The words “COVID outbreak” surely conjure many different feelings for each of us, whether that’s scepticism, fear for yourself or loved ones, grief and pain, or something else. Speaking personally, I’m relieved that somehow in my nursing home we only had two major incidences combined with lots of staff absence. As I think of the beginning of my own ordeal in May 2020, I remember the fear of the unknown and the panic of that time. Simultaneously, I feel gratitude I was not more ill than I was, and greatful for my ‘recovery’ though it took at long time.
Hospital, but not as I knew it…
When I first took ill, there was a period of days where staff didn’t realise what was making me ill. Thankfully, ambulance personnel, and hospital staff knew exactly what it was. At this point, the only access to testing was in hospital, in an eerily deserted A and E. I will never forget the disorientating quiet, with one side dedicated to suspected covid cases, and everything else on the other. Though few tests were available, my nursing home were desperately trying to access testing too.
My reason for admission intially was my need for oxygen, but a diagnosis of Covid pneumonia followed after a scan. I am greatful I didn’t need as long on oxygen as I expected. I still remember how sore my throat was and my small appetite, very rare for me. Weirdly, I never lost my sense of taste or smell.
… and breathe
What did have professionals worried though, was my difficulties walking and breathing at the same time. Something I rarely thought about I now had to practice over and over. Chronic physical and mental symptoms I was very used to living with suddenly flared in earnest all at once, adding to my confusion. I had an extra day or two in hospital, until the Physiotherapists were satisfied I could walk relatively safely from my bed to my ensuite once home. It didn’t matter how slowly, or how breathless I was, just that I could. That I understood, as I was desperate to be back in my carehome too.
One step at a time
I didn’t realise this then, but my recovery was only just beginning. Three weeks of bed rest and testing positive followed. Eventually amid concern for my mental health, I was allowed to leave my room.
Weeks of slow progress followed. I was very fortunate that asthma inhalers helped with breathlessness, as they don’t work for everyone with Covid-related breathing difficulties. Weird episodes continued without an obvious cause. Managing a few extra steps one day, but struggling to sit up in bed the next. My parents reminded me my body had “taken a battering” and I needed to be patient. It was so easy to become exhausted as well.
A scan in the August showed my lungs were clear which was a relief. Stories were beginning to emerge in the media of permanent lung and/or heart damage, long-covid, ME, and all manner of unforseen complications. I still think, in the circumstances that I was fortunate.
My main struggle continued to be breathing and walking without getting breathless. Once the inhalers helped I could begin to work on my stamina. It took a year of hard work from myself and staff to help strengthen these skills. Still through , I struggled in my own way. Randomly I’d haul my weight up in my bed and be breathless. The weather was key too. Eventually I ended up with a new diagnosis of asthma on exertion. Somehow having a label on the random episodes was a relief.
Finding the funny side
I still joke that I’m allergic to tidying up, as even now I can be sat in my electric wheelchair while tidying, and still get breathless. A seemingly random list of unrelated tasks with differing levels of physical exertion have a similar effect. It’s baffling more than anything. It can be hard if not impossible to tell which diagnosis causes which symptoms… that’s a bit of a ‘rabbit hole’ I try to avoid. Instead, I’m attempting to live in the present, one day at a time. Getting back to writing is one more goal restarted. It helps to put my volatile emotions on paper. Till next time…