What does Covid-19 feel like?

So far, 2.5 million people have died from Covid-19 worldwide. Luckily, I’m one of the 64.2 million who made a full recovery.

Two things before I tell you about my experience of Covid:

1. Frustratingly, I was unable to get a home test for the entire week I was ill (there weren’t any available) so I was never able to verify my case or share my data with the world.

2. People have been affected by Covid in many different ways. This is just my personal experience.

The first signs that something was up

It began in a tent on a windy hill in Cornwall, back in early October 2020. In the middle of the night I woke up freezing to my very core. Not unusual, considering I was sleeping outside in autumn. But this wasn’t a normal level of cold. My teeth chattered uncontrollably, my whole body shook while my boyfriend (a Floridian totally unused to British weather) was perfectly fine. No matter how many layers I put on, the cold persisted and this was bizarrely teamed with a violent, unquenchable thirst.

This bout of shivering happened again during the day, while we were in the car with the heater blasting. By the end of our mini break I was feeling totally out of it. It was a miracle that we made the 300-mile drive home. My head felt hot and swollen, my kidneys ached, I felt completely exhausted and to top it off my car’s brake pads had totally worn away so, in not trusting my car to brake suddenly, I had to gradually make my way down the gears to slow the car down at every roundabout. Dangerous in any situation, let alone while devolving into high fever.

As soon as we got home I collapsed into bed and that’s where I stayed for the next 5 days. My appetite disappeared (unheard of for me) and I developed a horrible dry cough that could never be satisfied. The coughing was so bad that at night I’d wake up feeling like I couldn’t breathe properly, which induced panic that didn’t really help matters.

The doctor prescribed me an inhaler over the phone, which my parents picked up for me, and I found this really helped soothe my lungs.

I almost called an ambulance

Over the next few days I went intermittently in and out of fever. Each time it happened (every hour or so) I could feel the heat and pain building in my skull, like a contraction. My temperature reached 41 degrees (anything higher than that can cause lasting brain damage) and it felt like my organs were swelling up – my entire body was in pain.

One night I woke up in agony and I dialled 999, worried that my kidneys – which both failed and nearly killed me as a child, were failing again. I lay there, tears of pain and fear streaming down my face, with my thumb hovering over the call button. I thought about the resources it takes to send an ambulance out to someone, and the chaos and risk of being in the hospital during a pandemic. I was frightened that my body was shutting down but I wasn’t sure how much of that was just in my head. I decided to wait it out a few hours and it was the right decision: the fever passed.

I got better quickly after that. The cough disappeared, the fevers stopped and my appetite came raging back in its full glory. As soon as I could, I got back into exercising (I really believe this is the best thing you can do for your health) and even though I was tired, I was relieved to find my fitness levels hadn’t dropped off too much.

I know a lot of people are suffering from long Covid with fitness issues, brain fog and a bunch of other debilitating symptoms.

Other symptoms after my recovery

I totally lost my period for a while, which can happen when the body is fighting a virus.

I also experienced severe vertigo for the first time in my life, which is like being horribly drunk. Even while lying down or closing your eyes, the whole room lurches around you, sometimes for days at a time.

My hair started falling out in worrying amounts. You could have created a full-sized hair Zoe with what came out.

And that’s about it! Amazingly my boyfriend didn’t experience any symptoms at all but I’ve read that 20-45% of people with Covid don’t even know they have it. We both self-isolated for 2 weeks anyway, because even asymptomatic people can spread it.

What a ride this past year has been. Millions of deaths, so much loneliness, sadness, hopelessness and fear. But we’ve seen good things too: like the courage and compassion of healthcare workers and volunteers, and all the key workers getting on with their jobs to keep the economy ticking.

Hopefully we can ride out these last few months of lockdown safely and with optimism as we wait for our vaccines and the whole of Britain plans to go ‘out out’ on June 21st 😬.

Have you had, or suspect you’ve had Covid-19? Let me know about your experience in the comments!