My path with coronavirus: 5 things I learned from having Covid-19

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Woman in isolation. (PHOTO: Justin Paget/Getty Images)
Woman in isolation. (PHOTO: Justin Paget/Getty Images)
Justin Paget

I was bingeing coronavirus articles like it was the hottest thing on Netflix. I was curious, fascinated and desperate to learn as much as I could about this disease, and more importantly, how to avoid it.

I tuned in to My Fellow South Africans, and dutifully followed the new rules.

I stayed home from the start of the lockdown, ordering groceries online, doing online Pilates classes, and working from my bedroom – and no one was more surprised than I was when I was diagnosed with Covid-19.

When I told friends and family about my diagnosis, they were understandably concerned, and worried about getting Covid-19 themselves. 

Many had the same questions I did: How did you get it? Did you have a mask? What medication did you get? Is it really “just flu”? Are you going to hospital?

In short: I don’t know; yes; mainly over-the-counter meds; no it’s not; and, very thankfully, no.

Now that I’ve gone through a few weeks of it, I have some answers. Many more people are likely to get infected, but most will have a mild infection like I did, although we won’t all have the same symptoms.

Mostly people have wanted to know what it’s been like to have this infection, so here are five things I learnt from having the coronavirus.

Doctor and patient
Doctor and patient. (PHOTO: Morsa Images/Getty Images)

I have no idea how I was infected

I was certain I couldn’t be infected, but my husband and boss both insisted I see my GP, who said I had enough symptoms to warrant being tested.

I took the lockdown very seriously. I left the house only once after the lockdown was announced, to go to the supermarket, in early April.

I had a cold about a month later, but it was nothing serious, I thought, just a runny nose and headaches. A few days later, I caught a stomach bug, and the headaches worsened.

I didn’t think too much of it – I didn’t have any of the “serious” coronavirus symptoms – a cough, fever or shortness of breath.

Things took a weird turn when my sense of smell disappeared. That, I had read, was one of the more unusual symptoms of Covid-19, but I didn’t feel awfully ill, and besides, I hadn’t left the house in weeks.

The headaches intensified and my chest began hurting and wheezing, but I thought it was probably just my asthma flaring up as the seasons changed. The tummy bug continued.

I was certain I couldn’t be infected, but my husband and boss both insisted I see my GP, who said I had enough symptoms to warrant being tested.

The test was carried out and I gave the details of the people with whom I’d been in contact with – a list of two, my husband and eight-year-old daughter.

Two days later my doctor called to tell me I had tested positive.

I thought I had misheard her, because it made no sense. But I definitely had it.

My husband had been to the doctor and pharmacy with a sore back a week earlier and may have picked up the virus and been asymptomatic, but then infected me.

But I could also have been infected from handling groceries or other online shopping deliveries, but that was unlikely, as my husband usually collects those at the gate, and wipes them down before packing them away.

I probably will never know for sure how I got it, but it shows how easily the virus can spread, even when you’re being super-cautious.

I worried constantly about infecting my family

Trying to self-isolate at home is easier said than done if you don’t have an enormous house, and I assumed that my husband and daughter would probably end up infected too.

My GP said it wasn’t necessary for them to be tested unless they started showing symptoms too, but we needed to self-isolate. Thankfully neither of them has shown signs of infection.

My husband was either asymptomatic, or he may have had a mild infection when his back was sore, as he had said at the time that he was feeling exhausted and was going to bed earlier than usual.

It's not just the flu

I’ve never had flu that’s anything like this.

It’s far more intense – constant tummy bugs, awful headaches, coughing, a fever that had me changing pyjamas in the middle of the night as I was drenched in sweat, then minutes later bundling myself up in the duvet when I was freezing.

I was wheezing constantly and battling to sleep.

I found some relief when I read an article about doctors saying that people with the virus should sleep on their stomachs, as that position allows the lungs to take in more oxygen, and it definitely helped.

My GP prescribed paracetamol-based pain meds and a course of prescription tablets I’ve taken before for my asthma. She also advised that I take zinc and vitamin C. Weirdly I started constantly craving oranges. As Covid-19 is a virus not a bacteria, antibiotics don’t help.

I also had constant body aches and no energy to do anything more taxing than lie in bed.

Woman asleep on the sofa with her dog
Woman asleep on the sofa with her dog. (PHOTO: Justin Paget/Getty Images)

The exhaustion was, well, exhausting

I can’t adequately explain the exhaustion. It felt as though every cell, muscle and bone in my body was tired. Even the word tired is not enough to describe this tiredness.

I would force myself to get up and shower after a sweaty, feverish night, and halfway through I’d need to lean against the wall and catch my breath again before I could finish my shower.

Then I’d need to sit down and recover before crawling back into bed and falling asleep, feeling as if I’d spent hours walking from the bathroom back to my bed.

I’d read a chapter of a book and fall asleep.

Watch a little TV and fall asleep.

In the second week I finally realised I just needed to give in to the sleep.

I’d have days when I’d feel fine and get out of bed to make a cup of tea, before again being struck by intense tiredness, and the need to go back to sleep. 

It lingers, and lingers

The coronavirus symptoms don’t go away after two weeks. My GP says I’m no longer infectious, but as much as I wish I was feeling better, I’m not.

At the 14-day mark I thought I should be able to do more than sleep.

I started folding laundry, but after a minute I was so tired I wanted to just put my head down. And I was still coughing and wheezing.

I went back to my doctor for a check-up and was booked off for a third week. It turns out I had picked up secondary bacterial infection as my lungs had been affected by the virus. For this I was prescribed antibiotics.

The exhaustion, shortness of breath and coughing are still part of my day and I still can't smell anything. My doctor says the tiredness and loss of smell will probably continue for a few more weeks.

I know I was lucky to only have contracted the mild version – I didn’t need to go to hospital, I didn’t need the trauma of a ventilator, but mostly I’m grateful that I didn’t infect anyone who could’ve ended up in hospital, or worse.

*Covid-19 is keeping many of us indoors. Our shopping trips have become brief, normal activities have been halted. Many have been wondering if they’ll still get their copy of their favourite YOU magazine. And how will we find things to do while indoors?

Though YOU magazine is available in most grocery stores, you can also subscribe online with no fuss. Click here to purchase a digital copy

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