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The COVID-19 diary of an entire family

2020 came and passed and neither one of us got COVID-19. Cool, I thought to myself, apparently we’ll be speared.

Boy, was I wrong.

On the 11th of January 2021, Ellie returned from work with all the terrifying symptoms. She had muscle aches, fever (37.8º C), sore throat, and a headache driving her bonkers. Around the same time, I had started having problems sleeping, but I blamed my busy first few weeks of January and thought nothing of it.

To make sure we’re on the safe side, I booked us both a test straight away and Ellie notified her employers. 24h later the confirmation came – she had COVID-19. Awkwardly enough, I was well and my test results were negative. This is what happened next.

COVID-19 diary, Wednesday, 13th of January

A couple of days after Ellie developed her symptoms; dad woke up with fever. Nothing serious, really – he only had 37.2º C, yet we were concerned. Our father, who just turned 61 a couple of months ago had a quadruple bypass surgery back in 2012 and is on constant heart medication.

Luckily, his symptoms for the day were nothing scary – he had a fever, headache, fatigue, and a weird irritation that no one could explain.

Thursday, 14th of January

To no one’s shock and everyone’s annoyance, on Thursday mum woke up with the same symptoms. She was irritable, had a fever, and was constantly tired.

15th, 16th, and 17th of January

It seemed it’s all going to be fine. Ellie was recovering quickly, I still had no symptoms whatsoever, and both mum and dad seemed rather well.

Monday, the 18th of January 2021

Mum started feeling worse. Her fever was playing up and instead of a loss of sense of smell, she got the exact opposite – almost every food made her want to puke.

Tuesday, 19th of January

Mum was still no better (fatigue, fever, and a headache), and dad reported a loss of smell and taste.

Wednesday, 20th of January

It took nearly 10 days, but it finally got me. On Wednesday I woke up feeling disastrous. My entire body ached, my head was killing me, and I had no desire to do anything. My fever was mild (37.3º C), but the fatigue was intolerable.

Thursday, 21st of January

I was still unsure if I had COVID or was just tired. That day we were all couch potatoes, although Ellie had recovered (minus the occasional headache and almost constant muscle ache), dad was fine (despite the lack of taste and smell). It seemed though that it was all going to be well…

Friday, 22nd of January

Nope, COVID-19 said, I’m not done with you yet. The next few days were going to be the worst.

Around 5-ish in the evening, mum’s fever suddenly went nuts. She quickly hopped from a completely normal temperature to 39.5º C and an almost complete lack of awareness. Over the next 24h, things did not change. Ellie and I minded her bed on shifts, giving her paracetamol every 4 hours, and continuously changing a cold compress on her forehead.

When nothing seemed to influence the fever by Sunday, we called 111 and were redirected to the emergency room. Our COVID-19 diary was becoming longer…

Sunday, 24th of January

Having listened to the 111 operator, we had given mum some Ibuprophen which finally lowered her temperature down to 37º C and allowed us to go to A&E.

Visit to the A&E with COVID-19

I have always had the biggest appreciation for doctors and the kindness of NHS personnel. Nonetheless, I have to disclose that our visit to the A&E got me discouraged. Even though I was the person who took my mum there, I was not allowed in. All I could do was sit in the car and wait for the occasional call she’d make when the doctor was around her.

In the meantime, I was busting the nerves of a dear friend of mine – Lidiya (a brilliant doctor) – who helped me navigate my thoughts. And while she was advising me that a course of antibiotics and steroids is absolutely due at this time, the doctor was certain – it is against our protocol, he said. I can provide your mum with neither antibiotics nor corticosteroids.

Great then, I answered, what do you suggest I do?

Keep on with the paracetamol, he said, and alternate it with Ibuprophen.

What about the risk of a cytokine storm, I asked. She’s been with high fever for nearly 48h

* Cytokine storm - a long period of high fever can result in the immune system becoming confused and starting to attack its own cells. According to Wikipedia, some doctors attributed many COVID-19 deaths to cytokine storms.

But he A&E doctor was no help. Nevertheless, it is important that I mention something. Luckily for us, we had some antibiotics left from a previous prescription and had already started mum on it. She took the antibiotics for 7 days.

Upon leaving the hospital, Lidiya told me something that I wish I knew sooner: to lower a fever, she said, you need to pop a couple of Paracetamols together with one pill of Analgin (not made in the UK, but I found them here). And voila! This finally worked and my mum’s fever was gone. That was the moment she started getting better.

Nevertheless, Sunday was also the day I lost my sense of smell and taste. For those of you who wonder what that’s like – it’s absolutely awful! I could only distinguish food based on its texture, and while I was constantly hungry, I also had no appetite whatsoever. It took me almost a week to get some of the normal sense of smell and take back, and now, a week and a half later, I am still unsure if I am back to normal.

25th, 26th, and 27th of January

During these days we were all couch potatoes. I slept on and off, had no power whatsoever, and my ability to focus was nonexistent.

28th of Jan, 1st of Feb and 2nd of Feb

We started getting better. Slowly, but surely our energy levels were rising and we were finally able to start returning back to normal.

Today, the 5th of February my throat is still sore, but I feel much, much better. Happy to report that my entire family has also fully recovered.

NHS track & trace: we received 3 calls each during our self-isolation, and we were asked about our symptoms and whether or not we intend to self-isolate. Annoyingly, all initial phone calls came before 8:30…

COVID-19 things I wish I knew in advance

The symptoms discussed online are certainly not the only ones that a person with COVID might have. For some weird reason, the NHS doesn’t communicate all symptoms unless you actually test positive. Here’s the full list of symptoms, as seen in the NHS docs:

  • a new, continuous cough
  • high temperature or fever (higher than 39C)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste (you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal)
  • Altered consciousness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Nose bleed
  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Seizures
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting

The COVID-19 symptom that no one has mentioned

One of the things that caught us unprepared was the crazy irritability that COVID-19 caused. Neither one of us was themselves. While sick, each one of us was incredibly emotional, mostly negative, and ready for a scandal at any time. And while this may be the normal state for some, it is bizarre for us – we describe ourselves as happy, joyful people.

Final thoughts

Much like other people we were unsure if COVID-19 is not yet another, slightly more severe flu. After having gone through it, we actually think that it is. The problem though is that this sickness is highly infectious – previous years there was no guarantee that we’d all get sick if one of us had the flu. The other differences to normal flu is that:

  • the symptoms don’t seem to follow a specific pattern;
  • the tiredness is exceptional;
  • there’s a sort of loss of awareness – we all struggled to find our words and it seemed that it had affected the nervous system;
  • when the symptoms get you, it renders you incapable of working (with a regular flu I normally carry on without being bothered).

I hope this information is helpful to some. Please note that neither one of us is a medical professional and DO NOT treat this article as medical advice. If you have symptoms or feel unwell, contact NHS at 111 or call your GP.

By Nina Alexander

Nina is the big sister. She's a marketing professional by day, traveler by heart, tech geek, bookworm, beer lover and an amateur photographer. Her motto is Friedrich Nietzsche's famous quote "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

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