By FATIMA PATEL
Mondays tend to be a day where I kick start my motivation and set out to conquer the world (well my world anyway) – Monday 6th April was no different.
I promised myself over the weekend I would be up early and go for a run and exercise around my local park, and then walk to the supermarket for some fresh fruit and veg to get back in time to sit at my home based office and get some work done.
The day started amazingly well, glorious sunshine and plenty of happy faces at the park doing their routine exercises, with more than two-metre spaces between us all.
The air felt clean and I felt good. After all, I achieved what I set out to do that morning (well so far anyway) – up for morning prayer (which for us Muslims is called Fajr (the pre sunrise prayer)) and then a good hours exercise in the park with plenty of fresh air for my lungs, followed by a walk to the supermarket for my groceries.
This morning essentials were all in prep and to get me focused to tackle the mountain of emails and WhatsApp messages waiting for me at my home-based office. Little did I know my plans were about to change. As I walked back home, I could feel an uneasiness and my throat getting very dry. Immediately on arriving home I took a paracetamol and gulped down a glass of clean Yorkshire water.
By around lunch time, I could feel discomfort around my chest area and stomach pains. The throat had become worse and the dryness resulted in coughing. I didn’t have a temperature though, so put it down to dehydration.
By around 3pm that day, I was unable to focus on any work and decided to lie down and rest. My body at this point felt restless and extremely tired. When I woke up at around 10pm that day, it was with very heavy chest pains, heavy cough and stomach pain.
The cough and stomach pain, along with throat ache were not alien to me, but the extreme fatigue and dryness all over my body, made it seem as though my body was dying.
After an unsettling night I decided to log on to 111 and check my symptoms with the hope the diagnosis would be related to a previous medical condition I’ve had. That would have felt strangely fine as it’s one I know and therefore, wouldn’t need to burden the NHS and I could deal with it at home.
The conclusion from completing the online form was I should call my GP immediately. At first, I thought I will wait for a while and see if the pain and cough calm down, so I made myself a hot lemon and ginger herbal drink. A few hours later, I didn’t feel any different and the pain started getting worse.
So, I painstakingly picked up the phone to my GP. The receptionist asked me the reason for my call, and I explained the message on the 111 online system. She informed me to stay at home and that she will get a doctor to call me back.
Within a couple of hours my doctor called, and it took her less than two minutes to tell me: “You have covid-19 symptoms. You MUST self-isolate for seven days and if your breathing gets worse call 111 immediately.”
I was in denial at first as I explained that diagnosis was not possible. I live alone and I haven’t been in contact with anyone and neither do I have a fever, but the more I challenged those words my doctor continued to repeat the diagnosis with more assurance. It was very hard to digest I could have Covid-19.
As my GP went on to advise me on how I can help deal with the symptoms, her words: “you have Covid-19 symptoms”, continued to repeat in my head and all her useful advice was going over it.
Nevertheless, medical support was prompt, and immediate because once I had finished on the phone within seconds, I received a text message from my GP with a link giving me useful advice and tips on dealing with Covid-19 and self-isolation.
The next 72 hours were the most challenging. The fatigue really set in, my mind wouldn’t focus making it hard to even reply to a simple text or WhatsApp message.
The cough became worse, with a bit of wheezing and so did the heavy feeling around my chest.
My daily sleep went from six to 18 hours, and the worse part of it was losing complete appetite for solid foods. Those who know me, will know how much I love my food; and will know that nothing can keep me away from it, but this Covid-19 (if it was) did.
For those who still aren’t sure what Covid-19 or coronavirus is, then let me explain.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses able to cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).
The virus attacks the respiratory system, causing pneumonia-like lung lesions.
According to WHO about one in six people, become seriously ill. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work, and there is currently no vaccine. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system.
The most common symptoms are:
- Dry, persistent new cough
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms can include:
- Loss of taste and smell
- Diarrhoea and stomach-ache
- Headache and brain fog
If you or anyone in your family has these symptoms, they should stay at home for at least seven days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether they have travelled abroad.
You should also look on the dedicated coronavirus NHS 111 website for information and take the online questionnaire to check your symptoms. If you get worse or your symptoms last longer than seven days, you should call NHS 111. People will no longer be tested for the virus unless they are in hospital.
The toughest challenge you will probably be faced with if you do get these symptoms, is your loved ones can’t be there to come and care for you. In Asian families there is usually a barrage of relatives visiting to offer prayers, food and the social family banter. But that’s not allowed now as there’s a danger of you passing the illness to them.
But this is where technology comes into play and it worked wonders for me, especially my mental well-being. I’m a strong believer if your mind is strong, it can make your body strong too. My amazing family, neighbours and loved ones reached out with their positive and strong messages on my phone, reading them made me laugh and cry, giving me the strength and motivation for the fight to free myself from ill health.
Traditional South Asian treatments also came in handy. I am not sure whether they cured me, but they helped strengthen my immune system besides due to them being 100% natural and void of any chemicals, the remedies truly did not do me any harm.
Here’s what I had during the first 72 hours of my illness.
A glass of water upon waking up followed by two paracetamols to help with the headache.
Boiled egg with lots of pepper for breakfast then back to sleep for around six hours.
Upon waking another glass of water, which then lead to a mug full of the family traditional herbal drink.
The main components of the drink are: turmeric (fresh is better but I used powder), fresh
ginger, honey and some cloves. Bring to boil in water, strain and drink once lukewarm. I sipped on that during regular intervals and would go back to sleep.
By day four the chest pain had reduced, any wheezing had gone, and I started having some solid food, other than boiled egg, such as fruit, soup and bread. The herbal drinks continued, and my cups of tea became routine again too.
The fatigue and the dryness are what really pained me. The illness is like a flu, minus the runny nose, but worse. The tightness round the chest, the dryness all over your body (and
trust me it’s bad), both sides of my hands were completely dry – even after day eight I still have very dry skin on my face, making my eyelids droop like heavy bags above my eyes, giving me chapped lips and broken skin around the corners of my lips.
The cough persists, and I could literally fall asleep at any time anywhere, as tiredness is constant. Nevertheless, I am now capable of writing this blog, so that shows I have come a long way and am battling back to good health.
While my GP diagnosed the Covid-19 symptoms, I haven’t been tested, so will never know if this really was Covid-19, but if it was then my advice to everyone out there is if we all stay strong, have faith and start building our immune system each one of us has a good chance of fighting and beating it.
If there is one thing, we MUST all learn from this, it is HEALTH is everything.
That accounts for physical and mental well-being. What got me through was the natural treatments I took, such as the home-made herbal drinks and water is most definitely a lifeline. Drink plenty of it, but not by gulping it, but respecting the clean and pure water we have and enjoying every sip slowly, so it has a chance to enter our body in the most, healthiest of ways.
The other and most important factor is the care, compassion and love from others, they keep giving you faith, and strength by telling you to stay strong and keep going. Keep telling your mind the same, stress will make the breathlessness worse and panic will not help recovery. Always keep a positive frame of mind.
Finally, for me faith. Having faith helps with everything. Spiritual guidance helps you build positive energy and this in turn helps with the healing process.
These are the things that worked for me and I anticipate they will be different for everyone, as we are all unique and have our own ways as does our body of taking to things.
The key thing to remember though is that you must have it within you to fight it off, no one else can do that. The frightening thing is the battle is yours and yours alone.
Sadly, some of us will win this battle and some of us won’t. It’s important for those of us who live through it though to take good from this. Blaming or finger pointing doesn’t help, there is a time and place to ask questions. Right now, though we should remember we are in this together and our ultimate focus should be on how we heal together.
If you must go out, please ensure you keep to the two-metre rule not just for yourself, but to others you meet. That includes friends and family members you might meet while out during your supermarket shop. You may all look well, but if one of you is carrying the virus and is healthy, your friend or loved one might not be so lucky. Just don’t take any risk and follow the rules.
Stay at home, stay safe and let’s protect our most valuable asset – the NHS.
We’re in this together!