Wednesday, 8 April 2020

My Covid 19 Experience

Lots of people are asking me questions about my experience with Covid 19 and most are concerned they may be infected but are struggling to get medical advice, let alone be tested. While I may not be a doctor, I thought it would be useful to share my experience so you can gauge what may or may not be normal. I must point out however that everyone's symptoms are a little different and if you're genuinely concerned you should call 111. Also, I never got tested myself, but having spoken to other sufferers, I'm as confident as I can be that I did have Covid 19.

Firstly me: I'm 37 years old and in average health and fitness. In my younger days I used to run a lot and would expect to have a good lung capacity so even though I don't exercise much now, this should've helped me deal with the illness better than many. Also I don't smoke or have any underlying conditions that would place me at a higher risk.

About a month ago, I started experiencing mild Covid 19 symptoms - a slight ache in my throat and a cough, dizziness, faintness, numbness and tingliness in my upper-body. It felt nothing like a cold or flu. If I did nothing and lazed around, my symptoms were no big deal and I was mostly coping fine. I didn't have a fever, only minor hot flushes, and I did not feel hugely ill. The symptoms would sometimes completely vanish, making me think I'd recovered and then come back a little harder. If I tried to do anything physical like washing the dishes, I'd get unusually breathless but never to the point where I was in danger. A bad bout of flu certainly feels worse, but this can lead to complacency because Covid 19 really takes its toll on your body.

On day 5, I felt strange throughout the night, but it was as though my body was clearing the infection and I woke up feeling much better. For a day and a half I thought I'd beaten Covid 19 so I foolishly became more active, mowing the lawn and doing other chores, and then it hit me hard on day 7 or 8. I felt a massive tightness in my chest like I was in a vice grip. I experienced lower back pain, indigestion and heartburn. Lots of others have reported this, even though they're not listed as typical symptoms.

For the coming weeks I would get breathless and feel tightness in my chest almost daily, even though I did not feel ill in a typical sense. It appears this is because the infection causes damage to your lungs which need time to recover. Sometimes I'd go a day or so with no breathlessness and then the breathlessness would return when I thought I was finally past it.

Breathlessness is an extremely common symptom of Covid 19 and for me, the worst of it lasted over a month. I still get breathless now, but it's barely noticeable unless I really exert myself. When it was bad though, it was very unnerving, not to the point I thought my life was at risk, but certainly enough for me to fear long term damage.

I want to assure people that if they experience Covid symptoms for weeks, they are not alone and would be expected to fully recover. Having said that, if your breathing gets to the point where you're gasping or wheezing or you feel muscle aches, sickness or confusion, please call 111, or if the symptoms are extreme call 999. Also, if you believe you may be high risk due to age or a health condition, you should seek medical advice from your doctor.

While people are rightly concerned about the death rate of Covid 19, it's worth emphasising the overwhelming majority of people will beat the illness and official survival figures are skewed because most sufferers don't get formally diagnosed. I say this not to play down the seriousness of the pandemic but simply to alleviate the concerns of sufferers. Even most of those in vulnerable groups will beat Covid 19, but obviously we must ensure we minimise the risk to them by observing lockdown guidelines. A small percentage of infections resulting in death could still mean a huge death toll.

There's a very good chance you will get Covid 19 at some point so if and when you do, please remember you're not alone and you should get through it. This pandemic really is one of those situations where we're all in this together.

UPDATE 27/5/20: I am currently approaching 11 weeks since I became symptomatic and I'm still suffering slight breathlessness. It looks like this could be the norm for many people, however, I am now at a point where I feel functional, if not quite 100%.

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