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Sara's Story

Sara’s Story

I’m a 51 year old living in New Zealand. I’m currently at 35 weeks post infection and I wanted to share my story. I’m not here trying to prove anything – I’m putting that out there now, because clearly my story is a bit unusual as it was such an early infection. (Keep in mind that current research/opinion h is now that Covid was very possibly active in Wuhan as early as August 2019).

A bit of background – I have a (congenital) immune deficiency disease (IgA deficiency), asthma and a lung disease (Bronchiectasis). I usually manage these quite well by living a pretty quiet and isolated life. I am fit and healthy (for me), and I have a vegan and gluten-free diet. I usually have a few lung-infections a year – which last a month or so then I’m back to (my) normal. I have back-pocket medications at home (antibiotics, steroids, nebuliser medication), and a nebuliser, oximeter, blood pressure machine. When I have a lung infection flare up – I usually manage myself at home as hospital is the worst place for me (I have phone consults with my Dr and team).

December 2nd 2019, I was in Sydney, Australia for five days. On our last day, we were in the restaurant of our hotel in Chinatown, at a buffet breakfast (now I say that’s one of the biggest mistakes of my life!), and at the next table was a family of Chinese tourists. The husband was clearly extremely unwell – sweating profusely and constantly open-mouth coughing. Obviously due to my immune deficiency, my husband and I were horrified and made a pretty quick exit. (Later that week when I fell ill – I wrote to the hotel complaining that the staff had allowed that behaviour in the restaurant as he had made me really ill – but keep in mind that this was all pre-western world awareness of Covid).

Anyway, 48hrs later, and back in New Zealand, I fell really ill. I had a high fever, a feeling of a very heavy crushing weight on my lungs, an intense burning feeling in my lungs, migraine, aching body, complete loss of smell (note I had no sinus or nasal symptoms with this virus). I took antibiotics, steroids, paracetamol from day 1 of being unwell, as this is usual practice for me. During the first week, I was having to use my nebuliser three times a day (if I get sick normally – at worst I only need it once a day). At the time I knew I should have gone to hospital but really really didn’t want to. I visited my Dr on day 14 to get more antibiotics. I remember him putting the symptoms that were unusual for me (burning lungs and crushing weight on chest), down to the fact that Sydney was very smoky while I was there (although I was wearing a mask outside whilst there because of the smoke from the fires).

In to the third week, I was able to get around the house more but some days I literally couldn’t walk from bed to the sofa. That lasted well into February. I’m usually very active and walk my dogs 5-10 kms per day. A week into January, my sense of smell had returned.

My husband caught the virus from me (2 days after) – he was sicker than he normally would be with a normal cold virus, but was mostly recovered (apart from energy levels – which have still not returned to normal either) within 5 days. Luckily I never go out when I have an active infection (except to the Dr), so I didn’t spread the virus around.

The first five months after infection, I was almost constantly suffering sore throats, swollen glands, migraines, fevers, aching body, inability to sleep, night sweats, shortness of breath, low oxygen levels, tachycardia, chest pain, vertigo, anxiety attacks, nerve pain/neuralgia (had a tooth removed thinking that was a cause of the nerve pain – it wasn’t!), tingling and numbness in the hands, brain-fog, severe fatigue – to the point of one time actually falling over while walking. I would be okay for a day or two then back down again for three or four days. Over this time I was having discussions with my Dr’s nurse on the phone – saying I believed I had some sort of odd post-viral syndrome. This was also around the time (March) that it was recognised that loss of sense of smell was a major symptom of Covid – and this is when we realised that it was extremely likely that we had been infected with Covid-19.

I had a Covid-test in April at a point where I was very unwell again – that was negative (4.5 months post infection). I had a complete blood test in May, and a chest x-ray (due to shortness of breath, tachycardia and low oxygen levels). My bloods came back perfect and my chest x-ray showed borderline Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) which is new.

Anyway – the last couple of months have got easier – I rarely get a sore throat, headache and swollen glands (may be once a month), I generally have more energy – I’m doing a couple of 5km walks a week and most other days about 3kms. Brain-fog has lifted (mostly). I still have a very achy body, sore muscles, sore joints, sore back, tachycardia, SOB and low oxygen (although these are slowly improving), inability to sleep, anxiety attacks, random severe lack of energy, “power surges”/hot sweats – at least 10 x a day/night, and numbness in my hands. I haven’t had an active lung infection (or new illness) since December. I don’t really go out anymore – so I’m not exposed to too many germs, and our country is currently covid-free. The whole of this year I have been taking anti-inflammatories for pain (Brufen).

I honestly think if I got the virus again – it would kill me, because I just don’t have the level of fitness or strength that I had prior to December.

I’m never going to know for sure of course – I was going to get an antibody test once they became available in our country (which they currently are not), but now I see that early research is showing that even if you were lucky enough to get antibodies, they may only last a few months.

It’s a relief to me that everything I’ve gone through in the last eight months is finally being validated by other people now having very similar experiences as mine post-covid. I’ve felt very alone in this whole experience to this point. I hope my experience can help people who are interested in researching the long-term effects of this horrific virus.