I must admit that so far, the first three weeks of 2021 have not quite gone the way I’d expected.
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. Later on that day I felt as though perhaps I was 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 a bit of a weird metallic taste in my mouth, and with my usual asthmatic cough sounding (and feeling) a 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 lockdown 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. And still no fever throughout. Even now I have continuing day-to-day highs and lows – ‘Riding the Covid rollercoaster’ 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…