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A Covid Christmas & New Year

On the 22nd December 2020, I had a business lunch here with 3 others. All well and good, but later one of them revealed he'd been infected by someone at his office - and he'd infected me/us.

On the 27th Dec, I felt distinctly unwell, a sore throat had started and I had that familiar feeling of going down with a cold. I got tested, was (later) diagnosed positive, and I went to bed to sweat it out.

But a few days later I was still afflicted. A raging inferno of a sore throat wracked my every waking moment, and an accompanying dry cough with copious phlegm kept me awake each night. TCP gargling was my only respite. More worrying though was the gradual deterioration of my breathing together with a fever that stubbornly refused to abate. I kept to bed, gargling TCP, taking Panadol (useless) to try and ameliorate my fever, and folic acid to try and raise the oxygen levels in my blood. Charlotte did a brilliant job trying to nurse me (not a forte of hers) but I didn't properly realise that she too was sickening with her second Covid infection.

My oxygen levels kept falling though. 93, 92, 91, 90 ... sometimes fluctuating upwards, giving hope, but then sinking back again. Charlotte sounded concerned.

Charlotte's nurse friend Perky advised we speak to my doctor, Dr Gordon, who in turn said he'd want to see a chest X-Ray, and so off I went to Derby Royal Infirmary to get one. 

Going through the main doors of the hospital, I was then redirected to A&E, on foot and outside in freezing weather, around the side of the huge main building. (I had told Felix to just drop me off and go, the parking being a nightmare and expensive to boot). I made my way to where the signage pointed, halfway having a telephone conversation with Cosmo (my eldest) who just happened to ring. I remember it was difficult to walk and talk at the same time. I was also wondering how on Earth would an elderly or frail person manage to do this, particularly if they were confused, sick, unfamiliar with the hospital layout? 

Eventually, following the signage which promised a sort of gleaming A&E reception, only to find a depressing cul de sac with black painted portacabins seemingly randomly connected to one another, with a temporary walk-in facility where I duly presented myself seeking this x-ray. I was given a note and told to sit inside A&E reception proper, next-door, which at least was inside a proper building. (What were the portacabins for??) There was thankfully only myself and one other person in there, with a single receptionist. Where were the crowds of Covid patients? Where were all the staff in A&E?

I sat there, surveying the place plastered by C-19 instructions and stickers telling you where to stand etc. It was designed to handle alot of people, but where were they? It was quiet so I started listening to my audiobook. 

Faster than I thought, I was called through into a room with a male and female nurse in attendance. They were friendly but perfunctory, talking between themselves and I felt a bit like a piece of livestock as they prodded me and asked questions. They tried several times, unsuccessfully, to take blood. At last, they got a cannula in and took some blood, by which time I nearly passed out, my eyesight at one stage losing definition like when I have a diabetic hypo. I felt scared that I was already having side-effects so it was just as well I had been put on a trolley. Wheeled into a room called 'Majors', full of people like me on trolleys being assessed, I passed into the eye of the Covid storm in Derby hospital.

I lay in 'Majors' for literally hours, occasionally attended to by porters and spoken to twice by a proper doctor. The place was nearly full, a lot of very old patients predominantly, and swarms of NHS staff, so that's where they were! I observed for so long that it was clear that the professional medics were working hard, but there was also a large contingent of drone-like workers just bimbling about. People to change the bins, people to push other people around, people to make a cup of tea, there seemed to be someone for every last little chore. In general it seemed both organised and disorganised at the same time, there was no 'matron' or anyone obviously 'in charge' marshalling staff or directing things. Doctors were clearly senior but it was all very matey, with no sense of hierarchy or, indeed, grip. If you've ever watched a 1950's hospital scene it was almost diametrically opposite to that - but with massive quantities of technology everywhere instead. 

After about 6 hours a doctor admitted they'd lost my blood samples in the system ... and could they take some more? They did. I lay there wondering if I had now to wait another 6+ hours, and at the same time hungry and getting increasingly thirsty. I got up and helped myself to the water cooler and was intercepted by a medic who said I should take a turn around Majors to see how my oxygen level was faring whilst I waited my turn for the x-ray. And that was what put me properly in hospital, as they weren't happy with my hypoxic levels. 

Finally, I was wheeled into the x-ray section. A no-nonsense female doctor told me what to do, and it was such a change of attitude from the apparent drift of Majors, I suddenly felt properly confident I was in good hands. In minutes it was all done and I was slotted back into my cubicle.

Quite soon afterwards someone confirmed to me: 'your lungs are full of Covid'.

So I was then off on my trolley travels, still fully dressed. My mobile up to that point had only worked with text messages and I'd managed to communicate with home asking for an overnight case. I was pushed a long way down a corridor and placed in a room with two other people in it. I asked for a sandwich and a drink but the porter who promised they'd get some vanished. I asked another nurse who thankfully got me what I desperately needed, namely a drink and something to eat, but it was probably the most cardboardy sandwich I've had since the famous British Rail legendary sandwiches of the 1970's, though rather more smartly wrapped that promised alot more than it actually delivered!  

An elderly Indian gent, one of my companions in this holding pen of a room, eventually disappeared with paramedics loading him onto an ambulance trolley to take him home. The other old guy in the room was clearly a local from Derby, but someone who was moribund and muttering. He moaned continually for the 3+ hours I was in the holding pen with him, and I heard him saying to a medic that one of his testicles was the size of a goose egg. 

At last, someone came and fetched me, again barrelling me down interminable corridors until I reached a Covid ward whereupon I was put in a bed space with a sort of white containment tent around it. Dismay hit me as I cast around to see I was surrounded by other men, all similarly swathed in these tents, hitched up to oxygen like me, and worse still, Goose-testicle man was in the next door berth, still moaning and muttering!  How did he overhaul me? I just knew I wasn't going to get a winks sleep.

My overnight bag arrived, together with my sleep apnoea CPAP machine. The nurse said if I used it, they'd have to move me again because the machine would broadcast Covid germs around the ward, irrespective of my tent. Of course I needed to use it because of my sleep condition! It was however to be my lucky break, my ticket out of the tented ward, and all thanks to the machine (& not for the first time have I blessed it), because it was deemed a Covid spreader!

They duly took me away from the tented ward and its zombie-like occupants and popped me in a side room of my own. It had an ensuite too, and with my own TV! Yes I was still hooked up to the oxygen, still felt exhausted, was still feverish -  but I was alone and mainly undisturbed!

My first room

My first night in the hospital.

I had forgotten about the rigours of a hospital stay, namely the frequent checkings: blood pressure, oxygen levels, administering more drugs, occasionally taking yet more blood (I was starting to resemble a pin cushion), the lights switching on each time, the noises off from the adjacent ward that even a closed-door didn't shut out. Breakfast came early, about 6.30am, followed by an immediate request for lunch choices. Breakfast wasn't bad actually, and neither was lunch. Better than the diabolical sandwiches...

I drifted in and out of sleep over the next couple of days, grateful for my own little room (even if the turquoise curtains had seen better days and wouldn't keep the sun out) and the kind patience of the nurses. I didn't have the energy to watch the TV but it was nice to have it on in the background sometimes. Time crawled and yet before I knew it I was told I was on the move again to another ward. They needed the room for someone else - understandable I suppose. 

Day 3 and off I went, pushed another mile or two (or so it seemed) around Derby hospital and into another ward. I resigned myself to again being in amongst the oxygen rigged denizens ... but blow me down, one sight of my CPAP machine, and I was diverted to Side Room 1, another little private room with its own ensuite!! This had a wonderful view from the front of the hospital, looking out over part of the city. The only blot was the copious amount of fresh bird shit on the plate glass window ... 

My second room

I continued my existence in that room a further night, as usual punctuated by regular checks and puncturing. A doctor came in and said that they'd stabilised my condition and I would be free to go later. After lunch, I dressed and was moved by wheelchair down to a small room with another elderly lady in it, also on the cusp of being sent home. We were told to wait. And we waited and waited and waited. Apparently, we were waiting for the pharmacy to put together some drugs for us to take home, but this had already taken 4 hours. I put my foot down, summoned Felix, and discharged myself. The drugs were delivered to my door at 8 pm that evening ... 

Back at home was great ... own bed etc. But what I didn't anticipate was the anxiety and depression that came home with me. This was a novel experience for me, I had never experienced the 'blackness' that no-one tells you often comes as part of your Covid infection. Everywhere I looked seemed hopeless.  Even my dreams were fixed into an interminable loop, where I couldn't stop re-dreaming what I'd just dreamed, just like I was in a trap. The house, normally so comfortable, so clean, so welcoming just seemed to me like a dirty, cold box in which I was consigned for the foreseeable. My energy levels were abysmal, the slightest effort had me puffing even though my oxygen levels were much better. 

But gradually, almost imperfectively I began to recover. First, sleep took over. I slept from 10.30pm to 09.30 am most nights. Then my appetite began to wake up, returning slowly like my taste and smell, though glacially and patchily. Then the awful repetitive dream gyre vanished, and I had positive dreams, waking refreshed for once, not disorientated and tired. 

By day 20, apart from a persistent Covid cough about which I was advised would 'take weeks' to go, and easily tired, I began to feel better. 

So, I had a relatively light brush with the virus. But do not become complacent, this creeps up on your respiratory system, you don't notice the slow degradation of your blood/oxygen levels at first as you are too preoccupied with the fevers or headaches or sore throats etc. I believe that my CPAP machine kept me hyper-ventilated at night, where most people don't have or need such a thing, and it might have staved off much worse hypoxia than I actually had. 

I remain in awe of our NHS dealing with such a wave of desperately ill people. The staff who looked after me were unfailingly kind, despite the clearly exhausting circumstances they had to work in. I am deeply in their debt.

Please take Covid seriously. It is everything you have told about and seen about on the news. If you are lucky it will just brush you by ... but there is always a chance it will take a nastier turn.

If you get Covid and have to treat it at home, the following is a useful testimonial from a friend who had it last year:

" I came down with Covid in November. I went to the hospital, running a fever of 103, a rapid heart beat, and other common symptoms that come with Covid. While I was there they treated me for the high fever, dehydration and pneumonia.

The doctor sent me home to fight Covid with two prescriptions -  Azithromycin 250mg & Dexamethason 6mg. When the nurse came in to discharge me, I asked her, "What can I do to help fight this at home?" She said, “Sleep on your stomach at all times with Covid. If you can’t sleep on your stomach because of health issues sleep on your side. Do not lay on your back no matter what because it smashes your lungs and that will allow fluid to set in."

Set your clock every two hours while sleeping on your stomach, then get out of bed and walk for 15-30 min, no matter how tired or weak that you are. Also, move your arms around frequently, it helps to open your lungs. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. This will help build up your lungs, plus help gets rid of the Pneumonia or other fluid you may have.

When sitting in a recliner, sit up straight - do not lay back in the recliner, again this will inhibit your lungs. While watching TV - get up and walk during every commercial.

Eat at least 1 - 2 eggs a day, plus bananas, avocado and asparagus. These are good for Potassium. Drink Pedialyte, Gatorade Zero, Powerade Zero & Water with Electrolytes to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Do not drink anything cold, have it at room temperature or warm it up. Water with lemon, and little honey, peppermint tea, apple cider are good suggestions for getting in fluids. No milk products, or pork. Vitamin’s D3, C, B, Zinc, Probiotic One-Day are good ideas. Tylenol for fever. Mucinex, or Mucinex DM for drainage, plus helps the cough. Pepcid helps for cramps in your legs. One baby aspirin every day can help prevent getting a blood clot, which can occur from low activity.

Drink a smoothie of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, tea and a spoon or two of peanut butter.

We always hear how Covid takes lives, but there isn't a lot of information out there regarding how to fight Covid at home. I hope this helps you or someone you know, just as it has helped me."


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