What’s it like to have coronavirus?

For the majority of this whole sorry year we’d been lucky enough to be able to say that coronavirus hadn’t really affected us personally, other than perhaps our social life taking a bit of a hit and the gyms shutting for a while which made me throw and almighty tantrum. In terms of anyone we knew actually catching it we were golden. That is, until 2 of my best friends, Helena and Emma, caught it.

Now, there’s been a lot reported about what it’s like, what it feels like, what symptoms you can expect to experience etc etc So, I thought I would ask them how it was for them.

And since they’re too people who have never met each other, and live in completely different cities, their responses are strikingly similar…

How did you feel in the run up to getting a test? 
Emma: I’d had a test before when I came back from Rhodes (which was negative) so I felt less terrified than I did then. I just felt poorly and wanted to get it out the way.

Helena: I felt ok, not as bad as I thought I would have needed to feel for a test. I had a bit of a throat tickle and little cough, I certainly wouldn’t have classed it as “persistent”. The second day after the cough started I felt… Weird. I don’t know how to explain it. I felt like something was wrong and with the cough I just thought I’d better be safe than sorry.

How did you go about booking a test? I.e online, via GP etc?
Emma: I went through the NHS COVID-19 test and trace app. There’s an option to select your symptoms so I selected the one that applied and it directed me to the gov.uk website to actually book a test. It was really efficient and gave a few options for where to go to get the drive through test (there was also the option to have one sent to my address). Not only that but it showed me how many appointments were available at each site so I could judge how quickly I’d be able to book an appointment. I went onto the app at half 12 and managed to get an appointment at 2pm the same day.

Helena: I went online to the NHS website and filled the details out. They had an appointment same day (within 90 mins actually) at a drive through test site.

What was the test like, what did you have to do? How did you find it? 
Emma: When I got to the test centre there’s someone waiting to scan the QR code that it emailed to you when you arrange your appointment. They then direct you where to go next where there’s someone waiting with the equipment you need to do the test yourself. They help up a phone number for you to call so you don’t have any contact with them and they talk you through what to do, although there are written instructions in the pack they give you. You’re then directed to park up and actually do the test. In the pack there is a tissue, latex gloves, instructions, the swab to to the test, a test tube with some liquid in and a medical bag to seal it in when you’re finished. You have to blow your nose then start by swabbing your tonsils for 10 seconds. The instructions advise you to make a W shape. You then use the same swab in a nostril for 10-15 seconds – this was the bit I had worried about in the past as it looks like it goes right to the back of your brain! But I think I felt better doing it myself as I could stop as soon as I felt resistance. It wasn’t pleasant and I gagged, cried and sneezed my way through it but its over really quickly. You then have to put your hazards on your car and someone comes and tells you what to do next and directs you to another person waiting to collect your sample (which you put in the test tube in your pack). Once you’re done, you drive up to another person who takes the pack from you and sends you on your way.

Helena: It was horrible to be honest. The actual physical part. The test site was easy to access and well staffed and the instructions were very clear. I was given a pack (well it was dropped through my window onto the passenger seat) and went to park up to do the test. I was to swab my tonsils and then using the same swab, swab up my nose. The first attempt of tonsil swabbing was horrendous and I threw up and had to get a new swab. The second attempt was equally horrendous but I managed not to throw up that time.

How long did you wait for the results and how did you feel when it was positive?

Emma: They told me I would hear within 48-72 hours but I heard within 24 hours. I was surprised when it was positive as I never in a million years thought I would catch it! I felt quite poorly though so in a weird way I felt vindicated that there was a reason I was feeling so bad! But that was soon replaced with panic as I’d been in contact with my parents and knew they’d have to self isolate for 2 weeks, not to mention be at a higher risk of catching it.

Helena: I got my results 46 hours after the test (Test was done by 1:20pm the Thursday and had results by text at 11:10am on the Saturday). I’d started to feel significantly more unwell by then, it was still a bit of a surprise to see it though.

What symptoms did you have, how did it make you feel and how long did it last? 
Emma: The COVID-19 symptom that reared its ugly head first was a temperature. But this was also accompanied by general flu type symptoms such as aches and pains, tiredness, dizziness and a headache that just wouldn’t shift. A week later I was then hit with a second wave where I had another temperature and problems with my breathing and a cough. I think the breathing was made worse by me panicking though as I was dealing with it at home on my own. Once I managed to calm down it was a lot better.

Helena: So many. Aches and pains, my whole body hurt, my joints ached. I felt like I had sunburn and my skin was on fire. I had horrible headaches. I lost my sense of taste and smell completely. I started getting a fever. My lungs hurt and the tickly cough developed into feeling like my lungs would explode. I had diarrhoea and vomiting. I had no appetite. The worst of it lasted about 12 days, I was off work for 2 weeks.

What lasting effects (if any) do you think its had?
Emma: I’m still really tired and weak and had a breakout of hives but keep feeling better each day

Helena: It’s nearly 6 weeks later since I had the test and my taste and smell isn’t fully back yet. It’s only started coming back properly in the last week. I’m exhausted all the time and having a lot of problems with sleeping. I still have a cough, my throat gets very dry (worse in the evenings) and have a lot of random achey pains.

Do you have any idea where you may have picked it up? 
Emma: I was asked this in my COVID-19 questionnaire that I needed to complete in the gov.uk website. I had to list where I’d been in the week prior to testing positive (in addition to who I’d been in contact with) and the only place I’d been was aldi in dunston so I’m convinced I caught it from there! The social distancing is always terrible so I wouldn’t be surprised!

Helena: I really don’t. I had only been to work in person 2 days in the week prior (COVID-19 safe building) and to Aldi. I was careful, wore my mask, used hand gel and washed hands. I think my dad my have picked it up but had it very mildly because he wasn’t ill the way I was (and my mum got it too). So I’m baffled where it came from.

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