How faith helped a doctor win the battle vs COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) -- For almost a month, Dr. Christine Joy Castillo had to stay inside her workplace not as a doctor but as one of the patients infected with COVID-19.

It started after she intubated a patient infected with the disease, days later she herself was infected.

“After a few days, I started to have three to four episodes of soft stools per day, then I started to have high-grade fevers, loss of appetite and dry cough. My doctor advised me to be admitted,” Castillo shared with CNN Philippines’ Not Politics As Usual.

Despite being initially tested negative for the virus, her situation got worse.

“But my pneumonia was slowly progressing, I got tested again for COVID, which turned out positive. Since my pneumonia is slowly progressing, they advised me to be transferred to ICU for close monitoring,” said Castillo. “My lips were starting to get blue, they advised me that I need to be intubated. So I was intubated at the ICU for 12 days.”

READ: Over 700 healthcare workers, including 339 doctors, have contracted COVID-19, DOH says

Dr. Raymund Baello, a colleague of Castillo, said it was a challenge for other doctors in VRP Medical Center to see her fighting against COVID-19.

“So treating her, seeing her before COVID, during COVID, during the time her condition was mild, until it progressed to something critical to the point she was admitted to the ICU, it actually crushed our hearts,” he said.

But if there was something that helped her win the fight, Castillo and Baello have one answer: prayer.

During those dark times, Castillo admitted that she felt weak deep inside while also having the urge to fight for her loved ones.

“I felt vulnerable. I also wanted to treat myself. I’m scared, but I hold on to my faith in God, I lifted up everything to Him. I always say to myself that God will heal me as I always tell my consultants. He will not forsake me.”

Meanwhile, Baello said that they asked for prayers for their colleague in hopes of healing and recovery upon her.

“So looking back at the experience, we were actually praying a lot that time, we are praying for miracle,” he said. “We gathered people to storm heaven with prayers. We want to treat CJ, we want to see her alive, and be an inspiration to everyone.”

READ: Far from home: Doctors share struggles of physical distancing amid the pandemic

Along with continuous treatment and prayers, the heavens heard their cries. Castillo was extubated on April 3. Four days later, she was transferred to a regular room and was discharged from the hospital on April 14.

Just like other patients who recovered from COVID-19 in the hospital, she was welcomed like a hero by everyone.

“When I learned that I was positive, it really changed my perspective in life. Ngayon mas makaka-relate ako sa patients ko na really hopeless (I can now relate more to my patients who feel hopeless). I can be an inspiration to them, I can give them hope,” she said.