Local Photographer Fred Chance describes his experience of Covid 19
I’ve been asked a few times if I could describe my experience of the Coronavirus. It seems that there are a host of ways to experience this horrible illness and, since I didn’t end up in hospital and on a ventilator, I guess mine was a moderate dose. It began on about April 13th and is still with me to some extent.
I had a 70th birthday on April 8th and the day after that was our 43 wedding anniversary. On the afternoon of that day the care home my mother lived in called to say she was very distressed and if I wanted to visit they would lift the restrictions which had been put in place after a resident had tested positive for the virus.
I visited and a couple of days later she died. A couple of days after that I began to feel unwell.
I was aware of a prickliness in my eyes and complained that it felt like I had somehow got some grit in there. This was joined by a headache. The discomfort was quite slow to build. The headache wouldn’t go away and was joined by an unpleasant sinus blockage and the feeling that something both furry and spiked had curled up and died in my mouth. I was coughing a bit but not constantly.
All this was unpleasant but I was able to think clearly enough and I spent the time working my way through John Prine’s back catalogue, (he was very prolific).
It didn’t take long before the effort of listening to music or reading or anything else for that matter became too much and the headaches and feelings of illness swapped places with the ordinary world so that they were at the front of experience and everything else receded.
I was surprised at some time to come out of a half sleep to find myself drenched with sweat. I was appalled and crawled off to the shower which was exhausting and was quickly followed by more sweating. My temperature was about 38.5 degrees at this time and so wasn’t high enough to be giving me too much to worry about.
During the course of the next day the sweating, which was regular now and had joined the headaches, bad taste, and background nausea as something that was always there, was beginning to be followed by shaking. This started as just a gentle unwilled movement of my body and developed into a violent uncontrolled shuddering with every muscle in my body clenched.
We were in touch with the NHS 111 service from this point on and they monitored my progress with great care and explained some of the science behind the sweating and shaking. It was remarkably helpful to have this model in my mind and be able to somehow visualise what was happening as it happened.
The cycle of sweating and shaking continued for about 5 days and always played out along side more basic feelings of illness, the headaches and other difficulties.
I was not eating to speak of, a little dry toast left at the side of the bed here and there and lots of water and I was increasingly exhausted. It’s difficult to be precise but my mind drifted off into all manner of odd places during these days, not all of them unpleasant. I had a little time of feeling guilty about having decided to visit the care home as Lynn was clearly beginning to feel unwell and I regretted bringing this thing home. I was particularly miffed because the relationship I had had with my mother over the years was not wonderful and I could have well done without this opportunity to say goodbye. I was aware, however, that the offer to lift restrictions was made out of simple kindness on the part of the care home staff and I wallowed in the concept of kindness night after night, day after day often in floods of very emotional tears. I believed that I had enjoyed conversations with Walt Whitman and listened as he told me about his time as a wound dresser during the American civil war. I was somewhere in a mix of fantasy and mindfulness where I was able to sort of relax into the illness, view in my mind what was happening in the fight between the virus and my immune system which resulted in the sweating and shaking and being aware of the need to be positive and visualise the end of this thing.
My temperature reached the high end of 39 degrees and the 111 service wanted us to get a second opinion about the best next move. Before we could do this I fell asleep and found myself, on waking, so wet that I might have been involved in a faulty waterbed incident, but something had changed. I felt as though sometime during my sleep my temperature had spiked very high but the fever had broken.
The cycle of sweating hardly returned and eventually faded entirely. I was left with the constant headache and all the rest of those demons and they were joined by a noticeable shortness of breath. But my mind and body were beginning to rejoin. I was even aware that there was a danger of doors quietly swinging shut on what I had considered positive inner experiences as the experiencing of them passed.
As I recovered Lynn got worse. Her whole experience was different in substance to mine and was dominated by constant nausea and sickness. We both experienced utter fatigue and although we are both on the mend that fatigue will take ages to dissipate I think.
We both have good days and not so good days at the moment. For the last couple of days I have felt like there is a substantial rock at the top of my chest and I’m developing lethargy into an art form.
The number and warmth of messages of support has been a truly wonderful thing to experience and we are both looking forward to having our lives back however subtly altered by the experience they might be.
It seems that we can’t be of use to anyone by way of testing and analysis of the effect of having had the virus and the antibodies that might have been created and we don’t know what effect our experience will have had on our bodies regarding our susceptibility to the virus in the future. What I do know, however, is that I’m going to have to take control of my life again soon and the prospect of that is truly frightening.
I managed to go for a short walk yesterday for the first time in ages. The pictures here are a stand of trees as they were on the last walk we had before being ill and as they were yesterday. They haven’t, it seems, been hanging around waiting for me.