COVID-19

Covid19 can cause real anxiety for people with poor mental health that goes without saying. I remember hearing about this virus in an area of China and asking Sharon, my partner, did I have anything to worry about?

“No love we will be ok here.” This was the right and sensible answer the one I would have given. Ten days later the UK government were moving Brits in from China and putting them in our local hospital Arrowe Park. All I am saying about that is it was on our doorstep (potentially) in such a short space of time. 

In no time the virus and our response were changing hourly nevermind daily and once the PM addressed the nation that Monday evening introducing a new way of life (albeit temporarily) the disease was already in our house. Sharon had had a terrible run healthwise the previous three weeks having three different forms of antibiotics. The Doctors were treating her for various things so when she began showing symptoms of the virus we thought it was her body’s refusal to shake what had already been happening. Things became so bad for her breathing wise the surgery sent an ambulance to the house. By now she couldn’t talk more than a few words because of the cough which put pressure on her breathing. The paramedic was wearing all his PPE though my untrained eye couldn’t tell you if it was the appropriate equipment. The driver stayed in front of the ambulance and Sharon never saw her. They communicated via radio. The Doctor had asked for a chest x-ray. Off she went. The Doctor at the hospital told her he couldn’t test her but she had this virus in his opinion 100% no doubt about it and she should isolate at home because thankfully the oxygen in her blood was good. Any decline phone 999.

“You’re in for a rough few days and nights before your going to feel anything remotely better.” So it proved to be. By now I had also started to develop some symptoms and these were mild in comparison to Sharon but they were very unpleasant so god knows what other people go through.

During the following days, there were moments, especially when she went to bed, I didn’t know what I’d wake up to. Her temperature raged and she felt her throat closing.

“This knows how to get you.” She confided. Such comments and fear are not associated with my Sharon she is positive, pragmatic and vibrant. She told me she spent hours massaging her throat to loosen the crap and keep a small opening to breathe.  Our sense of taste during this time was bizarre things just didn’t taste as they should.  I remember making a ham sandwich with a little pickle and I can’t even describe what was in my mouth before I spat it out.

Things have eased a lot for me but it is slowly, slowly for Sharon. Even as I write this her temperature is back up. My quarantine is over Monday we got through with the help of our neighbours for which I will be eternally grateful.

This brings me to another thing. Testing. That is all wrong, has been wrong and continues to be wrong. It is not what you know its who you know. Only those admitted to the hospital get tested and royals, politicians, footballers. Our NHS staff are walking into clouds of this killer virus every shift and are not getting tested. They are only trying to get a move on to hopefully get those self-isolating back at work. How many weeks later since we all heard about Wuhan is it and there are not enough tests or ventilators. Have you seen wherein the league table the UK is in ventilators? Should we believe that at the end of April they will have the capacity to test 100,000 a day? Don’t hold your breath.

So what now for us. Can I venture back out? Can I confidently say I have beaten the virus I was very lucky and it won’t come back and bite me on the arse because actually, I didn’t get it? That would be impossible given the proximity of living here, if Sharon had it which she did, I must have had it. It’s just it would be nice to know for sure.

This is Sharon’s thoughts.

Friday 13th March in the evening I was hit with a sharp painful throat which came on suddenly,  it was difficult to swallow and I lost my voice. When I woke up it was a lot better but I had a headache and a slight dry tickly cough. On Sunday the cough had become annoying, but then the first lot of fever hit. My temperature soared I felt unwell, all across my back and chest ached, the cough carried on and the fatigue first hit. I slept all night/morning and on into some of the afternoon,  I still napped before tea time and fell asleep again by 8 pm. Trying to get up in the morning has been like trying to raise the titanic. Monday I called the GP and they treated me for a chest infection with antibiotics, steroids and inhalers in case this could help clear my chest. The fevers just keep coming one made me feel so nauseous I could pass out, not that I can stay conscious very long anyway, nothing was working to break the fever I was burning up ridiculously well over 39°. I have felt so weird with it like, I’m here but I am not here like I am spaced. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it carries on like this, but now every inch of my body hurts from coughing and struggling to breathe. Thursday my temp still starts out 38.9° but the meds help bring it down a bit more respectable numbers just under 38°. Friday I speak to my GP again concerned that my breathing should be better and the pains in my back are horrendous. They send me to Arrowe Park Hospital to be checked. I was with triage for 2 minutes, the nurse said my oxygen levels were fine and the inhalers and meds were keeping the fever at bay so to keep managing at home, it was safer for me to get back home soon as possible and go back if it gets worse. Saturday intense nauseous aches through my body and my joints are aching. I also have intense abdominal pain and some diarrhoea. Also, weirdest thing ever was I drank some pure orange which tasted almost savoury,  I thought it was off but not. I’ve got a strange taste and I cannot tell what things are meant to taste like. My appetite has been much smaller than usual anyhow. Finally, my temperature starts at 38.3° my lowest yet but I still feel shocking. I have pains in my back high up and I still feel shaky and achy. It’s easier to just breathe shallowly and I can now control most of the cough, now I am coughing up some disgusting salty liquid. Occasionally I feel like my throat is closing up it’s so dry. The fatigue is still totally overwhelming though and I cannot stay awake for more than a few hours. Now I feel desperate. I am emotional, I just want to cry my body hurts so much and I have never felt so tired. I want to tend to my little boy and I want to give my partner a rest who hasn’t bloody stopped and is now also succumbing to similar chest problems.

Had diarrhoea again this morning and woke with a temp over 39° again, I was scarlet, really red in the face again, it came down with 1st lot of paracetamol, then the second lot made it more respectable but I feel weird. Like I’m here but I’m not here. My back hurts, can’t stay awake, it’s harder to suck the inhalers in without a coughing fit, keeping still is my best bet for stopping the coughing.. finished the steroids now. I will call the GP and see what they advise. I’m cooling off with doors and windows open but feeling shakey.

The GP called an ambulance, I went and had a chest x-ray, I have infection clearing on one side but they’re happy for me to continue without antibiotics or steroids to give my immune system a chance kick in as I’ve had so many. The blood tests show them how I am fighting and my oxygen is 98 which is brilliant,  I am coping with the fever and I feel like I’m not here. I’m so nauseous I am close to vomiting now all the time. The consultant says if he was a betting man he would say it is 100% COVID-19 they’re only testing people who are being admitted though and I am allowed to go home. I’m doing amazing fighting this, and he doesn’t think I have too much more to get through. A few more tough days and things should start improving 

Just when I think I am getting through I have the most horrendous night, every time I go to sleep the virus knows how to close my airways. I have vivid paranoid dreams where I am dying, all the time another voice talks me through what I need to do to beat it, it’s horrendous. I had to sit up and massage my throat to keep it open, sipping water every few minutes to keep it clear. I knew if I didn’t clear it could close at any time, it is just awful. Every inch of me aches and feels nauseous. All I can do is suck in some air and sip some water. There is a thick glue type snot covering my throat inside, you have to massage this away firmly rubbing the windpipe until it dislodges. The virus forces you to just take shallow breaths holding you ransom to not breathing too deeply, so you are continuously held in a position of two coughs or risk a massive coughing fit. You have to start pushing through this though then this disgusting jelly-like glue starts to move and more liquid can shift. It hurts like hell and it is counter-intuitive because coughing is so bad, you have to go through it though to shift the crap. The taste is disgusting. I also fainted twice this morning.  Everything just totally closed in and switched off. At first, I thought shit it’s closing down my consciousness, just like that. It feels surreal like I don’t know what is happening. Occasionally I just feel like I am ‘going to go’ and everything shuts down. It’s scary, really scary. I am afraid to go to sleep but I cannot stay awake either. I can see how this is taking people’s lives. The absolute most important thing is to stop the fever from getting too high. I feel so confused, I keep wondering what is happening to me, then I remember.

I don’t know how I got to Thursday and I know this has been horrendous,  I do think I am improving slightly though now. I stayed awake again ensuring my airways were cleared regularly, and I have luminous yellow diarrhoea. I am nibbling dry biscuits and toast trying to keep bits down. The forcing the cough to disperse is still working though, and pushing through the fear of losing my breath entirely! It’s really hard to take my inhalers I cant suck them in without a coughing fit, I’m not giving up though. The chills and fevers are almost at bay for the first time. This has been horrendous, I have felt just so unbelievably poorly and the fatigue is still one of the toughest things, I just nod off mid-conversation and wake up hours later.

I have terrible diarrhoea still and feel very intensely nauseous.  It’s now two weeks since this began. I’m so fed up but hopeful this is nearing the end. It’s still too hard to breathe, I have been close to fainting twice more today so far. If I keep still it passes. I am a little bit less confused,  I know what is happening again for the most part.

I’ve got pains in my back and arms, and if I move around I become breathless. The mucus is still breaking down though. I keep reminding myself I am getting better, this too shall pass. I am alive and I am so grateful. If I had the energy I would write a letter to everyone I love and make sure they know.  For now, I will just keep the belief I will be here to tell them myself.

Finally day by day the pain is lessening. The fevers are just high temperatures.  I am tired but now I can get through a few hours and stay awake. I can eat more and drink a little bit more, I know I have beaten this. My breathing is getting easier every day. I am grateful that the pains have subsided in my bones, I’ve got this, I will get through this.

I hope and pray my worst day has been, and I hope and pray my loved ones to stay safe and those who do have it recover quickly ❣

I think my worst day has now definitely passed. I have to take paracetamol regularly and make sure my temperature doesn’t spike,  I ache a little and the nausea is subsiding.  I am left with weird phenomena like washing my hands and tasting soap at the back of my throat! I also can’t eat anything sugary it tastes sickly sweet, and some tastes are chemical like and nasty, my appetite is picky, and tea juice or pop all taste bizarre, I have to just stick with the water I have been sipping for weeks now! Still hard to breathe if I move about too much and I fall asleep for several hours of the day but still massive improvements. I’m starting to realise just how poorly I have been and I am so grateful to feel a little brighter. It’s now Friday again,  which is nuts, I don’t know how it is 3 weeks since this began, feel like I have blinked and woke up a week later!!

I turned to writing for therapy after a long period of ill-health. I have just returned to work. I am a researcher, writer, and Mental Health Advocate.

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