***POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING***
In my last post, I wrote that I had contracted Covid-19 and that I would write a follow-up post going into greater detail about my experience.
This is that post.
Towards the end of March 2020, my partner who happens to be a doctor, contracted what we suspected to be Covid-19. The symptoms were there. Cough, headache, fever, body aches. This was despite our best efforts as we began social distancing even before the government announced the nationwide lockdown. I was working from home and outside of working in the hospital, my partner remained at home.
Did I mention we live together? We decided to sleep in separate rooms and maintain as much distance as possible but it was largely performative. I realised, by that point, I’d likely already caught whatever my partner had so I focused on trying to nurse her back to health as quickly as possible as I knew the clock was ticking.
With no proven treatment, so to speak, we focused on making sure our bodies were in the best condition to fight the virus. We were taking daily vitamin C, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, ensuring we kept hydrated and drank quite a bit of fresh ginger and lime/lemon tea. Let me be clear that I am not touting this as a cure. It is not. Rather, these are things that are good for the body and we hoped they would keep our bodies in tip top shape to be able to fight the infection.
We also practiced breathing techniques which proved to be very helpful and effective at clearing the airways. We made sure to sleep on our sides rather than on our backs and during the day there was no laying down. Only sitting up. This was all done to aid and improve our breathing.
My partner’s hospital arranged for her to receive a Covid-19 swab test and a few days later, the results came back as positive. Great. Thankfully by this point she was over it and returned to work after a week or so off. Let me state unequivocally that she is a warrior.
I, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. My symptoms developed slowly. Almost inconspicuously. I was about a week behind my partner in the timeline of the infection. It started with some body pain. But I put that down to sleeping on the sofa so didn’t think much of it. Then came the coughing. Eventually, I became congested and developed a scratchy throat and chest, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, chest tightness, vomiting and diarrhoea, headache, photophobia, fatigue and fever.
We were especially concerned as I’m asthmatic, putting me at higher risk of things going badly and boy did they. The symptoms I mentioned only worsened. I was using my inhalers constantly. I also developed anosmia (loss of smell) as well as a loss of taste.
Things eventually came to a head for me around day 8. As I mentioned, my partner had since returned to work at the hospital so I was spending the days alone at home, sat in my armchair mostly. She arrived home in the evening and found me in my usual spot in my armchair. Roughly 20 minutes after, I went to the bedroom to lay down as I was feeling really awful. Around 10 minutes after this, my partner was in the bedroom with me as I had seriously deteriorated. My breathing was incredibly laboured, I was finding it very difficult to breathe and I was feeling faint.
What follows is a combination of the parts I remember and what my partner has told me.
I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Becoming less and less responsive. She had already phoned an ambulance however it was the first responder who arrived after over an hour of waiting. I was given oxygen and my obs were taken. My heart rate was high, I had a fever. The ambulance eventually arrived and I was carted off to the hospital.
I was seen and attended to and they suspected I had also contracted Covid-19. Eventually I was discharged home in the very early hours of the morning. This was very likely a mistake as you’re about to read.
After only a few hours at home, I deteriorated further. All of my symptoms had worsened further. The headache was now one of the worst I had ever experienced, second only to the pain I experienced when I had a brain haemorrhage. The photophobia was so bad I couldn’t open my eyes and had my eyes covered with cloth. Again, I was struggling with remaining conscious. This time, my absolute badass superhero of a partner refused to call/wait for an ambulance and sped me to the hospital herself.
However, I certainly remember the thoughts that went through my head. I had visions of my partner, my mother, my nephews and nieces. I thought about all the things I hadn’t done yet and the things I thought I would never get to do. I genuinely thought that this was it for me and this was just how my story would end.
I had a swab test performed on me to check for Covid-19. My obs were also taken again and my O2 sats were found to be 86 (02 sats refers to the amount of oxygen in your blood – normal levels are 95 and above). I was admitted and put in a side room due to the nature of my illness. I was given constant oxygen, as well as codeine and morphine this time around and a number of tests were performed including an ABG (arterial blood gas). Chest x-rays were performed which showed a pneumonitis consistent with Covid-19. My swab test also came back positive for Covid-19.
After some time in the hospital receiving wonderful care from the staff, I began to improve. Eventually I was out of the woods and was allowed to return home. I remember being wheeled out of the room and through the ward on a wheelchair. I remember the kind faces of the staff as I left and I expressed my ever-enduring gratitude to them for saving my life. I could tell that the staff were battered and bruised from all of the lives lost due to this pandemic so to have a case where someone survived after being admitted to hospital clearly meant a lot to them. I received nods, smiles and waves from hospital staff as I was wheeled out. Eventually, there at the entrance to the hospital, on an incredibly sunny day, was my partner, looking happier than I’d ever seen her.
I was still feeling the effects of the infection but I was over the worst. I wasn’t able to talk much and I could barely walk from the living room to the bathroom on my own but I was alive and that was what mattered. I made it home in time for her birthday which we just spent at home gratefully. It was another 2-3 weeks before I was strong enough to take even a short walk in our garden.
So where are things now?
I can do a lot more walking now. And a lot more talking. I’ve also been able to do some light exercise. I am gradually able to taste more and more however my sense of smell still hasn’t returned. I still feel the chest pain and I wake up with body pain every day. My endurance is also not what it once was.
I remain hopeful that all of this is temporary however some research seems to suggest that some of these side-effects may be more on the permanent side.
Despite all of this, I am grateful to still be here and to be embarking on my next adventure at medical school which begins in a little under four weeks. We’re also moving house soon (we’ve paid for movers, lord knows I’m in no condition to do any heavy lifting), so all in all, things are looking up and I’m feeling positive.