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Second chance at life

COVID-19 survivor Wilbert “Wil” Tolentino.

“I am a COVID-19 survivor, and a lucky one at that!” declared entrepreneur Wilbert “Wil” Tolentino after a grueling fortnight at St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City. He is now on the road to full recovery, and living his second chance at life.

Wil’s ordeal started after suffering from sore eyes. A physician friend told him what to do, while also warning him it could be a symptom of COVID-19. After a swab test in a private diagnostic center, he was relieved the result was negative.

When he felt back and chest pains, however, he had another swab test two days later in another clinic, just to be sure. When the results came, he was aghast to find that he tested positive.

He went into solitary confinement and started ingesting Chinese herbal remedies. He even stayed away from his three-year-old son Willard so the kid won’t be contaminated.

When his condition did not get any better, he went to a hospital and sought treatment. “I had a difficult time breathing. It looked like I was heaving every time I gasped for air. Heaviness filled my chest,” said Wil.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 and a severe case of pneumonia, plus a condition known clinically as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Wil was intubated for the next three days in the intensive care unit.

“I hardly slept while the tubes were attached to my mouth. It felt like a soup ladle was shoved down my windpipe. It was not a nice feeling. And the whir of the machines only made me feel worse,” he recalled.

During hospital confinement, what made him hold on were the well-wishes of family and friends, aside from fervent prayers of his own. At one low point, he told close friends and relatives that, should he succumb to the disease, his son Willard will be left in the care of his brothers.

“When you’re in a dark place, with no end in sight, your mind can give you a lot of depressing thoughts. I now understand those who experienced panic and anxiety attacks. Everything weighs down on you,” he said.

When the worst was finally over, he mentioned all the doctors and medical professionals as curative catalysts who helped him survive.

In recognition and appreciation of the Filipino front-liners’ undying service to COVID-19 patients, most especially his co-survivors, Wil has invited medical professionals and workers to participate in “The Front-liners Online Challenge” in which five of the most compelling stories of hope and bravery will receive cash prizes.

All they need to do is check out the contest’s mechanics on Wil’s Facebook page (Wilbert Tolentino) and look for the specific Sir Wil online challenge, as there are several choices.

Wil’s two-week hospital stay has made him value life and allowed him to focus on the more important things, like faith in the Almighty.

As a COVID-19 survivor, he is now an advocate of spreading awareness to help curb the rise of infections. “For instance, I would like to emphasize that people should never wear face masks with built-in fans like what I used to wear. The fans suck in airborne viruses into the mask, which the wearer eventually breathes in.”

Wil is also donating blood for St. Luke’s or the Red Cross’ supply of convalescent plasma.

Wil likewise hopes to erase the stigma on those who have tested positive, but most specially the survivors. A number have been evicted from their rented houses.

And as one who have gone through anxiety and depression, he wants to help patients get through the dark days towards full recovery.

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