Because, let’s face it, when you get flu, you might SAY you feel like death but you don’t actually think you’re going to die from it. But when millions of people have already died from coronavirus, the spectre of Death himself with his scythe and long cloak and bony expression does rear up at the back of your mind.
My first day of symptoms, I thought it was a sinus infection, which I get at least once a year. But there were other symptoms that didn’t seem quite right. Nausea, for one, as well as a slightly elevated temperature. My normal body temperature is a bit odd (I think) as it is always quite low, around 36.1 degrees C average. So when it went up to 37.3C, did that just mean I was now normal or was it elevated? Because 37C is supposed to be the average!
My general symptoms were feeling really tired with sore eyes and that feeling you get in your chest when you’re breathing in really cold air. By the next day, Tuesday, I felt worse and decided to order a coronavirus test. I was sure I was just being a hypochondriac and that I was imagining worse symptoms than I felt.
By Wednesday I still felt horrible and had received about ten emails from Royal Mail telling me how they had lost my coronavirus test. I started feeling slightly desperate by Thursday morning and phoned the number I found on Google for a nearby walk-in clinic to get a test. I was astonished to be offered a test within an hour! But shit, I still I had to get dressed and drag my body to the other side of Tottenham Court Road. Walking VERY slowly (for me), I managed to get myself lost too. Actually, Google maps got me lost, telling me to turn right when I should have just gone on another half a block. Not quite sure where the hell they were sending me!
Thank God for postmen. I just knew he would know where I was supposed to go! He did too. And yes, I kept well away from him AND I was wearing a mask. I’m not a fucking idiot! I eventually noticed that there was a sign for the clinic. It was at least an inch square. Gosh, how could I have missed it.
The clinic was weird. No one there except a lot of workers in masks keeping well away from me. In a booth, with a worker at the entrance telling me what to do, I did the test. Having taken part in a random voluntary survey last year to do a test (it was negative), I at least knew what to do. Still gagged with the thingie down my throat (I didn’t bother mentioning that I don’t have tonsils) and was told to poke around my nose for a lot longer.
Then it was done.
Dragged home and by afternoon had a temperature of 37.8C. Man, I felt like shit.
Exactly twelve hours later I got the result: it was positive. It confirmed what I already knew and my first thought was for the people I accidently ran into when going out for a walk the previous Sunday. And also breathing all over the library on Monday when I went in to do some scanning for work. Fortunately I saw no one in the building, but still….
If I felt like shit on Thursday, it was nothing like Friday morning (Day 5): I got as far as the kitchen, turned the kettle on, and realised my body weighed at least nine hundred billion tonnes. I didn’t feel faint but I just couldn’t hold my body up. So I lay down on the shitty hard kitchen carpet and couldn’t move. And I mean, really, I couldn’t move. I didn’t pass out. I just lay there, utterly, utterly without an ounce of energy. I was dimly aware that I was seriously dehydrated and it did occur to me that I may feel better if I drank some water. Jesus H, I have never so badly wanted someone to help me!
I lay there for half an hour. It took another half an hour to crawl to the other side of the kitchen (this makes my kitchen sound vast – it isn’t) and finally stand up long enough to pour some water in a glass. Feeling marginally better, I took a glass of water back to bed and just lay there, listening to the radio, sipping water until at last I could get up.
I sent a message to my daughter on Thursday night to tell her I had Covid and only noticed the next day that she had asked if I wanted to phone (she doesn’t often ask that so she must have been a tad freaked out). Friday was a lovely sunny day. I mean, honestly, the most exquisite winter’s day, after so many dark, dreary dull days. How I would have loved to have gone for a walk down to the river. But my temperature was 38C and I felt utterly horrible. I didn’t even turn my computer on. I dozed for most of the day. Unable to even read a book, just paged through a magazine (an unexciting TV mag).
I notice that I wrote nothing in my diary on Saturday but it’s not hard to guess that I still felt appalling. The three main symptoms were tiredness, temperature and nausea. I had no idea that nausea was a symptom. If you go and look at the list of symptoms, it’s really long! And everyone gets it differently too. I didn’t get the mega-cough that some people talk about. And can’t say I really noticed my tastebuds going dead, though everything tasted like shit and I had a bad taste in my mouth ALL THE TIME. But when you’re feeling literally sick to your stomach, bad-tasting food is the least of your worries.
It snowed on Sunday but didn’t settle. I forgot to have a second dose of Lemsip (the flu drug of my choice) and felt horrible again in the afternoon. I also had the interesting problem of the wrong food! I had loads of food in the fridge BUT it was nothing I wanted to eat. Bright, cheerful vegetables that would surely go off. Freezer full of stuff that was too hard to make. Loads of stir fry veg (cos this is what I eat a lot of). All I wanted was smooth soups. But who was going to make me a smooth soup? I sure as hell didn’t have the energy to cook.
There lots of things I couldn’t eat: rice tasted revolting. I couldn’t drink tea at all and didn’t even miss it. Even chocolate tasted like ash. But potatoes were suddenly delicious. And Christmas cake! Had some every afternoon with my Lemsip! My cereal was still lovely too, hoorah. Best of all, I could still drink coffee BUT only decaf with MyCuppa milk in it. I couldn’t be bothered with decaf instant most of the time – it’s SO boring! But my sad tastebuds looked forward to this one treat every day!
Day 8. Had to email my new boss about my illness. Also emailed my old boss as she is still sort of a boss (this is rather complicated, but beside the point). Needless to say, I got a lovely, long sympathetic email from my old boss (I have never loved her so much!) and a very quick one from the new boss who was about to have a meeting. Hmmm. I won’t comment on that. It was a relief talking to someone about it though, and she recommended that I read a Jeeves and Wooster book to cheer up.
Day 9. Started doing short bouts of editing. Suddenly spending an hour looking for every instance of THAT in a novel was fun rather than tedious. But really, spent most of my days doing very little and having quite a long nap after lunch. No longer needed the morning nap. I am not one of those people who can stay in bed all day. The idea is just disgusting to me. If I can get up, I will. But it took me the entire morning to get going! I would have to lie down between everything I did: getting dressed, breakfast, brushing teeth. And by eleven, having had 3 rests already, I would then end up in my armchair dozing! So when I say “tiredness”, I really mean total annihilation.
Day 10. For the first time in ten days, the nausea began to abate. JOY! I even managed to stand up for long enough to make a broccoli soup. The broccoli had gone a bit yellow but was still fresh enough for soup. While I was chopping an onion, its aroma hit my nose and I realised suddenly how delicious it was! I even picked it up and sniffed it! I mean, usually onion makes my eyes water and I would never do that! Obviously my tastebuds and sense of smell had returned. Must have been connected with the nausea thing.
NHS Track and Trace finally got through to me on day 10. They tried all weekend but my phone was off or I was asleep. I mean, what did they want to tell me? That I was sick? Did I not already know that? I downloaded the app but have since uninstalled it because it was annoying and didn’t tell me anything. I knew exactly who I had come into contact with. A walk on the previous Sunday (no symptoms) I had run into a friend by sheer chance and we walked around for a bit, chatting for half an hour. He didn’t get it, though. I also ran into my neighbour downstairs, a lady in her 70s. I was worried about her but recently saw her and she’s fit and well and has already had her jab. So, please God, I hope I didn’t spread it to anyone. Any deliveries I had, I opened the door half a centimetre and just called through it (also wore a mask).
Anyway, Track and Trace told me that since my symptoms seemed to have gone, I was now able to resume my normal life. I wanted to die laughing. What the fuck! Took the garbage out and my knees were like jelly!
On Friday, I felt better and more hopeful for the first time in almost two weeks but the day was ruined somewhat by the electricity going out twice and a terrible generator being set up outside for the building next door, so loud it kept me awake all night. Electricity went out again on Saturday for half an hour. I dealt with this problem by having a panic attack and crying and phoning the wrong number to find out what was going on. How was I supposed to know you don’t phone your electricity provider but the 105 emergency number! Being without electricity is SO rare and SO desperate but MUCH worse when you feel you can’t manage anything, feel like hell, and have no one to help you.
I half envy those people who only got a small viral load and didn’t feel so ill. But please, if that was you, don’t go around saying, it’s not so bad, you don’t get so sick. Because you know what, motherfucker? Some people DIE from this. Depending on your underlying health issues OR your viral load (how much of the fucking virus you breathed in), that’s how sick you’ll get. Clearly I didn’t get enough to need hospitalisation, but it was enough to make me feel BAD.
Why have I written about this? I mean, I hate writing about sickness and don’t even like talking about it BUT – I haven’t myself come across many personal tales of this illness. Yes, sure, lots of near-death experiences, but I didn’t actually know what to expect. The NHS website gives you as much as it can, but everyone gets it differently, so you can’t know how you’re going to react to the virus.
So I’m going to give you some tiny bits of advice that I have learned:
- Drink water. Drink more water than you ever have in your life. Keep a bottle beside your bed and drink some every time you wake up.
- Keep eating and eat regularly at proper hours, even if it’s only a small amount.
- Rest. I can’t emphasize this enough! I thought I was getting better by the third week but the damn symptoms came back! I thought I was going to get sick all over again! But I’d pushed myself too hard and endeavoured to do more restful things. The symptoms faded and I am doing better.
- It takes a while to get your strength back. Don’t push it.