Seven days ago, I was just like you. Corona virus was something that was happening on the news, in China, Italy, Spain … elsewhere. My local shops were all open, my kids were going to school and I was merrily going about my business with a low-grade feeling of unease but nothing more. I wasn’t unduly anxious, we’d been given the green light by the government – ‘carry on as normal, just wash your hands folks.’ I had no idea.
Last Tuesday I woke up feeling weird. Tired, I guess, not really firing on all cylinders. I had a morning meeting then came home and had a nap. My eldest girl joked I was getting old but I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open. In the evening I had a headache and again I complained I needed an early night. My other half’s eyebrows shot up in hope – nope not that kind of early night, sunshine!
My teen was on the ball. She’s a news hound and was way ahead of the game, so when I woke up the next day feeling rotten, she marched me upstairs to the spare room and promptly shut the door. ‘You need to stay in there for two weeks!’
I thought she was being over-dramatic, I thought she was over reacting. I thought as soon as I asked her to do the ironing and cook dinner she would be less intense.
I had no idea.
Over the coming days I went downhill rather rapidly. My temperature soared and the mild cough I had, became worse. By worse, I mean it was like I’d swallowed a bucket of sand and I was drowning on the grains. I started to feel incredibly ill. My partner was concerned. Usually calm and collected, he took one look at me and rang 111.
Do you feel hot to touch on the head or chest? – yes
Are you having difficulty breathing? – yes
Have you travelled outside of the UK in the last 2 weeks – Erm no …but I saw my friend who is cabin crew three days ago, she travels extensively throughout Europe – long pause.
Do you have aspirin in the house – eh?
‘Ok, we will send help. We have arranged for someone to come out and test you for corona virus – it will be in the next 24-48 hours. This, followed by a list of rules to self-isolate etc.
‘Oh, and were sending an ambulance.’ Eh?
They sent an ambulance crew. Lovely, lovely, medics who were reassuring. They assessed my oxygen levels, blood pressure, heart rate etc. They said they had no idea why I wasn’t being sent to a corona pod (they rang up to see if I could attend) and that things were changing day to day. They wanted to take me into hospital – I declined… the whole conversation took place with us all wearing masks. They seemed as exasperated as everyone else. What the hell?
I’m lucky. I don’t live alone. My family spent the next few days posting food parcels into the room while I sweated and coughed…and coughed and coughed. Utterly exhausted, I was too weak to do anything other than read and watch trash TV and scour twitter and the news to see what the hell was going on. It was all conflicting, no-one seemed to know. Other countries were in lockdown. Here? Just put a few extra toilet rolls on the shopping list.
48 hours later we got a phone call from West Midlands Ambulance service to check my symptoms… and to tell me there would no longer be anyone coming to test me.
‘It’s been stopped,’ said a harried caller
‘Why?’ I croaked.
‘Erm we don’t know – probably cost?’ Eh?
‘So, do I have coronavirus?’
‘Probably. you hit all the markers.’
‘What do I do?’
‘Do my family need to?’
‘No just you. Wash your hands and take plenty fluids n and paracetamol if you need to. Has your breathlessness stopped? Do you need an ambulance?’
‘Ok then. Hope you feel better soon, bye.’
Right ok. So, umm right?
The last few days had been bleak. The cough itself was truly awful. I was reading on the news that those who get the virus would experience ‘mild flu-like symptoms’ but this felt anything but mild. I couldn’t sleep, my body ached, I was so hot I felt like melted wax.My other half had read some articles from WHO. We decided to keep the kids home. I couldn’t call friends or family because I was so hoarse, I could barely speak. I texted my elderly dad and step mum. They were stoic.
‘Please stay home.’ Thank god, they did.
I was still seeing jokey memes, Facebook friends in the pub, kids were going to school and I was trying to not come across as hysterical but I just wanted shout ‘Go home! This thing is hideous and you do NOT want your loved ones getting it.’
By day 5, I was missing my kids. I was starting to feel scared and upset and grumpy as hell. The not knowing made things worse. People online were starting to question the government guidance in the UK, and I felt like I had unwittingly become part of some weird science experiment. What the hell was going on?
Then, yesterday. Another announcement. Stay home. It’s as simple as that, stay home. Stay safe. I wondered why, only now, the message to stay home had been put out there. Government figures seem quite low. But of course, if they’re not actually testing people, they would! Unless you’re an MP or a celebrity, I guess you just have to hope for the best.
As my fever abates, and the cough lessens, I feel like I’ve woken up to a different world than the one I left seven days ago. Subdued, informed, quiet, questioning.Tomorrow, I can leave my room, but not the house. I can see my kids for the first time in a week. I can hold my partners hand. I’ll probably feel a little better. But I can’t travel to see my sister, or my elderly parents. I can’t buy essentials anymore. My kids won’t go to school for at least the next few weeks and our lives will become quieter and we will be scared.
Who knows what is to come? All I know is that it’s been a rough week. I eat healthily, I exercise regularly and I’m 47 years of age, way outside the official at-risk age group. And yet, this thing knocked me off my feet. If I was older or had an underlying health condition, I genuinely don’t know how well I might have fared.
All I can say is stay home if you can… be mindful of those in our society who are at risk. They matter. I know that’s hard to fathom. This thing has so many financial and social implications that I have no idea how it might impact us all in the long term. But I urge you do what you can.
And if you do fall ill? All I can say is that 7 days on, I am starting to feel a little better, and that, hopefully, this tough Northern lass has seen off the worst of it, and you will too.