I think it was the Thursday 19th March when the headache began. Not a slight, dull headache; not a “has anyone got any paracetamol?” headache. Satan was pounding my head with his special head-hammer. I took some paracetamol anyway and called in sick.
I’d been self-isolating for a few days because I felt sinusy and had a bit of a cough. The lock-down had just started. I was working from home and alone.
The next morning things were different: Hallelujah! My headache had gone! But that was the last of the good news. It felt like my lungs were only operating at one quarter of their normal capacity and I knew this wasn’t good. I packed a few things I might need in to a bag and rang 111.
It was about five in the morning and I got through relatively quickly. On describing my symptoms, the health professional on the end of the phone said they were calling me an ambulance and it would be about 15 minutes.
The ambulance arrived and I think that I was able to walk in. The crew made a few checks: they listened to my chest, that sounded clear and took my temperature, slightly elevated. My blood pressure was a little on the high side but nothing to worry about. Then they measured my heart rate… high. And the dissolved oxygen in my blood… low.
“Which hospital do you normally go to?”
I didn’t know the answer. I have only been to hospital once in the last twenty years and that was to have a wisdom tooth removed. That had been at Chesterfield.
“Chesterfield I suppose,” I replied and we took off with the blue lights flashing.
When we got to the hospital medics ran the same tests with the same results plus they took a blood sample and a chest X-ray. A doctor appeared and said what he’d seen wasn’t much to worry about but they’d seen some changes in my lungs that could be consistent with Coronavirus.
“We’re going to send you home,” he said. “But if things get worse, just ring 999.”
Before I left they swabbed me for Coronavirus testing.
“If you’re positive someone will ring in three days’ time. If not, you don’t have Coronavirus and you’re clear.”
“You’re young,” he said (I’m 48) “With no pre-existing health problems, you don’t smoke and you’re fit. You should shake it off in a few days.” And with that he disappeared. There was no-one I could ask to pick me up and I told the staff so. They kindly arranged for a free ambulance to take me home.
The next three days were a bit of a blur to be honest. My breathing became more normal for a time. I lost my appetite but tried to eat three meals a day, they were small and hard work to eat. I had to swallow each bite separately because if I took a bite before I’d swallowed the previous one the chewed food would build up in my mouth and be almost impossible to swallow. I also felt very, very thirsty and drank bottle after bottle of water.
On the third or fourth day my breathing returned to what felt like normal and I felt tired but recovered.
Little did I realise… That night I felt my bowels announce that they were going to do something spectacular. I got out of bed and just made it to the lavatory. It felt like the entire contents of my intestines fell out in about one tenth of a second. I went back to bed and noticed I was becoming very short of breath. I worried about whether I should call and ambulance or die in bed. I felt that bad. Fortunately, I decided to call the ambulance, 999 this time not 111. I couldn’t be bothered packing a bag so I pulled on some clothes, picked up my phone and waited for the ambulance.
The crew arrived and put me on board. They ran the same checks as the time before. Heart rate… high. Dissolved oxygen in my blood… low.
“Let’s get you back to hospital,” the paramedics were reassuring. I knew that hospital was where I needed to be.
The checks in the hospital were the same, with the same results except the chest X-ray. “I’m afraid you’ve got pneumonia” said the doctor. “We’ve also just got the results of the swab and you’re positive for coronavirus. We need to get you on the ward.”
I knew I was going to be looked after. That’s another story. (Part 2 to follow)