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Danny’s Story

Published 28.08.20

I’m a 41 year old man, usually fit and healthy (I don’t drink or smoke, I usually cycle every day, go running and swimming regularly, and I eat a varied vegetarian diet). However I’ve had chest infections before, and I’ve experienced some periods of post-viral fatigue which were lesser but similar to what I’ve been going through this year since falling ill.

On 17 March I came down with a bad headache, general body ache, and an increasing tight burning pain in my upper chest/trachea region which made it hard to breathe. At night I was very dehydrated, had night sweats, and felt mentally feverish too, though my temperature was normal and I didn’t have a cough. Over the next two weeks I mostly rested in bed. I would start to feel better enough to do a little more, perhaps go for a short walk to get some exercise, then I would relapse and symptoms would worsen again. This happened a few times until the chest pain really intensified on 1 April. I was preparing to have to call the hospital by that stage, because it was so hard to breathe. But I stayed in bed for 5 straight days and got through it. And over the next few weeks my breathing slowly improved and the chest pain mostly went away, just leaving bouts of fatigue where I wasn’t able to do much beyond lie down.

The fatigue continued on and off for most of May and June, but in general I thought I was recovering. I’d managed to injure my foot in mid-May though and couldn’t walk much for a few weeks, so I was resting indoors a lot anyway. Then the symptoms came back in early July, after I’d experimented with trying to do more intense physical exercise. Energy suddenly crashed, the burning chest and breathing difficulties came back strong, and I was sleeping an unusual 9-10 hours a night again. I had headaches, and brain fog where I would be forgetful, misplacing things, or missing words out of sentences. Some days it would get a little better, then it would get worse again, apparently randomly.

I’ve been finally starting to pick up in August, to the point where I’m feeling relatively normal again and starting to be more active. I’ve just had another relapse (severe headache, followed by the same chest pain and fatigue) but it hasn’t been as debilitating as previous ones, and it’s lifting after just 3 days. I’m hoping the pattern now is that the highs are more reliable, and the lows aren’t quite as low. I can’t say I trust yet that I won’t suddenly get wiped out again, but I’m feeling more positive.

I’ve had some contact with my doctors since April. When tested my oxygen levels have been normal and my heart rate only a little high. My doctor did a round of blood tests which didn’t show anything unusual. He tried me on medication for acid reflux, which didn’t do anything except cause more GI upset. I was invited by email to take a COVID swab test at home, which came back negative on 28 July. My doctor has been more interested in my mental health throughout. I’m usually quite resilient and stable mentally, though I’ve noticed feeling a little manic at times with the fluctuating energy levels. And it’s challenging when you have no idea what’s going on. Which is why it’s been so helpful reading other people’s stories here, and realising I’m not the only one who’s been struggling with these kinds of long-term symptoms. Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your stories.