Updated: Mar 19
So I have been ill. Really quite unwell. Is it coronavirus? I can’t tell you. Because I could not get tested. Despite having all the symptoms. The NHS has been great. But I am aware lots of you might be quite worried about this, so assuming that is what I have just had, here’s some things I have learnt this last week.
I’m speculating, I am no medical expert, and have underlying health conditions, so this may well not be your experience. However, there does not seem to be a lot of first hand experience out there at the moment, and a lot of hear say, so here is what happened to me.
I got back from holiday two weeks ago. Not from a country on the "at risk" list, but I was hanging around an international airport for ten hours. After two days back in UK, I began to wonder if I had picked up a cold on the flight (not uncommon). I convinced myself I was being lazy and decided to go the gym. I cycled there. A half hour cycle. I went slow. By the time I got there I felt like I was going to keel over. I stood outside for a few minutes trying to catch my breath and finally acknowledged that what I needed to do was go home. I felt like I had done a six hour spin class, when actually I had been pootling along like someone with a wicker basket and not a care in the world except cross stitch. Then I started getting extreme joint pain. Extreme. I went to work, because you can't not go to work because suddenly you are too unfit to have cycled to the gym and your legs hurt. By the end of the day, I was needing too use my arms to help me stand. At points I was crawling on all fours. My throat started the feel like someone had been at with a metal file.
I’m very fortunate (and grateful to work with really incredible and supportive people). I called them and said I was not able to come in as I was unwell and did not want them to catch it (yes I am fortunate to have sick pay – as someone who has only just got this incredible safety net after 20 years of never having had it – I get what an incredible position this is to be in). As I had all the dreaded symptoms, I called 111. They told me that because I had not returned from an affected area there was nothing they could do.
So I went back to bed. The breathing got worse. My fever increased. The cough got worse. My asthma kicked off in a very attention seeking manner. My joint pain was ridiculous. And this is from someone who has broken 13 bones in the last 12 months. I know joint pain. This hurt. I was mostly taking paracetamol, sleeping and telling people I could not see them (and working out who I would need to contact who I had been in contact with - but I did not want to frighten people and I had no confirmation - who wants to bring that news when it is just speculation?). My breathing worsened, the fever stabilised, but the cough got so bad it was making me vomit.
I waited a few days for it to pass. It did not pass. I called 111 again and gasped and rasped that my symptoms were persistent, and I didn’t mean to bother them, but I could not breathe. Again, they repeated that as I had not been to an "at risk" country that there was nothing they could do, and I should just self isolate. But that if India suddenly got added to the list then I should call back immediately. I sat on my sofa thinking about whether I may ever have enough oxygen passing through my nose to be able to eat with my mouth closed ever again when my GP called me. She said she had seen my 111 calls and wanted to know how I was. I croaked my response to her. She immediately got some medication sent to the chemist on my road with instructions that someone else could collect them for me and put them through my letterbox.
The medication eased my asthma within 12 hours and I started to breathe more freely again. She called again the next day to check they were working. The care I got was brilliant, but they were obviously concerned if they are calling me on my mobile to make sure I am breathing.
So why am I telling you all of this (besides the fact that I have not seen anyone for 10 days and am sat in a bubble?)? Because it wasn’t awful. I felt rotten, but genuinely it has not been that bad.
There are a few things that were even quite nice about it. I am an over-commiter. I stretch myself too thin in too many directions all the time. This was a moment I quite literally had to stop. When was the last time you quite literally could not do a thing for anyone else? The only thing on my to do list was to sleep and breathe and get better. In these modern your-value-is-your-output times, that felt like a revelation. Of course we should not have to be (literally and physically) gasping for air to achieve that, but a victory nonetheless.
I had to rest. There has been no getting round it. I was in too much pain to sit up and read, I just had to get on with lying down (and scrolling around on social media). And your body appreciates that care. We live in these incredible super suits that on the whole just try and do their best to mend, if we give them the chance. Quick example for you, when I first broke my arm last year I carried on, because it’s only a broken arm right? How much bother can that be? I was in plaster for six months. Second time I broke it (don't - I know...), I stopped, and rested. That took six weeks to heal.
Whilst self isolating, social media prevented me feeling lonely. Yes it can be a cesspit sometimes, but there are glowing corners. Find yours. Similar to when my mum was dying of leukaemia, when you are very isolated, that little 140 character opening into someone else’s world can feel like a stained glass window.
I came up with inventive ways to feed myself when I could barely stand (and could not get supermarket deliveries – thanks panic buyers – nice strategy you have there) – I worked out if I order 10 or so small vegetable side dishes from my local Indian takeaway, I could put a spoon of each into each other and bingo – I had 10 little Thalis in my freezer for about £3.50 each. I also asked the delivery driver to leave it outside my door so he was not at risk.
And I drank about 2 litres of water a night.
Not very revelationary was it? You probably knew all this already, but I thought I would put a person behind it rather than a bit of sensationalism so maybe you might be a bit less worried about things. Well I hope that has been the achievement.
I am hoping I did have it, and I am going to be one of the first survivors, because that is going to make my summer a hell of a lot more fun if I am not having to run around playing dodge the plague. (Don’t tell me you can get it more than once – I am actually not listening to you). And I still keep coming back to the vision that they may have to let Glastonbury only be attended by people who have already had it, and then we will all have to fill in for acts on the main stage like jury service.
I hope my wittering have been useful to someone. If you have any questions. please ask. I don’t claim to be any kind of authority, but if I can help I will always try. This has been the longest I have typed all week. I am going to lie down now.
"The last of the human freedoms: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. And there were always choices to make." Viktor Frankl