This is not designed to scare anyone or to give you pointers as to what to expect if you catch COVID-19 because we all seem to experience different symptoms and over different periods of time. It may, however, help you decide how careful you want to be in terms of deciding how seriously you want to avoid it.
At this time I have not been tested to confirm what I have been suffering with, but the fact that my wife and daughter also fell sick within 2 days and that it felt incredibly alien to all of us suggests that it is indeed the virus that is currently dominating all aspects of our lives.
We were careful
I had been working from home and not going out for 8 days previous to catching it and had been fastidious in washing my hands, avoiding people and not touching anything I could avoid. My wife is a midwife so was in the hospital a lot, but she did the best she could to avoid as much as possible. My daughter had also been volunteering in the League of Friends hospital shop which may have been a touch point, but she was also doing all she could to avoid it as she was worried about my asthma.
One way or another we caught it and with other midwives displaying symptoms at a similar time, and the pretty terrible (non) protective equipment they are given, it was not a surprise. The only alternative was for her to live in hospital digs for months on end on her own, but none of us wanted that. There is only so much sacrifice we can expect from our NHS employees.
And so it started
The cough started on the Friday and by the Saturday I found myself extremely tired after a short dog walk. It was a strange kind of fatigue and not like I had just done a run or anything, I was just extremely tired and couldn’t pinpoint what was happening. By the evening I was tired after walking from one room to another or even having a shower. Something was up.
A video appointment with the doctor on the Sunday, I thought I had tonsillitis, ended with her saying it was almost certainly COVID because of the symptoms which by this point were coughing, a fever, tight chest, extreme fatigue and some aching.
Now, this is the part that may be useful to others. I was led on the bed on Monday morning and I thought that someone was doing building work outside because of the vibrating I could feel. After some time I realised that the vibrating was coming from me! The top half of my body was pulsing very hard and causing my torso to move up and down, I could literally feel and hear my heart beating. The feeling is not nice at all and if you imagine heart palpitations and multiply them by ten you may understand the feeling. My heart seemed to be working extremely hard to fight something and this feeling stayed fairly consistent for two days solid.
I had a massive asthma attack when I was 18 years old which left me in hospital for a month, I had tonsillitis to the point of hospitalisation twice and I had proper flu many years ago which was awful for over a week, but nothing I have ever experienced made my body work this hard to fight it. It was as if something went in to overdrive, a decent immune system presumably, and it seemed to do its job well, but to the point of incredible fatigue and a scary sense of what was happening all of the time.
I had a few heart tests a couple of years ago alongside many other tests and everything came back fine. My heart rate is normally around 50 beats per minute, I have been exercising regularly for the past three years and yet I was still completely shattered. It worries me that for people with heart issues this is an illness that really does seem to take its toll on the heart in particular. Please, avoid it if you can.
On a couple of days I had some breathing problems which at one point was pretty scary. Fortunately for me it went past quite quickly, but the sense of not being able to get air in is really not nice at all. Strangely, I have had very little wheezing and at no point has my asthma felt worse than normal. Add to this the complete lack of evidence that asthmatics, apart from those with severe asthma, are needing extra help and I am beginning to think that asthma may not be a big risk factor compared to other conditions (don’t take my word for it though!)
The other odd part of this virus is that recovery is not linear. I felt a bit better on Wednesday and then much worse yesterday, but the fever is dropping a bit today and I am feeling more normal. My wife was bad yesterday (slept most of the day), almost normal the day before and bad the day before that. She is not too bad today, but symptoms for all of us are coming back randomly and without warning. You can cough continually for a morning and then northing in the afternoon, and then it comes back. It is very very strange and not like any illness any of us have experienced before.
My daughter (16 years old) has been coughing and not too bad so far, but today her throat is hurting a lot and the fever is up again. She seems to be coping with it as you would expect from a teenager, but even she has been worried by the feelings it gives her.
The one part of this that is hard to avoid is the sense of panic, before you catch it and especially during the process. I found myself continually waiting for it to get worse, for the breathing to become more difficult and then wondering would I even get urgent help if needed at 49 years old? The entire situation is fearful for all of us and all I can conclude is that the best thing to do is not catch it if you have any pre-existing problems. This is purely on how hard it made all of our bodies work to fight it. There is a part of me that is still worrying because I am not quite right, but I am hopeful it is almost over. I suspect that we have got away lightly with a few scary moments and for that we are extremely grateful.
Our neighbour has it, she is really struggling with it, and four other people I know have the symptoms. I do wonder how widespread it is at this point and suspect that the number could be more than a million. This would at least offer the positive thought that the death rate is well below 1% though.
If we could get tested that would be a huge relief for us and I am hopeful that my wife will be tested soon, but obviously there are many more people who need the limited number of tests more than us at this time.
It was gratifying to see everyone clapping on Thursday for the NHS staff who are facing the worst possible experiences day after day. I hope that more people than ever are now realising that the country is not run on the backs of ‘successful’ people driving around in Range Rovers, making big deals and living in the biggest houses. It is run on the backs of the NHS, council workers, cleaners and countless others at the lower end of the average pay scale in the UK.
One final thought, I wonder how many people clapped on Thursday to thank the NHS while over the past ten years having been perfectly comfortable voting for a government that has run it down to the point that we are struggling so much today? I have witnessed how tough it has been for NHS staff over the past decade (tears, huge stress every day due to lack of resources, sickness etc etc) and that was before this virus appeared.
Don’t get me wrong, Corbyn would not in any way be the man for a crisis like this and I believe that the government is doing very well in dealing with the economic impact for businesses and individuals, but it does seem to be behind the curve on the health side, as it always has been.