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Pat's Story

Pat’s Story

I am a 76 year old widow and retired General Practitioner. I am in good health apart from hypertension, for which I take Telmisartan 40mg daily, and a total L hip replacement in 2010 for Perthe’s Disease.

My lipid levels are slightly elevated but I prefer not to take a statin. I have never smoked, am not diabetic and, although people may not think so from looking at me, I am slightly overweight. My father died aged 86yrs from a ruptured aortic aneurysm and my mother at 93yrs from carcinoma of the oesophagus. I have no siblings.

I consider myself to be fairly stoical having worked through several illnesses without taking sick leave and certainly I totalled no more than 2 weeks absenteeism during 34 years in General Practice in which I took my share of nights and weekends on call.

On May 4th this year I contracted Covid-19. I had been compliant and had stayed in lockdown since it was introduced on March 16th. My only excursions were on April 8th, when I went to help a doctor friend whose husband suffers from dementia and who was scheduled for insertion of a pacemaker at a local Hospital, and 5 days before I contracted Covid when I went to a supermarket for a ‘Click and Collect’. I had been unable to get a delivery slot at any of the supermarkets and a friend was adding my order plus that of her 90year old parents and another 80year old friend to her own delivery. After looking after all of us for a month she was looking very tired and I managed to access a ‘Click and Collect’ slot and wanted to relieve the pressure on her. I felt that my safety was compromised at the supermarket.

I sleep upstairs and my study is upstairs. Normally I go up and down with impunity.

I was going to bed on May 4th when I reached the top of the stairs and “couldn’t breathe”. I sat on the edge of my bed trying to get my breath. I had no pain and no cough and although my sleep was interrupted I was reasonably comfortable that night lying 3/4 prone. My temperature was only 37.5 the following morning and I dialled 111 to be told that it was unlikely to be Covid because I had no fever and no cough.

On two separate occasions I applied online for an appointment at a test centre but on each occasion I was offered a choice of the same 3 centres, all more than 30 miles away i.e. a 65 to 70 mile round trip. Negotiating the website when ill was taxing and I felt too ill to make the journey to the test centres. Consequently I have not been tested.

The 9 days following May 4th were the worst in my life. I was unable to mount the stairs without stopping and becoming profoundly dyspnoeic and I was unable to walk from the washing line in my garden to the back door without stopping for breath. At no time did I have a cough and I had no fever. (Temperature checked twice daily.) I did not lose my sense of smell or taste but I was completely anorexic for 9 days, for both food and drink.

I have never felt so incredibly ‘ill’, so frightened or so alone.

Much of the nine days was spent lying 3/4 prone in bed with neighbours checking my welfare and daily telephone calls from a doctor friend. Of necessity I restricted my journey up and down stairs to once daily. My memory for this period is a little muddled.

I was sedentary for nine days and I realise now that I became dehydrated. I was too tired to make myself push fluids, besides which I didn’t want to drink. My tongue was dry and coated. I ate very little for this period – perhaps one slice of toast a day or a cup of soup. I had no bowel disturbance.

After nine days I suddenly began to feel better and got up in the morning, rather than the afternoon, feeling more active. At that point I realised that I had pain in the calf of my R leg which made it difficult to dorsiflex or plantar flex my ankle and when I looked at my R leg it was swollen below mid-calf level.

I should have gone to hospital for a d-dimer test etc. but at this point I behaved irrationally and just wanted to stay at home.

I pushed fluids, kept mobile or elevated my legs when sitting and commenced aspirin 300mg b.d. Aspirin is not a treatment for VTE but it was all I had in the house and I thought it might be “better than nothing”.

The pain in my calf only lasted one day and the swelling of my leg improved during the next week and completely resolved in 2 weeks.

I continued the aspirin at a high dose for 6 weeks and am now continuing to take it at a dose of 75mg daily.

I can’t quite bring myself to stop it completely.

I felt tired, anxious and ‘traumatised’ for several weeks after the illness but felt a significant improvement after 3 months.

It’s now 5 months and I feel that I am virtually back to normal although occasionally I feel slightly breathless and am unsure whether this is residual disease, pollen counts, air quality or perhaps anxiety. I test myself by seeing whether I can run up and down stairs – so far so good!

The one thing I have been unable to do, even at this stage, is to sleep in the duvet covers, washed and ironed, that were on my bed when I was ill.

I have little time for those, friends among them, who continue to flout the guidelines, who assume that I’ll be OK because I’ve now “had it” and who ignore my comments that nothing is guaranteed and my advice that they do their utmost to avoid contracting Covid. I continue to comply with Government guidelines and refuse to take part in any activity which I feel compromises myself or others and I stand up to be counted. It’s too important an issue to remain silent.

I’m fortunate to be retired. I don’t know how well I would have coped had I been younger and been required to return to work. I would like to hope that employers would make themselves familiar with the long term side-effects of this devastating virus and allow some flexibility when rehabilitating their employees.

I feel so very lucky to have been ill for a relatively short period of time and to have survived.