I don’t think any of us could have imagined that 2020 would play out as it has so far.
Our lives have changed in ways that few of us thought possible, and work is unrecognisable for many of us.
Like many staff in the organisation, the added worry about contracting COVID19 has placed an additional pressure into what is already a stressful situation. The concern too about passing the illness on to others has weighed heavily on me.
Part of the difficulty of COVID19 seems to be the spectrum of symptoms that people have. On more than one occasion at work, conversations have happened where people worry that the single cough they had might develop into something more sustained; or that their slight rise in body temperature might be the start of more marked symptoms developing. I want to share my experience of contracting COVID19 in the hope that it will help others, and to also reassure that most people have very mild symptoms that disappear quickly.
I knew that I had looked after a number of patients with COVID19 in the weeks leading up to becoming unwell.
Initially, I just didn’t feel quite right. I developed some generalised body aches and felt more tired than usual. However, I didn’t have a cough and my temperature was normal. Over the following 24 hours I then coughed a couple of times. Recognising this might be the start of something more significant I went home. That evening I developed a more significant body temperature and called the Trust’s absence reporting line to let them know I was unwell.
Over the next few days the most noticeable symptoms were a high fever, persistent cough and generally feeling tired and not myself. I also completely lost my sense of smell and taste. Despite this, I was still able to get up and about, although I was sleeping more than normal. I then had a swab performed on day three, which returned as positive. In some respects it was a relief to know what was going on, although the confirmation was a little scary I must admit.
On about day five I noticed I was feeling a little more breathless than usual, especially on the stairs. This culminated in a trip to Plym at Derriford, where the fantastic staff were very reassuring. Thankfully all checked out OK, but going to be seen was definitely the right decision.
Over the following few days I gradually felt better, but things were very up and down. It often felt like two steps forward and then one back. I was very guilty of feeling better and doing too much and then regretting it a few hours later!
I finally knew I was getting properly better when my appetite returned, along with my sense of smell. It has, however, taken time for me to feel like I’m back to some form of normality.
As healthcare workers, we often think of ourselves as being invulnerable. Sadly, COVID doesn’t discriminate and it’s more important than ever that we take time to look after ourselves and isolate if we have the symptoms. Most of us will have very mild symptoms, but it’s vital we isolate to ensure that we don’t pass it on to others. If we do get more significant symptoms, it’s also important to remember that the NHS is here for us too, and we shouldn’t be afraid of coming forward to be checked over if we’re worried.
I’m now back at work, hoping my experiences will help others and thankful to work with such amazing colleagues who continue to deliver and support the excellent care that the organisation is well known for.
Dr Jamie Read is an Associate Specialist in Geriatric Medicine at the Trust.