Behind the Scenes: Riding the Covid Rollercoaster

I must admit that so far, the first three weeks of 2021 have not quite gone the way I’d expected. All day long on New Year’s Eve I wasn’t feeling so great – not full-blown sick but definitely a bit under the weather.

We saw in the New Year alone, my husband and I, and spent a quiet although enjoyable New Year’s Day going out for a walk together in the fresh air then eating a lovely home-made celebratory roast dinner. At that point I felt as though perhaps I was maybe coming down with a cold or a touch of flu – sneezing, headache, dizziness, sore throat, tight chest, and an aching tiredness – but thought no more about it. I checked my symptoms online and it said that if you’re sneezing it’s not Covid, so I felt reassured it was just the start of a common-or-garden winter illness: Nothing remarkable for me at this time of year.

When I woke the following morning with the beginnings of a bit of a weird metallic taste in my mouth, and with my usual asthmatic cough sounding (and feeling) a little bit tighter, a bit more high-pitched squeaky than usual, I took my temperature but thankfully had no fever. I was still sneezing intermittently so again put it out of my mind. But by the next day the weird taste and falsetto cough were even more noticeable so I figured I’d best be sensible and follow Government advice to book a Covid test just to be on the safe side. I walked to our local testing station, did my throat and nose swab as instructed, and walked home again.

And my test result came back positive. My husband, who had also felt as if he was coming down with a cold, also booked a test but amazingly his result came back negative in spite of the fact we had spent a lot of time together in close contact since I’d been feeling unwell. So we temporarily changed our living arrangements at home accordingly to ensure we minimised the risk of me infecting him, and both immediately embarked on our individual self-isolation for the required period, strangely together yet apart for the duration.

At that point I didn’t tell people who didn’t need to know because I didn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily – by now we were already all going in to full lock-down nationally and so there was nothing anyone could do anyway. Instead we simply got on with dealing with things as best we could alone, ordering online a delivery of groceries to see us through and hoping my symptoms didn’t get any worse as time went on. Thankfully, in spite of a lifetime of poor health and ongoing respiratory issues, they didn’t.

I’ve felt all along like I’ve had an ebb-and-flow mash-up mix of a really bad cold and mild flu, but nothing worse than that. My main symptoms have been sneezing, sore throat, headache, dizziness, earache, and a bone-aching tiredness. I’ve also had a bit-more-than-usual cough, a bit-more-than-usual tight chest, and a bit of an ongoing weird taste in my mouth affecting my sense of taste and smell. And still no fever throughout, just the chills. Even now I have continuing day-to-day highs and lows – ‘Riding the Covid roller-coaster’ my husband calls it. But the strangest thing for me has been the fact that there was absolutely nothing about how I’d felt in the beginning that screamed ‘Covid’ to me any more than any other winter-borne illness.

I’d always assumed that I would know right away if I caught Covid. That it would feel alarmingly different enough to be recognised immediately – in particular I naively assumed that a high temperature, top of the list of symptoms everywhere you look, would be an inevitable not-to-be-missed calling-card heralding its imminent arrival. That the dry cough, too, would be noticeably different from any ‘normal’ cough I might have – and that ultimately I would know my own body. But I didn’t. I knew I wasn’t well, I knew I was coming down with something crappy, but I certainly didn’t know I had Covid rather than anything else.

In my mid-twenties I had pleurisy, which was extremely painful and extremely debilitating, so I was expecting a similar level of debilitation with a lungful of Covid. But amazingly for me this particular infection seems to have settled more persistently in the ear, nose and throat area than buried agonisingly in the farthest reaches of my alveoli. I can still taste it and feel it scratching in the back of my throat, still feel it aggravating my ear canal making me feel dizzy now and again, still pounding in my head from time to time – and yes, it still catches abruptly in my chest after almost any exertion at all, leaving me out of breath and needing to rest for a while until everything settles again. But thankfully, incredibly, it seems there is to be no deep-level pneumonia for me – or not so far, at least.

So three weeks on I do feel as if I’m on the mend, recovering slowly but surely, and feel so hugely relieved not to have developed the extreme illness that knocks so many for six. Once I was past the required self-isolation infectious stage I let people know I’ve had Covid but am doing OK, just convalescing and taking things easy for as long as it takes. Symptoms for me have certainly eased a lot down the line but disappointingly have not yet disappeared entirely – it seems to be a really stubborn virus, not keen to let go once it has caught hold. Nevertheless I’m absolutely astounded to have got off so lightly and feel eternally grateful to have been so lucky.

Incidentally I’m not mentioning where I picked it up from because I feel that’s irrelevant  – I caught this virus myself, no-one ‘gave’ it to me. Like many people who test positive for Covid I try to follow the current regulatory advice as best I can. Suffice to say I now have first-hand experience of the stark reality that not all transmission of infection is due to large house parties or other major law-breaking activities. One small lapse in infection control procedures on one isolated contact occasion by otherwise responsible people is sometimes all it takes unwittingly to pass it on.

This is definitely not the path I expected to be walking along in 2021, but it’s the one I find myself on so I’m making the most of the unexpected detour as best I can, ultimately grateful still to be on any path at all, to be one of the walking wounded rather than lying prone in an induced coma in an intensive care bed, or worse, cocooned in a shroud. Looking on the bright side I’ve caught Covid and I’ve survived, and for now that feels like a really good reason to feel positive about having tested positive…

Weekly Prompt: Path  

34 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: Riding the Covid Rollercoaster

      1. You follow SueW too, don’t you? She also is on the way out of an infection. People who have been ultra-careful, keeping themselves safe all year, seem to be dropping like flies. I feel very fraudulent, I got a vaccine dose very unexpectedly thanks to the NHS’s disorganisation, but I don’t think that really changes anything (despite the stroke I’m not considered to be at all vulnerable). But when one is offered, who could possibly say No?

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  1. My goodness! You’re dealing with the whole thing very pragmatically, which I think is the best way to deal with it. My condolences on your having caught it at all, but wow. But ‘they’ say that everyone gets a different presentation – there are similarities of course; but nobody seems to exhibit it the exact same way as their neighbor. It sounds like you have the situation well in hand! Good for you and take care!

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  2. Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that you’ve had this awful infection, but I’m so pleased that you are feeling better, though I know how up and down this infection can be.

    I tested positive the week before Christmas and was also sneezing at the start and I never had a temperature, I had hot flushes, but strangely, the temperature stayed normal.

    During the first week I had a few days of feeling ill and thought that was it, but I was mistaken; everything changed and on the eleventh day when I was due to come out of isolation I was admitted to hospital.

    Now over five weeks later, although I am much better than I was, my activities are still limited. I no longer crawl up the stairs but I become breathless and fatigued easily and still have muscle pains.

    Like you, I find that some days are much better than others.

    My thirty-year-old son, a teacher, picked up the infection at his school, he is in my bubble and his symptoms began to show while he was visiting me, it was inevitable that it would pass to me. He had a few days of feeling poorly but was absolutely fine at the end of his ten days of isolation.

    It’s laughable that I spent ten months at home, hardly leaving the house and then caught the virus at home! On the plus side, I didn’t pass the virus to anyone else.

    I’m glad I’ve had Covid and I imagine you are too. It’s done with now. AND I’ve been invited for my vaccination, it’s booked for Monday 1st Feb.

    Do take care, Ruth – thank goodness for lockdown you can take it easy and keep resting I think you’ll agree that you and I have been very very lucky.
    Get well soon. 🙂

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  3. They seem to be moving pretty quickly in my area at getting through the age list. I could have had it this week, but it was a five PM appointment and I had visions of long queues that had built up through the day. I’m told that people are turning up early and causing the queue. So I booked one at eight AM next Monday instead.

    I was offered the appointment by text from the GP’s surgery, then I had to go online and choose a time from the free slots just like we do for the flu jab.

    I’m a lot older than you, which is why my turn has come up, but I hope your turn comes soon.

    Thanks Ruth, 🙂

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  4. I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better and I appreciated your description of the course of the illness – really interesting. So many people who have taken all the precautions seem to be getting it and I think it’s that much more highly contagious strain that is to blame. Your piece reminded me to be even more vigilant.

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    1. Thanks, Jan – I think this virus affects everyone differently, so it does concern me a little that the Government here still stick so narrowly to the three main symptoms of high temp, continuous cough, and a change to sense of taste or smell to have a test – to me that’s both too prescriptive and too vague, confusing the issue rather than giving clear guidance, especially during winter with so many other ‘normal’ bugs around 😦

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      1. Sadly there’s no hard or fast science on all of this yet, no-one seems to be really sure about how anything will be long-term, and I don’t think all these mutations and new variants help matters much, either. Hope your daughter and family are doing ok now…

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  5. That it’s very interesting Ruth, and I’m glad you aren’t extremely ill and are improving. This virus is so similar to others and yet different enough for some that we’ve all taken “the scare”in one way or another. Stay on the path to recovery (that is what I will pray for you).

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