerned as my father is experiencing hypothermia and my mother's high blood pressure is unstable.
In 2007, the 21 years of abdominal pains became stage 4 endometriosis that steals my ability to experience motherhood and cripples me from a few days to a week every month. The complete removal of the reproductive system in 2014 gave temporary relief and crawled back in the same year.
By 2009, a couple of other debilitating conditions got a grip on me, even though I never invited them in. I was in a protest and couldn't fathom that even fibromyalgia, chronic pains and degenerative lower back surfaced and I was informed to deal with it as we will all be together forever.
Life is full of surprises. In 2015, the occasional crippleness invited a company. It started with a load of whiplash on the first. Then numbness and entire body pains on the second. Now put them all together with an ambulance ride to the emergency on the third. None of them is my fault, yet, the three consecutive motor vehicle accidents all happened in one year, resulting in now permanent disability. As my physician put it in numbing terms, this is going downhill spiral from here on.
Since 2015, there has been no week that I won't be bedridden for a couple of days. Despite all these, I kept my composure and learned dozens of non-conventional ways to cope, accept, and manage my new normals while maintaining my spirit and emotions intact. I continued with life on a detour. I never let my passion for helping others be out of the equation while hoping for some relief from all the pains this physical body continues to endure day in and day out.
Early March 2020 set a different tune and exceeded all of the above, during the initial peak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which is rapidly creeping the province of Alberta. I was put in a worse, which prompted me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
While I was trying to recover from what I presumed was the usual flu, cough and fever, I heard from the news that the staff of the dental clinic I recently visited, also attended a conference where there were cases positive for the virus. Coincidentally, my condition stays the same without a sign of relief despite the twice-a-day home remedies and a litre of homemade concoctions against them. This news is unsettling for at least 2 weeks. I have been protective of the public and have practiced self-isolation, despite the challenge of living alone, and the nearest family lives in Los Angeles.
Towards the end of March, my fever-flu-cough got worse. This time I already sorted the exclusive ordering online and by the doorstep delivery of all my needs from the daily medications, protectives, sanitizers and immune-boosting product items. There are a couple of concerned friends who checked on me now and then, leaving food and essential needs on the doorstep,
At this point, I just concentrated more on spiritual nourishment than anything else to sustain me emotionally. I tried keeping my mind occupied as my physical body weakened by the day. Time became a valuable commodity, After Countless times of devotion and meditations during those short periods of waking hours, I listed songs and created videos of my favourite gospel music.
Beginning of April, there were days I am not able to get up to even just fix myself a cup of coffee or soup. I was once told by a photographer that sharing photos may help the emotional well-being of those that are not capable of seeing them due to their physical conditions. Although I got weaker, I felt that I must still be able to share the little energy left with me and help lift other people's spirits. I shifted the short waking hours to posting tranquil nature photos, which I have collected over the years.
Mid-April, after six solid weeks of being mostly bedridden, I sought medical advice from 811. I was asked to take the COVID-19 swab test immediately, and every day a nurse followed up. My general physician got a hold of me, and I was told I had suffered long enough from bronchitis/pneumonia and immediately prescribed antibiotics. After a few days, my test came with a negative result around the third week. I finally was able to breathe, although still recovering from the viral effects of bronchitis/pneumonia.
When I thought I was well on the way to recovery, a twist in the turn of events shook me to my core. April 25th, 6 pm MST, I was told by my landlady someone will occupy the vacant site of the 2-bedroom basement I am renting. I gave the 24-year-old girl the house tour and more than a load of how to practice hygiene and sanitation, mainly if she ever goes out as my vulnerable condition is immunocompromised after over 6 weeks. She sent me a message that she borrowed a glass from the cupboard—no big deal.
The next day, as I continued the how-to of all outside purchases and products, she suddenly blurted that she was also waiting for her COVID-19 test. As I wondered, I asked her. The bomb! She escaped her quarantine place, as her boyfriend, who she is living with, tested positive for COVID-19, and a few other roommates were all positive as they have been in contact with her boyfriend as well!
It was total disbelief on my part, as I have tried my best to recover, and endured complete isolation to protect myself and the public, NOW THIS! WHO DESERVED THIS? She continued to neglect the practice of hygiene and sanitation, even in the communal bathroom and kitchen for days.
On the 28th, around 8 pm, I was too weak, too stressed out and exhausted. I have been catching my deepest breath, headache worse while continually coughing. My health quickly deteriorates and took a huge toll on me after a few days of not sleeping, being contained in a small room for everything and hardly eating. I have no other option but to call 811 again, I was demanded to seek help from 911 that very instant. Paramedics arrived and did a series of tests, they convinced me to be taken to the hospital. I profusely refused as I am all alone, I may fade away, and nobody would ever know. I convinced them for 5-hours under monitoring, and I'll call them again if ever I got worse.
I felt so helpless at this point and still in shock at how I ended up in this situation. On the 10th day when the (for the 5th time) final period of required quarantine is achieved, I referred myself back to 811 and had a reassessment done.
May 1st, at 4 am receive the green light, I am allowed to leave the house but stay isolated as much as possible. Without hesitation and with no plans, I packed 2 suitcases with medications, travel documents and a few clothes and drove out of the house. My landlady asked me to go back, but I challenged her that she must live with us and friendship over if she will keep on insisting on those countless half-witted decisions. To my frustrations, I told them, they should pray earnestly that I survive this nightmare!
I ended up at an Airdrie hotel for emergency shelter just in case 811 may still want to get hold of me or if my situation worsened. I stayed, for another week of isolation, while recovering. Then off to Edmonton with 2 days of rest while harnessing more energy to drive. I finally arrived at my 2nd cousin's place in Fox Creek on May the 9th. He gave me a place to stay by myself, so I can recuperate from all the physical and emotional ordeals I just went through.
May 22nd, Calgary is now on the first phase of relaunch, and everyone is eager to go outside. I am 70% better but not fully recovered. I developed patience while consciously on a more profound spiritual journey. I unceasingly connected myself to those that matter most to me.
Presently, I am over 500 kilometres away North of Calgary awaiting Phase 3 Alberta relaunch. I eventually achieved the peace of mind, and the well-deserved emotional strength needed. Far away from the city I resided for 20 years. I felt safer here now while continuously recovering. The comfort of knowing, even temporarily, I am breathing fresh air in this town free from COVID-19, helps tremendously towards the smoother road to recovery.
I am grateful and appreciative to the handful of people and truest of friends who showed their care and concern toward me while I walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
As soon as the travel restrictions are lifted, I am looking forward to also giving my father and siblings tight hugs and embraces for all the prayers they uttered, the love they expressed and the tears they shed during one of my darkest moments.