Young, Healthy and Hit by COVID

As a physio, I have read the statistics, tracked the treatment advances and spent hours putting together COVID procedures for our clinics. I never expected to become one of the statistics myself.

Mid December I developed a tight band around my chest which just didn’t feel right. I didn’t have any cough, fever or change in taste/smell but it just wasn’t right so I went for a test that came back the following day positive for COVID. By this time I had developed a temperature and muscle aches and two days later became confined to my bed for the next 4 days. Upon my positive result, I had taken a look at what research studies I was eligible for and signed up for the COVID dog detection study. This really wasn’t hard work – I had to wear a t-shirt, socks and mask so that the “covid scent” can then be used to train the sniffer dogs.

The fever finally subsided a little after 6 days and I felt a little better, however, I did start with a cough and a bit of breathlessness. On Christmas Eve I felt better again and managed to prep Christmas dinner and send a Christmas jumper picture in for the staff photo.

I woke up on Christmas day feeling pretty rubbish but just put it down to the COVID and it would resolve soon enough. I eventually got myself onto the sofa so the kids could open their presents. I didn’t move from the sofa at all on Christmas day. The kids got beans on toast for lunch and I slept. I developed a burning pain on my breastbone in the afternoon and after a bit of pestering from the husband I called 111. What I didn’t expect was for them to immediately arrange an ambulance. I didn’t feel I was poorly enough to warrant an ambulance response.

It turned out my oxygen levels were at 70%, heart rate through the roof and blood pressure through the floor. They had me in the ambulance within minutes and phoned ahead for Resus to be placed on standby – this is when I realised I was actually quite poorly.

I was placed on CPAP which is what we call a non-invasive ventilation device – it assists your breathing by forcing the air into the lungs. My X-rays had shown that not much air was making it into my lungs – air is black on an x-ray and as you can see mine was a “white-out”. I spent 6 days in intensive care in the respiratory unit – with absolutely fantastic doctors and nurses who were so compassionate and caring despite being stretched.

After a few days of CPAP my oxygen levels improved and they were able to place me onto a normal mask. They then gradually reduced how much oxygen was provided. Proning (which is turning onto your front) really helps the oxygen level in the blood during covid. I spent as much time on my front as possible to help. I didn’t like turning as this made me cough but I could see how much my saturations improved and I believe this helped me wean off the oxygen quicker. The one thing that surprised me was the fatigue, I couldn’t even pick up and knife and fork to feed myself at the start.

I eventually was moved to the ward, the hospital was really really busy so it took around 8 hours to get a ward space and I was moved to an elderly care ward. The staff found it amusing to have a 35-year-old on the elderly care ward but to be fair most of their mobility was better than mine when I first went down. I never expected to say to the physios I will need a zimmer frame to get up. I was far too ambitious when first allowed to mobilise thinking I would make it to the end of the ward. The end of the bed and I needed to sit down. It was dreadfully hard those first few days reaching an acceptance that this was not going to be a quick bounce back and my heart rate and oxygen levels would dictate my recovery.

I finally managed to get home after 12 days in the hospital, with a promise that I would monitor my oxygen levels and heart rate. Coming home was hard – the emotional side of knowing I may never have made it home if it wasn’t for the paramedics, doctors, radiologists and nurses that acted speedily in delivering the right care. Then the physical side of suddenly finding that everything felt so far away, having had a bathroom a few steps from my bed to now having to walk down the hallway. Not being able to go upstairs to tuck the children in bed. However, the recovery continues and I am home with my family for which I am so very grateful.