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Going Viral: Blog 1

As the name of the post suggests, I have tested positive for Covid-19 (I think that’s what we are supposed to call it). My aim is to journal where I’m at and how I’m getting on so that others might benefit from the information. So if you read this and have questions then get in touch and I’ll do my best to respond with sensible answers. Be warned however, my brain is a fuzzy mess right now so I may not make any sense.

I’m writing this on Sunday 29 March and I received my positive test result on Wednesday 25 March. I wasn’t actually feeling too bad prior to Wednesday - just a bit of a headache really. I got tested as a precaution as I had travelled back from France on Sunday 15 March and, since returning, had a headache which hadn’t gone away. It wasn’t until the day I received my test results that I actually started feeling any proper Corona symptoms.

On Wednesday I got a fever and slept all afternoon, waking up sporadically in a sweaty mess but still cold. I remember not being able to get my hands and feet to stay warm. Luckily my wife’s brain wasn’t as addled as my own and she gave me sensible orders on dropping my temperature. That was really the beginning of me feeling properly unwell.

For the past fours days I have been holed up on the top floor of our house on my own while drifting in and out of fever. At points I have been relatively lucid and have spoken to family and friends - albeit not the most scintillating conversation from my side I’m sure. Even when feeling at my best my head feels like it’s full of disoriented bees. At my worst it’s felt pretty bad. Hard to describe with any great accuracy but a phrase that my old mate Shaun Shackleton used to like springs to mind… I’ve felt “like a crisp packet full of shit”. I grant you it doesn’t really describe the physical symptoms to any great degree but it does get the feel of it pretty well.

My understanding is that my symptoms are what the doctors are calling “moderate”. Severe cases often require hospitalisation. Mild cases (which it seems that lots of people are getting thankfully) can seem like a normal cold. So what’s a “moderate” case? All I can tell you is my own experience which has really been a fever and headache for four days so far. Today is the first day I’ve felt more human so I’m hoping that I’m moving into the recovery phase.

The fever has been pretty intense. It’s amazing the effect a fever has on your brain: concentration is extremely difficult; strange and disturbing thoughts pinball around your head (seeming completely plausible at the time and then ridiculous in hindsight); periods of wakefulness just disappear in a haze of emptiness; sleep is a welcome relief (although waking up in a puddle of your own sweat is a fairly unpleasant way to arrive back into consciousness). This morning was the first time for four days that I didn’t wake up a sweaty mess. As you can imagine I’m really hoping that this signals the beginning of the recovery. I’ve read that some people have had a little mini-recovery before descending back into their symptoms. I’m really, really hoping that my situation isn’t one of these cases.

A very strange byproduct of the pandemic is the nature of how we are having to face the illness. For many of us this means dealing with it in isolation. If I got ill in the normal course of life I would probably stay in bed, make sure I was careful with the family to avoid spreading it around. But that would be the extent of it. I would still likely eat my food in the kitchen, sit with my family on the sofa and watch TV if I was feeling well enough. My kids would come and say hello and have a chat. My wife would probably still share the bedroom with me.

As it is, here I am in the bedroom at the top of the house on my own. It’s been about three weeks since I have had any physical contact with anyone. Not a single cuddle with my wife or kids. It’s more than just the obvious physical contact like hugs and kisses with our loved ones though… I haven’t given Joey a pat on the back to say well done, I haven’t brushed the hair away from Roo’s face to stop it getting in her dinner, I haven’t high-fived Lottie for learning a new gymnastic trick on the trampoline, I haven’t patted my wife’s bottom (which I seem to do without thinking about it several times a day under normal circumstances).

As social creatures we rely on these small physical gestures as a way of maintaining our relationships - they ensure we know that we are important to each other. It’s very strange to be without them and especially unsettling to be missing them in a time of illness.

I’m managing to stay in contact with my family through whatsapp primarily. While they ate breakfast this morning I joined them via a video call and we had a chat while they scoffed pastries (which had been in the freezer - perfect for a pandemic!). The kids offered me bites of their “pain au raisin” which I pretended to eat by shoving my open mouth close to the camera. All pretty disgusting really and left me craving a warm croissant with Guernsey butter and raspberry jam. But I got to see the kids smile and hopefully they felt like their Dad is still part of the family and not just some weird patient lodger living in the attic.

I’ll talk more about the Guernsey Public Health process at some point (and if you have any specific questions I will do my best to answer them) but for now I just want to say that the team have been excellent. The pressures that they are under must be immense. There is so much to consider and the situation is changing hourly, but they made sure that they spent enough time with me to make me feel comfortable with the information being delivered. The were very patient with their patient.

Personally I think our local Government has been outstanding. It’s a very difficult time for everyone and communication is key to ensuring that everyone is informed and doesn’t panic. Looking around the world at how other countries are managing things, I think we should be very proud of our team. Gavin St Pier and Dr Nichola Brinks in particular have been really impressive. I mention this because, as a patient, it means a huge amount to feel confidence in the system which is treating me. Especially when I’m being told that I must do certain things which right now - feeling pretty poorly - I would much rather not do if I had the choice.

That’s all from me for now. I’m about to get a food delivery which I will eat on my own and then maybe I’ll watch a movie and have a snooze. There’s a time that would have sounded like a treat but right now it feels very much like a punishment. Just keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be too long until I’m eating with the family, watching movie on the sofa all together and having a snooze snuggled up with one of the kids.

To read Tom's second blog post, click here.

Author Al Mitchell