COVID-19: A Personal Reality

The last 6 weeks have been a pretty scary time for my family and I. With the spread of COVID-19 to the UK and the start of lockdown came the reality that because of my long term health situation and the added fact that I was 31 weeks pregnant, I was included in the government’s vulnerable category and therefore at a higher risk if I contracted the virus. This meant like many, a strict 12 week isolation period.

Whilst this was of course an adjustment, my family and I took it seriously, followed the government’s advice to the letter and so absolutely did not anticipate my husband being diagnosed with COVID-19, let alone being hospitalised.

The weekend prior to lockdown my husband went to a wedding where we believe he picked up the virus, he only started to display symptoms thirteen days later. Six days after his first symptoms, he was admitted to hospital where he stayed for four nights. Now, four weeks since he came home, it seems like a weird nightmare but the truth is, it was a terrifying reality.

His symptoms started as a cough and temperature but very quickly escalated, on day 5 he started to cough up blood and by day six he was so breathless, he could hardly speak and walking to the bathroom was excruciating. In hindsight, it was obvious it was COVID-19 but at the time we were in the midst of a media frenzy that emphasised certain triggers he didn’t necessarily have - the above symptoms as being normal for 7 days but if you got to day 10 and they were still persisting, only then should you worry.  Losing taste and smell (neither had happened to him), having a dry cough (it was nothing close to dry), the list went on. As a result, we waited and probably 24hrs longer than we should have.  By the end of day 6, I was terrified to let him go to sleep or sleep myself in case something happened suddenly in the night. It was only then when we called 111 followed quickly by 999 (as referred by 111) that we knew it was serious and as instructed, we needed to get to a hospital fast (ambulances were unable to come out for COVID-19 unless someone was unconscious).

Very quickly we woke our 2 year old and piled into the car at 9.30pm. When we arrived at A&E at 10pm, he was seen immediately - his oxygen levels were dangerously low and he had a chest infection as well as suspected COVID-19.  The combination of the two meant they were masking each other and preventing one another from improving. The doctors tested him for COVID-19 but the results would take 48hrs, ironically even when the doctors said they suspected it was Coronavirus he still felt riddled with guilt and as if he was wasting NHS time. The doctors were fantastic and (despite reports of hospitals being unprepared) could not have acted faster.  Within an hour he had a chest x ray, was plugged into an oxygen machine and wired up to a cocktail of drugs via an IV drip to try to knock the infection on the head. My son and I waited in the car park until the doctors had found him a bed, but then when we knew he was staying put for the foreseeable future, we set off home. It was the longest 4 days ever but the team at Harrogate District Hospital could not have been more amazing and most importantly, successfully prevented him needing to go into ICU.

When the results came back that it was COVID-19, he was ironically relieved that his time in hospital was not in fact an added pressure on our health service and he hadn’t pulled the mother of all man flu stunts! Quite the opposite, I was terrified the worst was by no means over. Luckily after he was discharged he did improve every day. It didn’t disappear overnight and we definitely had a couple of wobbles, but within 14 days of being discharged he was 99% back to normal.

Whilst the end of lockdown appears to be imminent I wanted to share this in the hope anyone reading it understands that in a household with one significantly ‘vulnerable’, the fittest of the three of us was the one most badly affected by COVID-19. There sadly are no guaranteed warnings as to who the virus may attack vs not and who it may bypass / not. The doctors have said that despite my son and I not showing symptoms, it is likely we have had it but there is no guarantee. There is also no guarantee my husband (or us) can’t contract it again or that our unborn child will be protected. What I do know is that noone is invincible and noone is protected from this hideous virus but EVERYONE can carry it, whether you show symptoms or not. One doctor said to think of it as an axe murderer standing outside your front door, the only way you know they won’t get in is if you don’t open that door. It’s something we hear every day but honestly I would stay at home for months to come if it meant preventing one more person from ending up in the same situation we were in, and we didn’t even have to face ICU. How lucky we were and are.

We both want to say a huge thank you to Harrogate District Hospital and the NHS as a whole who were incredible.  I fear we have had more than our share of support from the NHS in our lives but will always be eternally grateful for everything they do. Here’s hoping we really are over the peak and through the worst, but until we know for sure you’ll find us #stayingathome where we hope you will be too!

For the latest information and guidance relating to COVID-19 please visit the World Health Organisation's Website.