In my last post I wrote about my concerns as someone labelled as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (CEV), around coming back to work with COVID-19 still circulating, and mitigations all but forgotten. I spoke about the ‘away day’ that I attended and how well it had gone despite my concerns – well the update to that is that I got COVID.

There are only two places I had been in the preceding couple of weeks – to the away day (indoors, no masks with about 15 other people) and to Alton Towers where I was mostly outside, although I did go inside to eat (I can’t do any of the rides). Both were work related activities. I either got COVID at Alton Towers, but the incubation period for the Omicron variant is on average 3-5 days so it seems unlikely as I started to get sick 9-10 days later, or at the away day (3 days before my first symptoms). I’m writing this now that I’m am almost back to ‘normal’ for me, and thought it would be useful for other people to see how it had affected someone with vulnerability to respiratory infections and a 10% lung capacity – although I appreciate that COVID is so varied that it could effect me totally differently next time and so my experiences wouldn’t be universal. Thank-fully I only had a ‘mild’ case and I seem to be recovering but as the rest of this post details, I was almost hospitalised and getting access to anti-virals isn’t as straight forward as it should be.

Day 1 – Saturday – Sore throat and a cough. Well, not really a cough, felt like phlegm which I just couldn’t move. Said to mum “I feel like i’m coming down with something”. Didn’t feel ill as such. Didn’t test at this point.

Day 2 – Sunday – Bad nights sleep. Couldn’t keep my temperature stable. With the blankets on I was too hot but with the blankets off, I was too cold. My temperature was 37.7. Took a test first thing in the morning and there was a faint red line. Spent the day in my room, trying to keep away from mum. Wearing a mask became increasingly difficult throughout the day as my breathing became more difficult. Over the course of the day I had a headache, a fever (topped at 38.7), chills, sore throat, cough, shortness if breath (oxygen levels sat around 94), runny nose, fast heart rate (got up to 140 sat down, still whereas usually mine is around 90-96). No energy to do anything more than watch TV. Appetite slightly less than normal but very little puts me off my food!

Day 3 – Monday – woke up feeing a bit better. Had a good nights sleep. Temperature down to 37.6. Called the GP ’cos he said if I do get COVID he would make a case for me to get antivirals. I couldn’t speak to him until 4.30pm though. Kept myself in my room (thank god for Netflix and Disney+), by lunch time my good start to the day had gone. Breathless again, slight headache, sore throat, cough and runny nose continued. At one point my resting heart rate was nearly 150 (which I forgot to mention to my GP), my oxygen levels were hovering again around 94 but have been dipping to 92 at rest. Feeling tired by 3pm. GP calls and says he will try to make a case for antivirals, I might hear tonight or tomorrow. He is concerned about my oxygen levels and tells me to keep monitoring them. It’s fine if they drop temporarily below 92 but a prolonged period may mean I need to be admitted into hospital. Temp back to 38.1 by the time I went to bed. Oxygen levels whilst sleeping dipping below 92 (testing on waking shows 90) but my levels always dip so not really surprised. Didn’t hear about the anti-virals. Still no energy to do anything beyond watching TV and appetite less than usual.

Day 4 – Tuesday – Slept a lot today. I guess my high heart rate is tiring me out. Still got a cough, sore throat, oxygen levels around 94 and heart rate in the 120’s. My nose is running a lot today as well. Didn’t hear about the anti-virals so I rang the GP who confirmed the referral had been made but it was ‘odd’ I hadn’t heard anything. They chased for me and said that the COVID clinic knew of me, but they weren’t sure if they could call today or tomorrow because ‘they didn’t think there is a doctor available today’ – perhaps I’m being unreasonable but what kind of service is that?! These drugs are meant to be given asap and it’s now been 4 days since the start of symptoms. I didn’t hear from them. Breathing is still difficult and I still have no energy to do anything beyond watching TV.

Day 5 – Wednesday – Actually feel slightly better today. Oxygen is still the same but heart rate is down a bit and coughing a little less. Got a call from the COVID clinic – the first one was just weird. They rang to ask me if I wanted a call from a doctor (who would call me at some point today) to talk about treatment options. They asked me about my health conditions (which surely my GP had already given them) and that was it. The second call from a doctor (5 hours later), asked me the same questions again. Said that I don’t really fit in any of the boxes but clinically it makes sense that I have the pills but the pharmacy could still refuse it. I told her I didn’t have anyone to pick up the medication, is it possible to have it delivered which she said yes to. The third call was someone saying the meds were ready please come and get them – I reiterated I don’t have anyone to pick them up and so the person said that was fine but she wasn’t told so the script will have to go to outpatient pharmacy as it had been sent to in-patient pharmacy… or something like that.

Still very tired, even the thought of concentrating on something fills me with dread. I have my cross stitch sat next to me but I just can’t.

Day 6 – Thursday – The line on the LFT was very faint today so hopefully I can get out my bedroom perhaps tomorrow. Although I’m enjoying napping and watching Netflix and Disney+. Got a phone call this morning from the COVID clinic, asking to confirm my address and then questioning where my GP surgery is. My surgery is a little one which has a Sheffield postcode but it’s attached to a bigger practice which is in a different postcode and therefore health authority. This is apparently an issue for delivery but I should get ANOTHER phone call later to confirm when the pills will be here. This eventually happened and I received the pills at 2.30pm – 6 days after the onset of symptoms. These pills are meant to be taken ASAP, within 5 days of symptoms starting… I don’t have much hope that they are going to help me out much at this stage but I suppose at least they can’t hurt.

You have to take three, large pills, twice a day for five days. I didn’t get any side effects apart from not being able to taste things properly and really horrible metallic taste in my mouth which came on about an hour after taking them and would last for hours.

Day 7 – Day 10. I tested negative on Day 7. I don’t know if the anti virals helped with this or not but it was nice to be able to come out of my room a little bit and not wear my mask. My cough gradually got better and my nose wasn’t as runny. Oxygen levels stayed stubbornly around the 94 mark for most of this time but gradually started to get back to my ‘normal’ around 96-97. I felt really tired and had to nap every day. I didn’t spend a lot of time away from my bedroom because being social felt like too much work and I still didn’t want to do anything more than watch TV. That metallic taste in my mouth continued. I called my GP again and got a sick note for a week. He wasn’t happy to hear that it took so long to get the anti-viral pills and ended the call with reassurance that I could call again and get another sick note if the tiredness didn’t lessen.

Day 11 onwards – Each day I get a little better and feel less tired. Eventually stopped having to nap in the day (although sometimes still feel like perhaps I should). I’m on annual leave now for a week, so trying to do some nice things like meet friends but I have to admit once I get home I just want to sleep again. I still have a slight cough and I struggle to concentrate at times on things – for example I’m not managing to read a book for very long. Hoping to return to work next week. I have a busy week of meetings (online) and then I only have another half week before I’m on leave again.

Overall, I think I got off lightly with my experience of COVID, although the breathing difficulties were scary (and exactly why I’m CEV) and I was very close to having to go into hospital because of it. Once that had passed or was more manageable my concern quickly changed to getting long COVID and not regaining my energy. Not being able to concentrate on anything other than TV is quite worrying after a while. I’ve re-written some of this post and read it through a few times and now feel very tired again. I’m very thankful that mum didn’t get it.

I’m back to being in two minds about returning in September – on one hand, I’ve had it now and I survived but with a second infection will it be the same again or worse? If it’s worse I’ll certainly end up in hospital. On the other hand, from what I’ve read we are no-where near getting a better vaccine and the new variants are getting more and more infectious and so it seems really unlikely that I’ll be able to avoid it, so may as well go back into work. I’m wondering if it would be possible/helpful to get a HEPA air filtration system and ask to be only scheduled into one specific classroom so that I can ensure the air I’m breathing is as safe as it can be.

I really wish I didn’t have to think about these things and as a country/institution we took responsibility and continued with basic mitigation measures like masking. There seems to be a complete disregard for the positives of things being online – the number of things I’ve seen lately only being offered as an in person event (when they could easily be hybrid) is very disappointing and exclusionary. It will be a stressful few weeks as I negotiate/decide how I want to approach September.

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