Today’s story is from another friend of mine on social media who asked to remain anonymous and so i am going to call her K [not her real initial!]
My husband is a physio at Groote Schuur hospital. He’s been working in covid wards and with covid patients for 7 or 8 months now.
His department were really careful from March already with social distancing, changing clothes before going home and lots of deep cleaning of their department several times a week. As a family we had pretty much isolated since the lockdown, apart from essential shops and me helping my parents out a bit with shopping, meals, and some relief care when my mom’s dementia kicked in in June-July.
On the 17th of August my husband woke with what he thought was a bad sinus headache and stuffy nose, after a weekend of feeling a bit tired and run down (he had worked that weekend, so put it down to work). He rested for 3 days but when he was no better on the Thursday morning, his boss suggested a covid test. He had one done at Groote Schuur and we got the call that evening at 9.30pm. Positive. The shock. His disbelief. My dread.
What about my parents? My kids? I’d taken my mom to buy linen for their new house (in a retirement village) that they were moving into at the end of September. I’d been careful with my mask but was driving her around in our car on the 12th.
My husband tried to isolate from us once he was diagnosed, but it was tricky. We have one bathroom and I was frantically sanitising everything whenever he touched it!! It didn’t make him feel great.
Covid strikes again
Over that weekend I felt a bit tired and run down with a headache both days. I initially didn’t think too much of it as I do get headaches, but also didn’t want to think I could also have covid-19.
On Monday the 24th August (my birthday) I woke with full-blown symptoms: chills, body aches, headache, nausea and debilitating fatigue. No fever. No chest symptoms. No sore throat. Our 2 daughters aged 10 and 13 had been complaining of tiredness and headaches since the weekend so the 3 of us went to get tested. My 15yo son was showing no symptoms so we didn’t test him.
On Tuesday we got the news that both girls had tested negative but I was positive. I was devastated, even though by then I knew I had it.
My GP was fantastic, and sent through a very helpful email with tips to manage symptoms. She reassured me that I’d be ok. She told us to isolate as a family unit because we’d all been exposed to each other by then.
The nausea, body aches and chills lasted 3 days. After that I had debilitating fatigue, light-headedness and bad headaches for another week. The light-headed feeling I could only describe as a cross between sitting up too fast and feeling utterly drained. The headaches and fatigue eased sometime around week 6. I am still not back to my normal levels of energy and definitely have some brain fog.
I also had terribly restless legs at night for the first week of being ill. I lost my sense of smell on day 5, but kept my sense of taste. It was weird. My sense of smell hasn’t fully returned after 4 months. I rate it at about 60-70% returned.
My husband basically only had a bad headache and was much better by his day 10. Apart from a slight relapse on day 14, he is fully recovered and was back to his normal levels of exercising within 6 weeks of his diagnosis. He ended up being booked off work for 3 weeks. He lost his sense of taste and smell on day 5 but they both came back after about 2 weeks.
Our daughters had fatigue and headaches for a week and have fully recovered and our 15yo son never had any symptoms at all. Thankfully my parents were both fine too, although they did isolate for 10 days once they heard my husband was positive.
I’m terrified of getting it again. The second wave is so much worse. About a third of my husband’s colleagues are isolating with covid right now and one is actually in ICU at Groote Schuur on high flow oxygen. He’s been in wards this week while porters are wrapping up bodies in plastic before moving them.
Thankfully he is on leave from tonight for 10 days. We were looking forward to driving up to PE to visit his parents for a much needed family holiday, but we’re not going. His father is high risk (diabetes, high BP and cholesterol) and it’s not worth the risk. He is angry at acquaintances, friends, even colleagues who have still travelled away to visit family while we have tried to do the right thing and stay home. He hasn’t seen his parents in over a year. They were due to come and visit us in March but then lockdown happened.
Thank you, K, for sharing and giving us such a helpful glimpse into the experience of the disease as well as some of the community and family ramifications. Having spoken to a number of people who have had covid, the fatigue and brain fog seem to be quite regular occurrences and the lack of smell and/or taste seem to be key indicators for a lot of people. And yet everyone, even as we’ve seen within this one family, experiences it differently to different degrees.
To catch up on the rest of this series, click here. If you have had covid-19 and would like to share some of your story to hopefully help the rest of us to understand the experience a little bit more, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org