The Black Death arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina. People gathered on the docks were met with a horrifying surprise: Most sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those still alive were gravely ill and covered in black boils that oozed blood and pus. Sicilian authorities hastily ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbour, but it was too late.
I would like to say that it started gently enough but that was not the case. I woke up with a whole catalogue of symptoms that left me feeling the most wretched that I had ever done in a single day. I had the chills in every joint, I had a throbbing headache, the back of my eyeballs were on fire, I had no appetite and no energy. I knew this was no cold or flu so I went onto the net to try and get a Covid-19 test. The first time I tried I didn’t have enough of the ‘official’ symptoms and was promptly refused the time of day. Google helpfully threw up hundreds of places that would happily relieve me of £200 if I was in a hurry. For that I could get my own motorcycle courier, results within two hours and a Parker pen and shop voucher.
It reminded me a bit about my initial attempts to get my PSA test and the obstacles that were thrown up. I didn’t give up then so I wasn’t about to give up now. I tried again adding a temperature and a cough, that I didn’t actually have, and this time was offered a test 20 miles away. I contemplated the journey and knew that the last thing that I wanted to do was attempt that kind of drive with how rubbish I was feeling and rapidly going downhill. I left it a few hours and finally got a test half a mile away, first thing in the morning. I have since mentioned to some friends what it took to get tested and they were to echo that they either had to do the same or they were told by their friends that they also exaggerated their symptoms. All would go on to test positive. It made me think how many people didn’t bother with a test and just continued on with their lives and unknowingly infecting others.
I drove to the centre 8am the next morning. It was an industrial sized marquee, one way in and one way out. First stop was a plastic window with someone in full hazard suit. The poor woman’s first shock of the day was me removing my mask to open my face recognition phone. Poor thing, my excuse was that the Vid had affected my mind. I showed her the email that I received (like I would willingly just wonder off the streets to see what’s going on in there) and through a small flap a test pack was pushed out to me. I was directed into the testing area. The testing areas were partitioned off cubicles, containing a round hand mirror, white plastic table and instructions on self-administering the test on the wall. Open up the testing bag and stick the long swab down your throat without touching the side’s (the hand mirror was the handy aid to ensure you hit the gag spot) and then stick the same swob up your nose until you feel some resistance (is that the brain??). Break of the swab into the tube, seal it up and go down the final table you filthy rat. Pop it into a plastic letter box and off you go. Do not pass GO, do not collect £200 and stay inside your house. The results will take forty-eight hours.
I actually got the text message before 8am the next day. It told me that I had to isolate my infectious self for the next ten days, complete a track and trace form and paint a thick red cross on the door to inform my neighbours. Well, the thick red cross was an exaggeration but it could have as well been there. I got another text with a link to the track and trace. I wasn’t feeling up to it so I said I would tackle it later. Track and trace was having none of it and about two hours later I got another text to remind me and threatening me with a phone call if I didn’t comply. I complied, adding details of the household and most importantly who have I been around. The main track and trace only looks at the infection period, three days before my first symptoms. Well, that threw up questions as I didn’t see anyone outside the household other than the local corner shop. The secondary infection period goes back two weeks and they seem to be only paying that part of it lip service.
Well anyway, Covid-19 does not give a toss about how, where and when it finds anyone. Then it all went downhill for me.
Over the course of the next six days the symptoms would come and go and possibly come back again. After the first day the burning behind the eyes eventually stopped and was the only symptom that, thankfully, didn’t return. There was not much distinction between night and day as I would sleep for however long and then awake, wallow in the settee for a while and then sleep again. On the second day the headache finally disappeared. What was left was relentless chills, no appetite, no strength and extreme tiredness. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough stress incontinence decided that it would pay me a visit as well. With a macabre twist. That twist was that it didn’t just rely on a cough – if I stood up too quick, turned around too fast or sometimes just yawned I could leak a bit. Not enough that I would have to consider wearing a pad but thankfully I was locked up inside.
The almost daily bowl of ice cream had just become cold, white slush. I was definitely not well.
It took about five more slow days of feeling weak and wretched before I could say that I had turned any type of corner. The last thing to come back was my appetite and strength. I was left with a longer lasting reminder of my Covid-19 experience. I have a rash around my collarbone that resembles some sort of chemical burn that I will have to take steroid cream to clear up. I cannot whinge for a second however as I have gotten off lightly.
Now the funny thing was other than a couple of hours of not feeling well, days apart, I was the only one in the house that was ill. They had all been taking a daily dosage of vitamin D for months beforehand. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to participate because they knew I would have poo-pooed the idea.
And yes, I would have. I soon changed that!
By day seven of the isolation, I was almost back to normal. I was counting down the hours until I could venture out the door. I had been fantasising about going for a walk. The day came and I suited up. I confidently marched out and set out on my walk. I didn’t make much of it at the time but now I am wondering. I was about a minute into my walk and I felt a tightening in my chest and suddenly the air I was breathing in was icy cold. It only lasted for a few breath’s but I have to wonder now if it was another symptom. Anyway, off I continued on my masked march. I soon became that tutting and head shaking person when I saw groups and couples without a mask. I was happy to walk into the road and miss the potential Covid-19 vapour trail they may have left behind.
It didn’t seem like a mistake at all, venturing into the local park. The park is massive, 126 acres worth of massive. The silly thing was packed. There had been a bit of rain two night previously so anything and everything was now on the paths. Walkers, runners, cyclists, couples, families, dogs walking their owners – you name it. Social distancing was a forgotten dirty word. Most people didn’t have a mask on. I couldn’t get out of the park fast enough, swearing under my breath all the way. 5Km and an hour later I headed back home.
Also there are the cancer victims still having operations cancelled. So very sad. Now we have just passed the 100k death mark and still people just cannot get it into their heads to take this seriously.
I certainly do.