Renz Paas, 27, survived Covid-19 using an approved anti-malaria drug. Now, he’s raring to go back to work to help defeat the pandemic.

By Felipe F. Salvosa II

From Renz Paas’ Facebook page

Renz Paas is a avid consumer of medical literature. Following news of an outbreak of a novel coronavirus from China early this year, the 27-year-old doctor kept himself abreast of emerging research on the disease now known by the world as Covid-19.

So when Renz started having dry coughs on Monday, March 23, then shortness of breath and the loss of the senses of taste (dysgeusia) and smell (anosmia), he knew he was having the symptoms described by infectious diseases specialists.

Then fever set in. After informing his superiors in the internal medicine department of a major Quezon City hospital, where he was working as a resident physician, Renz went on home quarantine.

“I observed the symptoms but the cough was getting worse and the fever was continuous,” Renz told PressOne.PH in an online interview.

“Friday, I went to the hospital. We did the tests and they were compatible with Covid-19 features. My chest X-ray showed pneumonia. So, I was admitted,” he recalled.

As a healthcare frontliner, Renz was outraged upon learning from the news that some asymptomatic politicians got tested for the virus ahead of many others and in the comfort of their homes.

“I had to wait until the evening for my swab, because they ran out of swab kits,” he said.

It took a week for results of the polymerase chain reaction test to come back from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. He was positive.

“So far the epidemiologic data about Covid-19 published in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine), The Lancet, and etc. were all true. The anosmia and dysgeusia were initial symptoms. And you can get pneumonia even you’re at 20s!” Renz told his friends on Facebook on April 4, the day he was discharged.

Renz suspects he was exposed to an infected patient in the course of work, an example of the risks medical professionals take especially during a pandemic. As an internist, his patients include those with diabetes and other chronic illnesses, “co-morbidities” that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.

He’s also proof that young, healthy people can catch the virus.

But probably because he’s younger and healthier than the typical Covid-19 patient, Renz’s symptoms did not worsen further.

And because he’s a doctor who’s familiar with the medical research, he agreed to treatment using hydroxychloroquine.

The anti-malaria drug is still the subject of much debate in the United States, which now has the world’s largest number of coronavirus cases, but is recommended by the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and approved by the Department of Health.

“We started with broad-spectrum antibiotics because the standard was treat and manage as pneumonia,” Renz said.

“Then I was started with hydroxychloroquine, which has small studies and not so strong data but we started anyway,” he said. “The standard of care was properly followed.”

On Facebook last week, Renz proudly posted his chest X-ray. Pneumonia is gone and both lungs are clear.

But he clarified that the treatments available, like his hydroxychloroquine regimen, are based on small clinical trials. The key is still to avoid catching the disease. “There is no absolute treatment to Covid-19. Let’s keep safe, practice social distancing, and WASH YOUR HANDS,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Now a Covid-19 survivor, Renz will be careful in the meantime. He also knows from medical literature that “viral shedding” or emission of the virus may still occur three weeks after recovery.

He’s excited for the day he returns to the hospital to help fellow frontliners. “Can’t wait to go back and kick some Covid-19 ass,” he said. (