Test covid-19 (La Presse)

My Four Weeks With Coronavirus

In mid-March, I suddenly began feeling exhausted both mentally and physically. My muscles were aching, and my knees were weak, something I had not experienced in almost eight years.

The UK in Mid-March

The number of coronavirus cases in Britain had just risen sharply to 2,626 with 103 deaths being reported. But, despite all the evidence indicating that the virus was quickly spreading across Britain, especially in major cities, the government was still undecided on how to respond to the pandemic.

Boris Johnson had just won the election on a platform of delivering Brexit and improving the state of the economy. He was therefore overly cautious of taking extreme measures that could hinder the delivery of his promises. Introducing a total lockdown would mean a slump in the economy and a delay in Brexit negotiations.

Johnson therefore stuck to his message of encouraging people to be personally responsible in order to help contain the virus. One of the strategies that had been proposed to him was to allow the population to be infected so that it could develop a “herd immunity.”

Herd immunity happens when so many people become immune after being exposed to an infectious disease. However the strategy was opposed by experts who warned that it would lead to mass deaths.

March 23 Lockdown

On March 23, after much criticism as the coronavirus continued to wreak havoc, Johnson took an unprecedented step and announced various measures to limit the spread of the virus. All UK residents were to stay at home and only venture outside for necessary reasons. The police were also given powers to fine those who violated the lockdown measures.

“If you don’t follow the rules, the police have power to enforce them including with fines . We will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, other premises including libraries and places of worship,” Johnson announced.

This measure was actually advantageous to me because the fatigue was getting the best of me and I needed some time to rest. However, it had not yet dawned on me that my exhaustion was possibly a sign of the coronavirus.

According to a report published in the Daily Mail, many people suffering from the COVID-19 have complained about both physical and mental fatigue, as the virus interferes with the nervous system. For me, I thought it  was because of stress and overworking myself since I was writing my Masters exams and working at the same time.

My Symptoms Worsen

The biggest sign that all was not well was when I lost my smell just a day after Boris announced the lockdown. Normally I use Dettol to clean my bathtub before having a shower in the morning. However on this particular morning, I couldn’t smell the strong scent that Dettol emits.

At lunch time I ordered chips and chicken from nearby restaurant since I was too fatigued to cook. But something was amiss. The taste was not the one I have become accustomed to. According to British Association of Otorhinolaryngology a loss of smell or taste could mean you are infected with the coronavirus.

The next morning, I woke up with an extraordinarily strong fever and a sharp pain deep inside my nose. Having grown up in Africa, I thought I had malaria because the symptoms were almost similar. But malaria doesn’t exist in Britain, ruling out the possibility that I had contracted it.

With the pain becoming persistent I went to a local chemist’s shop where I bought a bottle of Lemsip but there was no improvement. I later learned from the experts that the pain I was feeling was as a result of the virus entering my nose and attaching itself in the airway that produces a protein called ACE2 before attacking the cells.

With the unrelenting fever and nasal pain, I had to start asking myself questions about what was ailing me. I had not been sick for almost eight years except with the normal flu which normally  goes away after a couple of days. My worry was why I was feeling seriously sick in the middle of a pandemic.

With such questions possessing my mind, the only answer to myself was that it was highly likely that I had contracted the coronavirus. Compounding this fear was that one of my neighbors had been taken ill with the coronavirus, although it was highly unlikely that I had gotten it from him.

Testing Myself

The following day I decided to call my doctor since we had been advised not to visit hospital or any medical practice if we had symptoms similar to those of coronavirus. Instead we were advised to stay at home and self-isolate unless the conditions worsened.

Nevertheless I spoke to my doctor, who informed me that it was highly likely that I was suffering from the coronavirus and that I should self-isolate at home for two weeks. Because the government was not carrying out COVID-19 tests unless one required intensive care, he recommended that I should do one privately at a clinic on Harley Street.

The Harley clinic sent me a kit containing instruments and instructions on how to extract samples from my body. I was instructed to send the samples back to the clinic for testing immediately after I was done. After doing as I was instructed and sending the samples, the test came out positive, confirming my fear.

Although I was really sick, I was confident enough that I was going to overcome it. I am young, healthy and without any underlying medical condition, something medical experts say reduces the risks of developing coronavirus complications. My only worry was that I live alone, which meant that I was in great danger if my condition worsened.

According to experts any body suffering from the coronavirus should start showing some improvement after two weeks but this was not the case with me. My condition was still the same after two weeks with the fever showing no sign of ending. My knees were weak, and my appetite was gone.

Slight Improvements by the Third Week

Towards the end of the third week I started seeing some improvement. The fever was slowly fading away and the excruciating pain in my nose had left. At the end of the fourth week I was now able to get out of bed and everything seemed normal again.

One thing I can say from my experience is that even after healing, it will take time before I fully regain strength. For almost two weeks after healing, I still struggled to climb stairs and walk to the shops. The fatigue was overwhelming, and my legs were trembling. One research published in NewScientist stated that viral infections related to COVID-19, had previously been linked to problems with long-term fatigue.

According to the online journal, some people who had suffered from the SARS virus outbreak of 2002 to 2003 experienced fatigue, muscle weakness and sleep problem up to three years. “We don’t know about corona, but I think it will lead to many, many cases of post-infective fatigue syndrome,” said Simon Wesseley, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

With 33, 998 people now dead in Britain, I count myself lucky that I was able to beat it. One lesson I learnt from my experience is to stay healthy and to remain resolute no matter the challenge. Many have been made to believe that contracting coronavirus means death, which is far from the truth. Out of the 4,609,249 cases diagnosed in the world so far, the number of deaths is 307,485, which means the chances of overcoming it are quite high.