Thursday 28 October 2021

COVID Diary from Chateau Plague

Well I caught COVID, as was perhaps inevitable given Government (lack of) policy. And this is despite being quite cautious. Not to the point of hiding indoors, but given how I see other people behaving I am basically a Saint. I've been on public transport only a handful of times, and I've followed all the health precautions for both myself and other people around me when I've done so. I've used tons of squirty hand gel everywhere I go, and if I'm in the office or at home I wash my hands constantly. My social life is borderline non-existent, no pubs no clubs, and when I meet people it is outside. 

But I do have children. Children who might have been vaccinated during the summer holidays under a competent regime, but who instead all went back to school with no protection whatsoever. My eldest daughter succumbed just under a couple of months ago, a lateral flow followed by a positive PCR confirmation. We confined her to her room and took food up for the first week, and she came down and ate with us at a different table for the second. Somehow none of us caught it.

And then two Saturdays ago, around lunchtime, my youngest daughter complained of not feeling very well on a car journey. The round trip took four hours, after which she slept for around 18 hours. Hmmm. A lateral flow test once we had woken her up confirmed our worst suspicions....

Day 1

The following day the four of us that can currently take tests accurately all went to the local testing site for another round of PCRs - track and trace would insist we do this anyway so we might as well get it over with in one hit. On the way back home I popped into Boots and had the flu jab, as is currently being recommended. I'm sensible like that, you know believing in vaccines and medical science. Needless to say I felt pretty chirpy.

You can guess what happened next. I do not normally have hypocondriacal tendencies, I just get on with it. Perhaps post a photo of a damaged appendage, that kind of thing, but generally you would never know. But this has been quite different, and so I took notes on my phone each day out of morbid curiosity. I apologise now. Perhaps it is the shock of actually being ill - after all the various enforced lockdowns, working from home, no travel and vastly reduced contact with other people in all areas of life have meant that many of us have enjoyed a long period without getting sick at all. Maybe I had just forgotten what being ill is like? Without wishing to sound too melodramatic what I have just gone through makes up for all of that. It was interesting to chart, and who knows, it may be useful to anyone else unlucky enough to get this thing under whose shadow we have now been living for nearly two years.

Day 2

A gradual headache begins to build over the course of the morning. I'm a bit hot, a bit cold and although I'm working I have to have an afternoon nap. I assume this is just an adverse reaction to the flu jab but late that evening I get an unexpectedly positive PCR result. Here we go!  My youngest is unsurprisingly also positive. The other two test negative, lucky them! It is too late to do anything today so I go to bed, but tomorrow promises to be a lot of fun and games - NHS track and trace, and also the unhappy task of unwinding the first foreign trip I had planned for 18 months and which I had been due to leave on in under a week. I'd already booked and paid for my fit to fly test....non-refundable, as you would expect in Tory Britain.

Day 3

I don't sleep well at all, and call work first thing to say I'm sick. I now have a banging headache that is impossible to shift, paracetamol has no impact at all, and proper shivers. I spend some time in bed with the electric blanket on to get warm, and subsequently overheat. Yay, this is being ill as I remember it! I have the first hints of a cough, but very minor. Still, I can't remember the last time I had a cough at all. And my eyes hurt for some reason, bright lights really sting and exacerbates my headache. I put my phone away. Overall I am very achy, particularly my hips. 

Day 4

Another crap sleep and at one stage I wake up damp. Did a fever break? I didn't think I was that hot but I must have been. My frontal headache is now almost unbearable, it's as if my head is in a vice and about to split. Additionally there is real pain in the left side of my skull, my ear and throat are throbbing like anything and my jaw feels stiff. Room service during the working day isn't possible and so I have to go down and make lunch for the invalids. Climbing the stairs afterwards is exhausting, and by the afternoon I'm feeling short of breath even just lying in bed. Imagine what real non-vaccinated COVID must be like? Sitting on the side of the bed mid-afternoon doing a few admin jobs has me in a cold sweat and back under the covers. By the evening I have a few cold like symptoms, big wet sneezes and a more persistent cough. Interestingly my sense of taste and smell are definitely less acute. Toothpaste and aftershave registered, but my own bedridden aroma after two days of sweating is undetectable, and a risotto which is usually so delicious was like wet mush.

Day 5

A broken but better sleep, and I woke up with clearer airways, although once I got moving some sniffles and sneezes returned and I gradually got more bunged up as the day went on. Frequent cold sweats all morning, and still this unbelievable headache. My throat is still very sore but this morning the disease appears to have moved away from my left ear and jaw, and the headache is I think slightly less awful. I've never really had an illness that you can chart moving around your body so precisely as this one, it seems to slowly and ponderously target one bit after another. I had a coffee mid-morning, the first I'd had since this whole thing started. I could taste it was bitter, but I could not smell it at all, nothing, and I couldn't have told you it was coffee but for my brain knowing what I was drinking. What an incredible virus. I hope I am not one of the ones for whom their sense of smell does not return, or where it takes ages. Red Burgundy....imagine not being able to smell it? It occurs to me that if I cannot smell coffee I probably cannot smell myself either and take a shower, the first in days. I can't smell the soap or shampoo either, but I come out of it feeling more human. Looking in the mirror confirms I'm not at my best though, I look haggard.

By the afternoon my headache has reduced somewhat, the first positive sign I've had in days. This is a huge relief as this has been the worst aspect of COVID so far. The disease seems to have moved to the right side of my head - exactly the same as earlier on the left side. Is this where it takes its leave? In one ear out the other? Apparently not as by the evening I can feel a creeping stiffness beginning to build, starting in my neck and working downwards, and I am once again short of breath. It is almost as if it is tracing a circular route around my body. In fact I've heard it said this is a vascular disease rather than a respiratory one. Perhaps this explains Covid toes, the last place the disease hits as it departs?

Day 6

Not as good as yesterday. The headache has returned, albeit in a form that paracetamol can partly deal with, and my energy levels remain extremely low so I remain upstairs in bed for the whole day again. I have nearly lost a week of my life at this point. The killer sore throat is back on the left side again. Still all sorts of aches and pains, though some of these could simply come from gross inactivity - I tend to seize up during periods where I do nothing, the same thing happened during difficult lockdown periods when I had motivational problems. The day ends with some shortness of breath and a stomach ache. My tummy is a sensitive area at the best of times, so nice of COVID to have a go at that too.

Day 7

A bit bunged up this morning, and still quite tight-chested, but sore throat much reduced and only a minor headache to contend with. Painful stomach issues resolved and by mid-morning I'm feeling pretty reasonable all things considered. Tomorrow is the day I would be travelling to America. Hey ho. For the first time I notice I have no sense of smell at all, not even aftershave, vaporub or essential oils give me anything. It is very strange. My maternal Grandmother had no sense of smell for almost her entire life, I have no idea how she managed. It is only once it is gone you realise how much you actually use it and how much you miss it. Really hope it comes back. No real change during the rest of the day.

Day 8

I worked for most of the day, an immoveable annual deadline that I had to meet - unfortunate timing. Looking at a screen for so long didn't help my eyes nor my headache, but the odd paracetamol hit kept me going. Still absolutely no sense of smell, but it feels like the worst is definitely behind me.

Day 9

A headache continues to plague me but isn't a bad one now. My sense of smell has returned very slightly and strong smelling substances now do register a little bit. I expect that this will continue to improve, fingers crossed. Apart from these two symptoms I feel as if I've just come out of the other side of a heavy cold, and am in the process of shaking off the remnants. Could this be nearly over?

Day 10

Nope, not quite! Tight chested, coughing fits and a headache. Brilliant. But I did manage a full day at work albeit with a nap in the middle as I am still really tired.

Day 11

My final day of isolation and another full day at work. Still tight-chested but no headache, and I'm pleased to say my sense of smell is now returning. It may yet take a few weeks to feel fully back to normal, but I have survived this ordeal. Two weeks of my life I won't get back, but I suppose with two COVID vaccinations, the flu jab and some recently home-grown COVID antibodies I must be in pretty good shape for the winter to come.

I apologise for writing this. It is very self centered and extremely indulgent, really not me at all, but once I had started it I felt loathe to stop it. Maybe somebody will find it interesting, or at least partly reassuring in that if an unfit middle-aged codger like me can get through it, then they can too. It has been awful, worse than the worst cold I've ever had, and worse than the flu. I am so lucky that I have been vaccinated, facing this from zero would be incredibly hard. As it is I feel completely shattered. However I am very much looking forward to getting out on the patch again, I have not been out of the house the whole time, and it has been driving me mad not being able to go birding.


  1. Jono, I think you ought to have this account published in a national newspaper somewhere. It really does express the details of this disease in a way I've not heard of before.
    I've been fortunate myself so far. The last illness I can recall was double pneumonia which developed after twitching a DC Cormorant in the last century. The side effect of that was I was so annoyed at getting ill due to a twitch that when the Golden Winged Warbler appeared, I declined to collect.
    Twitching's a competition anyway. I couldn't compete. When the Houbara Bustard turned up, I was only two years old.

  2. Fingers crossed you avoid it Ric. I would really love to see that Varied Thrush on Orkney, but even now I am better and free to leave the house I just cannot summon up the energy that it would require!

  3. Thank you for writing that. I had no idea it could be so bad in someone who had been vaccinated. Myself and all my family have so far avoided it, thank God. Like you, I am ultra cautious, but I despair of the behaviour of some people. I was in my local Sainsbury's yesterday, and I would estimate that only about one in ten people was wearing a mask, and that includes staff.


    1. Neither did I, I assumed that it would be reduced to the level of a bad common cold. Wrong! As I said in the post, to get this with no protection at all must be horrendous even if you are at the top of your game. And let's not forget that this has killed millions of people who were not.

  4. I've lost some dates somewhere. Shetland at the same time?

    1. No, Shetland first week of of October, then a week at work. Then Covid final 2 weeks of October.

  5. I think that's really good - if people knew how nasty the thing is, perhaps more people would wear masks. Fortunate that you were vaccinated - could have ended up in hospital or worse otherwise