In this time of Covid 19 I’m not officially classed as being “vulnerable” although my caring head teacher sees me as being at risk because of my past medical history and wanted me to stay at home rather than coming into work to supervise the few children permitted to be there whilst the school is in shut down. But I feel pretty vulnerable as the thought of getting the virus fills me with dread. I’m convinced that if I did I would be one of the unfortunate ones that would become really ill with life threatening complications.
I know all too well what it’s like to feel like you can’t breathe and I’m telling you it’s horrendous and I never want to go through that nightmare again.
Three years ago almost to the day, my nightmare began.
I’d been suffering from a cough for several days and felt pretty awful. The cough was persistant and severe. The sort of cough that goes on and on and makes you feel that you are going to throw up.
Then the chest pains began. The severe pain radiated from the front to the back. The simple mechanics of breathing was excruciating. At this point I told G that I needed to go to the hospital.
The A&E doctors at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital initially thought that I might be having a heart attack or had an aortic anyeurysm but scans and xrays revealed that I had severe pneumonia in both lungs. I was given pethedine for the pain and instantly felt much better. At this point I rather naively thought that they would keep me in overnight, give me antibiotics and that I’d be fine to go on our holiday to Cornwall later that week.
But that wasn’t to be. I’d only just been admitted onto the ward when I found it difficult to breathe. Every breathe was a struggle. I was terrified!
I was quickly moved to ITU. The next two days are even now a complete blur. I became completely disorientated due to lack of oxygen and the bacterial infection overwhelming me. I had constant hallucinations which didn’t fully disappear even after I left ITU. I have no recollection of what the unit looked like or the amazing team who looked after me. I do remember asking to be ventilated so that I could “sleep” but was told that they would only do that as a last resort and I hadn’t reached that point.
I ended up staying in hospital for a month. I developed a pleural effusion and needed a chest drain inserted. I had oxygen therapy that made my mouth go completely dry. I sucked ice by the jug load in an attempt to relieve the dryness. I was pumped full of antibiotics and gained two stone almost overnight as my kidneys found it hard to cope. My swollen legs literally leaked fluid.
Walking to the loo was as a struggle as I felt so weak and sleeping in bed was impossible. It was easier to sleep in a chair with my head resting on a cushion placed on my bedside table. I craved to rest in bed, but the bed scared me and it took a long while before I plucked up the courage to try sitting on it. I put this down to my ITU experience when I had hallucinations about the bed being my prison!
I continued to have scans and xrays. Sometimes at two in the morning. Blood was taken daily but this was always a struggle for whoever was taking it as my veins are rubbish. At one point they thought that I had a lung abcess and I would need surgery. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. My temperature was always elevated. Different antibiotics were tried. I felt well enough to go home once the drain wad removed but that darn temperature was preventing me from doing so.
Eventually my consultant, who was just wonderful and I admit to having a huge crush on, agreed to me going home with a PICC line in to be able to contine having the antibiotics intravenously at home.
I am forever grateful to the amazing staff at The Great Western Hospital for everything they did to help me get better. Without their expertise and care I wouldn’t be here today. My friends and family were truly wonderful too. Their visits kept me sane and the supplies of goodies and Costa hot chocolate made my stay more bearable.
My recovery at home took a few months. I was as weak as a kitten, but I got there in the end. One unwelcome side effect though was my hair falling out due to the stress of being ill. Thankfully it was temporary.
I still get breathless more easily than before and that’s why getting Covid 19 scares me. I think that I am at risk and I really worry that if I became ill with it I won’t be quite so lucky next time.
So, please, please do as we’ve been asked and observe social distancing. Only go out to buy food and medicines and for your exercise. Doing so WILL save lives and save our amazing NHS.
Christianne's Notebook said:
Such a relevant & important blog Brigitte. Having shared your scary experiences myself, & being classed as ‘at risk’, I really am finding the questions of the Q&A section of the coronavirus daily update utterly ridiculous & also, very dangerous & misleading. Hundreds of people are dying every day & yet there is this British fixation to want everyone back at work & for Boris to still be ‘in the loop’?!!! “How the hell can he be in the loop?”, I want to shout at them all…..”he’s in intensive care!!”. These people have absolutely no concept of serious ill health or they wouldn’t be asking such stupid questions. One woman journalist asked yesterday if the politicians & medics could ‘level with us’ & let people know if the children will be able to play with their friends soon & certainly before the September return to school date. How can anyone see into the near future even with all the graphs etc., never mind weeks & months down the line? Today has seen the highest number of deaths to date & these people will never see another day, nor will their families ever be the same again. We’ve only been in lockdown for just over two weeks & I’ve never heard such a fuss. How long do children go without seeing their friends whilst on their vacation holidays?! The trouble is that we are such an entitled society now, that not being allowed total freedom doesn’t cut it. It’s funny how you never really hear the genuinely compromised complaining about their situation in this crisis though. Having never suffered from asthma or any breathing disorder in my life, to have breathing problems forced upon me through pneumonia & its associated problems was utterly terrifying. There is nothing worse than being unable to breathe. I nursed patients with status asthmaticus & I will never forget the terrible fear in their eyes. Most people are genuinely giving their all & complying with everything, but I really feel that some of the journalists with their vacuous ‘me me me’ questions should be made to work on the front line, only then might they get a grip!