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A Coronavirus Diary

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A tale of self-isolation from one of our consultants

Hi Everyone,

While weíre all counting our toilet rolls by the sheet, I wanted to let everyone know that Iíve been in self-isolation with Coronavirus since Saturday evening.

I thought it might be useful for some people to hear what itís been like for a moderately healthy thirty something who was particularly worried about the whole thing. Of course the symptoms do vary, but mine seem to match what the Chief Medical Officer referred to as the ďgreat majorityĒ.

When I woke up on Saturday the 14th I felt absolutely terrible. I thought it was probably the 6 bottles of Magners from the night before, so I got on with it. I took my daughter to ballet and managed to finally put a shoe rack together. Then at 4pm, I felt so tired I laid on the floor and fell asleep. When I woke up about an hour later, I knew something was up, I just felt absolutely spent. But no worse than the flu or maybe even a heavy cold.

However because I was so worried about Coronavirus, I didnít accept it. I went to bed early and when I woke up on Sunday morning in a pool of ownÖ.sweat, I knew something was up.

I used my babyís thermometer to take my temp, 37.9. I floated around that number for about 2 days. The government guidelines state that anything over 37.8 is regarded as a fever, which I first thought was a load of rubbish because itís not really that warm (Iíve seen my girl get to 39.7 before). However, with the other less common symptoms, I knew I had to follow the government advice and self-isolate.

I didnít feel too bad, but listening to the news, watching the economy implode, fearing for loved ones and now hoping my symptoms wouldnít get too bad. I laid in bed all day in self isolation as my partner Lucy had decided to immediately quarantine me not only from the outer world, but from her and my daughter too.

When the door first shut, the four walls closed in. I had no idea how I was ever going to get through 7 days (itís now 14 for anyone living with people). I felt OK, but the thought of being stuck indoors coupled with the fear weíve all experienced in recent weeks was overwhelming.

The first couple of days, I felt rough but not like the cases Iíd read about. My temperature continued and I felt really tired. It was difficult to concentrate (but thatís not really a new symptom for me), but nothing really worse than a heavy cold.

The most frustrating thing has been the cabin fever. How Andy in Shawshank Redemption was able to read all those books is beyond me. I felt like I was bouncing off the walls. Doing any kind of exercise (Joe Wicks on Youtube, Weights, push-ups etc) definitely helps, but there is no getting away from the fact that your mind wants to escape. I definitely advise Vitamin D.

On Tuesday the 17th, I began to develop a cough and by the evening it was out of control, but again weíve all had a cough havenít we. It was like that, a cough. It hasnít stopped but itís definitely worse at night. I woke up this morning with a pain in my chest but Iím confident that its soreness in the muscles rather than anything worse as Iím able to breathe deeply for well over 10 seconds.

The cough is grim, there is no denying it. But if someone had told me this is what it would be like for the vast majority of us, I would take it. There are going to be loads of cases where people have worse symptoms than Iíve had, but I do think itís worth saying that my symptoms while being unenjoyable, wouldnít have stopped me going to work in usual circumstances.

If anyone is going to be put in self-isolation, here is a list of things I would recommend:

  • I found that by structuring my day, I was able to work, exercise, eat and socialise (whatsapp and phone) with people on a similar time frame as usual. This has been the key to not going mad.
  • Read a book about a time that was worse than being in your own home for 2 weeks (Iím reading about a Soviet Labour Camp and it does put it in perspective a bit)
  • Stay in contact with people and keep asking questions about how they are doing, by helping other people on the phone you can feel that youíre having a beneficial impact in the grand scheme of things and donít feel helpless because you canít leave.
  • Listen to albums youíve not listened to in years.
  • Spend time trying to reflect Ė we donít have much time to sit back and think these days so this is a good opportunity.

Food tips: 2 weeks is a long time and if youíre like me, then itís very easy to eat it all at once.

  • Porridge with honey is the longest lasting breakfast and the honey is soothing when the cough arrives.
  • Condensed / evaporated milk (my Nanny Norma used to have it in her tea, having had it as a substitute for normal milk during WW2 rationingÖ honestly for tea & coffee itís actually better than normal milk and lasts longer so youíll get through 2 weeksÖ available in all good corner shops and some rubbish ones too). Give it a go for 1 quid.
  • CARB CARB CARB.. two weeks is a long time, buy carbs and tins Ė youíll need them.
  • My local corner shop does frozen veg, which by the sounds of things is the only place still selling them, but if you can get your hands on frozen veg, youíll feel more at ease.
  • Donít be afraid to freeze things.

All in all, itís not been too bad. The cabin fever is the worst bit, you just need to make sure you structure your day, eat well and look after yourself. If you do have deteriorating symptoms then take action, but if its not too bad, then play the waiting game and you will get through it eventually.

Just to reiterate, I feel compelled to share my experience as a vast number of people will be really concerned about this, just as I have been.

While of course there are many people out there who do have worse reactions, I felt it would be useful for some people to read about the effects on a relatively healthy, thirty-something smoker who sits somewhere between the kebab munching beer monsters and the matcha smoothie health warriors.

I hope other people who are currently experiencing this virus can come out and share their experiences with a view to allay the understandable concerns we all have as there isnít much in the media about ďJoe Bloggs who got better in a few daysĒ.  

All the best and I canít wait for the street parties when we get through this.

Ben