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COVID-19 is a serious pandemic that does not discriminate in age groups. Around the world, we’re hearing stories of people in their 20s and 30s becoming infected and even dying from the disease, dispeling previous notions that COVID-19 only severely affects the elderly and immunocompromised. Iza Calzado Wintle, 37, was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month—and has lived to tell the tale. She has graciously given her time to share her story with Dr. Belo on Instagram Live last Good Friday. For those who missed it, here are the highlights of their discussion.
Like most people who have the coronavirus, Iza was asymptomatic at first. She shared with us the timeline of her journey, up until she was hospitalized at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center.
No symptoms. “I was working out hard,” she shared.
No symptoms. Went to a taping.
No symptoms. “Thursday, I worked out again. And after my workout, I felt…parang pagod ako. Tapos ayan na, parang nagda-dry ‘yung throat ko. Sabi ko, naku, hindi magandang pangitain ‘to.”
First signs of symptoms began to appear. “Started coughing Friday. I went to my pulmonologist, and he said, ‘You’re still okay. Let’s do influenza A and B tests.’ Negative,” Iza explained. Her doctor gave her an advanced prescription for Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, to use in case symptoms progressed.
“Hindi ko namalayan na, okay, I was losing my appetite,” Iza recalled. “Then suddenly, may fever na. And then I told my doctor, ‘Okay, I think these symptoms are progressing.’” She started to take Tamiflu, but held off on azithromycin.
Belo Medical Group clinics had been closed since March 14, so Iza turned to her acupuncturist for vitamin drips. “[We read that when it comes to COVID-19], one of the powerful treatments that you can use is vitamin C and D. So I started doing 50,000 mg, as in ganun kalakas. 50,000 mg per day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” Iza said. She felt good and sprightly on this day.
She had her second vitamin drip, but she felt less energetic compared to the day before. “Even my doctor was starting to get worried.”
Iza sought immediate medical attention, but she did not want to go to a hospital first. She tried to go to a local diagnostics center but found out that they were closed.
“Takot ako na pumunta sa hospital for several reasons. Sabi ko, naku, mamaya, baka hindi naman ‘to COVID. Baka ‘pag pumunta ako, may sakit ako, magka-COVID ako. Those were my concerns…they said there aren’t enough testing kits. So siyempre, nahiya ako na pumunta doon, baka di ko naman kailangan, mas may nangangailangan pa,” Iza explained.
The diagnostics center reopened, and Iza went in for tests. When the results came back, she found out that her white blood cell count had plummeted. Pneumonia was causing buildup in her lungs. She was taken to Asian Hospital and Medical Center and placed in an isolated room. “The minute they put a cannula into my nose [at the hospital], sabi ko, ‘Ay! Ganito pala huminga!’ So I was, what, powering through it? Hindi ko alam, short of breath na pala ako.”
“The doctors were doing their rounds, and then suddenly bumaba mga 86-88 ‘yung oxygen,” Iza remembered. “They said, ‘We may have to transfer you to the ICU. If it gets bad, you could be intubated.’” This was the second time Iza realized her situation was serious, the first being at the ER when her doctors said that her symptoms pointed to COVID-19. She was moved to the telemetry unit —“It’s in between the ICU and a regular room…I started feeling more weak. ‘Yun pala, because I wasn’t eating. My body didn’t have enough protein, and your lungs need protein.”
“I’m weaker… that’s already when I started asking close friends to pray for me.”
The next day, the doctor goes, “Unfortunately, we found a nasty bacteria in your lungs. It’s called acinetobacter baumannii. They were not sure if I had it when I got there, ‘cause baumannii is something you can easily get in hospitals,” Iza said. “You can’t believe it. Teka lang, what happened? Wasn’t I healthy? Am I not young? You start questioning. I looked back and I knew I was partly to blame, because I pushed my body too hard. At the same time, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.” Iza’s husband, Ben Wintle, was her rock during this difficult time. “He was my number one nurse. He was the one who was making me eat.”
Iza posts this photo on Instagram, confirming to the public that she has been confined.
After getting the all-clear from her doctors, Iza is discharged from Asian Hospital and Medical Center.
A second confirmatory test for the virus came out negative. Iza is back home and resuming normal activities.
Iza was transparent about the mistakes she made throughout her battle with COVID-19. She hopes we will learn from them so that they may not be repeated.
Iza admitted that she made the mistake of self-medicating after seeing a tweet from tech mogul Elon Musk about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine on March 19. “Please don’t self-medicate!” Iza urged. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Please do not self-medicate if you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Seek medical attention only from qualified doctors.)
A misleading COVID-19 “self-check” test had circulated on the Internet, causing some to believe that they were safe from the virus. This was later refuted by the World Health Organization. “Sabi nila, if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you’re okay. Eh ginagawa ko siya, umaabot pa ako ng 12, 15 seconds,” Iza explained. “So sabi ko, ‘Ah, okay ako. Wala akong problema sa breathing ko.’”
“I don’t get feverish ever, even if I have the flu. At most it’ll be 37 [degrees Celsius]. But this time, umabot ako ng 39.6 sa bahay. When I was in the hospital, umabot pa rin siya ng mga 38.5, 39,” Iza explained. “Looking back, that’s one of your mistakes, right?” Dr. Belo asked. “Yeah,” Iza answered. “Being dyahe and thinking I could do it naturally…I’m all for holistic treatments, and they’re good, but if you’re already feeling bad symptoms, that’s what the meds are there for.”
“I cried so many times. I cried in the ER when they told me that I had pneumonia, and things were pointing to COVID. I cried really hard when they told me that it was possible that I could be intubated…‘Use me, Lord God. I know you’re just making me go through this to learn something, to reevaluate my life, reassess the way I’m living and what truly matters. I know you just want to make me another living testimony of Your grace and Your power.’ That’s what I will share, and that’s what I will be about.”
“Material things we acquire don’t matter. It’s really the love of people, your relationships…what you give is more important than what you receive,” Iza said. “When the going gets tough, what you receive is everything.” She also took a moment to thank all the doctors and nurses who brought her back to health. “It was a realization of how amazing our doctors and nurses are…it’s so humbling. Ganito pala kayo mag-alaga. [There’s] gratitude in your heart, knowing that this is what they would do for another human being.”
We hope that Iza’s journey has inspired you to continue to keep safe, healthy, and strong, Belo Beauties. Let’s continue to fight COVID-19 together for our family, our community, and our country.