And so there it was. Within minutes the party dispersed and I was left alone, tipsy, just me… and Covid.
Over the next few days my symptoms got worse. Even more upsetting than catching the virus was the fact that everyone including my mother, brother, Rakhi & Rajiv and their parents had the horrible virus too. Without a moment to breathe after Krishy’s funeral, they were now dealing with this.
It was like an interlude to the nightmare, with another nightmare.
My symptoms were not too bad, a deep cough, pretty bad headache and fever for two days, unable to get out of bed; then body pain and loss of appetite for the next week or so. I did also have a chest infection, for which I was prescribed antibiotics. My big fear was that my mum would catch it but as I was staying with her (I only moved in after quarantining and getting a negative test result), the chances were extremely high. We did our best to avoid contact and stay as safe as possible but it was probably too late by then anyway.
Two days later, my fears became real and mum became very very sick. She was bedridden, extremely tired, in a lot of pain, miserable and more unwell and vulnerable than I had ever seen her. It was my turn to look after her.
There’s something I’d like to mention at this point. My sleep had been very bad since arriving in the UK, and it felt as though I was permanently jetlagged. Covid compounded this and my lack of sleep probably compounded covid. When we catch an infection, the only thing the body wants to do is rest. Our cells create what’s known as the ‘Cell Danger Response’ and shut down. Literally, not able to produce any energy for activity as they prepare to fight and defend against an attack. Not sleeping properly, something I will go in to in more detail later, is extremely bad for our cellular health and therefore our energy levels, and our bodies’ capacity to heal.
What I quickly realised after catching Covid was that there’s a lot of information around on what to do to prevent getting it, but very little on what to do if you do actually get it. We had to think on our feet!
Through research and talking to other people, here are my top tips.
Top Tips in Dealing with Covid Infection
- Sleep and rest – Like I mentioned before, the body needs rest to fight the infection. The Mitochondria (the cells’ power houses of energy) are not producing the energy needed by the body to carry out activity. You could, in effect, imagine that the mitochondria change jobs whilst our body is fighting an infection. So by ‘carrying on’ and going against the body’s natural response, you could cause more, lasting damage.
- Drink plenty of water – Hydration is key for blood volume and flow and to keep the body cool during an infection. We also know that we can’t survive very long without it.
- Take as much Vitamin C as your body can tolerate. You know when you’ve reached tolerance because you develop diarrhoea. At this point you know your body has the amount it needs. Vitamin C is the key infection fighting nutrient. You should take 3-5g every 20 minutes until you reach bowel tolerance. (note: It would be cheaper to get it in powder form, which becomes relevant when using such large quantities.) http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v05n07.shtml
- Take 4,000 i.u Vitamin D daily or a larger equivalent dose over several days. Some have even suggested taking 10,000 i.u whilst you have the virus. I would recommend you check with your health professional before taking this route.
- Take 25-30mg of zinc split over 2 doses – Zinc is best absorbed on an empty stomach or with protein foods and away from grains, rice, corn and cereals as these inhibit its absorption.
- Use an Oximeter to regularly check oxygen levels. If they fall below 93, let your doctor know immediately.
- If breathing becomes difficult, lie on your front or sleep sitting up right. Walk around and keep windows open to increase oxygen levels.
- Use steam inhalations to loosen the built up mucous in the lungs if you have any congestion. If the phlegm gets stuck, it could lead to pneumonia, in which case the condition could become more serious. Rub the patients back to loosen it up.
- Use a saline solution to clear the nasal passages, the virus tends to incubate here. This is a great preventative measure too I believe. There is further research being done in this area, but from a standpoint of common sense, it makes a lot of sense to me.
The next days 7 days were an exhausting blur. My mum’s condition was pretty bad, like a really severe case of the flu. She was uncomfortable and in a lot of pain. And being asthmatic, I had to keep a much closer eye on her. There were moments where her oxygen levels dropped significantly and she was struggling to breathe. The advice here is to air the rooms as much as possible to let the oxygen in, stay sitting up and breathe deeply. Call the paramedics if levels drop too low. Anything below 93 merits a professional opinion.
Interlude: whilst this was going on, a very good friend of mine was admitted to hospital with Covid Pneumonia. It was unsure if he would make it. Things were tense.
On day 7 and 8 of my mums infection, she finally seemed to be making progress, and we both agreed I should book my flight back to Toronto as Canada was due to introduce PCR testing the following week, and we had heard it can take three months to show a negative test after initial infection, even if you are not contagious. I managed to get a good deal on business class (not surprisingly, no one wanted to fly) and so I treated myself to a non-refundable, business class ticket back home. I felt deserving of a comfortable ride after everything we had just been through. I couldn’t wait! Things were finally looking up for me.
Keep Checking the Those Oxygen Levels
Who was I kidding!
The tide turned again and mum’s condition deteriorated on her 10th day of having the virus. On that day she was admitted to hospital for low oxygen levels. Mum says her condition had been getting worse for a couple of days, but these went unnoticed by us. It was only when her numbers went down to 83 that we realised.
At this point I have to make a very important point. We were told be a couple of paramedics not to use the Oximeter to check her oxygen levels and only call them if she was turning blue and having obvious trouble breathing. They believed the metres to be unreliable. I have to say that this was the wrong advice and had we have been checking, we would have caught mums declining oxygen levels sooner.
She was very scared about this as she had heard a few tragic stories about her friends in hospital. Letting her go all alone in the ambulance was a very poignant moment for me as I had no idea what would become of it. I stayed positive for her sake and packed her a bag to leave.
Once she was in the hospital she quickly decided that it was the best place for her and she was extremely grateful to be there. Her team at The Whittington were amazing, and took care of her and us extremely well. I will be eternally grateful to NHS staff for everything they have gone through, and everything they have done for the public during the Covid 19 Pandemic.
One of the nurses on Mum’s ward found me outside and quite unexpectedly shared with me the nightmare he was experiencing. At the moment, I truly understood what they were going through. It was beyond hellish.
Increasing Stress Levels and Beginning of Post Viral Fatigue
My stress levels throughout had been quite well managed. I’d ordered CBD oil and was using it to help me sleep and cope. I felt as though the oil was numbing the stress and meant I was able to cope pretty well, by all accounts.
But I think we can all agree, there was a lot going on.
Mum in hospital gave me some respite from being 24/7 carer, but there was still the shopping and hospitals drop offs and family and friends communication to deal with. Not to mention the worry of whether or not she would be ok. Of course, we couldn’t see her and so we were reliant on her to communicate with us via the phone. She was so exhausted from low oxygen, and they found a small clot on her lungs, so we wanted her to rest as much as possible.
It wasn’t until a week later I finally saw her again on FaceTime and we cried together for everything we’d been through, and in joy that the time had come for her to come home!
Needless to say, there was no business class ride home. I had to give that up and prepared myself to stay in the UK and take care of my mother whilst she rehabilitated from her ordeal.
Her condition when she came back was quite severe, energy levels were low and she was frequently out of breath. But, she was home!
The instruction was to not overdo it. She needed someone by her side full time in those first few weeks to help her with her care.
When you come from an Indian family and you are a daughter AND you have no kids, you can bet your arse that person is going to be you.
And so I went back in to carer and cleaner mode, 24/7. The stress was starting to take its toll as my body was now unable to cope with the load. And the fact that I had not had time to properly recover from the virus, was taking its toll. But I kept going as mums needs were far greater than mine.
Several weeks later, the signs of fatigue and stress were obvious and I had reached my mental limit. I couldn’t handle any more. I just wanted and needed to go home.
We put a plan in place for my mums care as she was visibly improving and I went to get another PCR Test, by now a mandatory requirement to enter Canada, and prepared myself to finally go home.
Reaching all Limits
The next day, the lab called. My PCR was positive. I had a very high amount of the virus in my system. We tested further…I had no antibodies to show I was fighting the infection, only those that showed that I was in a full blown virus state. All IgM, and no IgA. Even the technicians were confused. They’d rarely seen the numbers I was presenting with.
My world came crashing down. I felt heavily trapped. I could not believe it. At this point, I felt like I couldn’t take a single thing more. I had zero tolerance in me. I could not get any perspective and was way past being able to get philosophical about it all.
To add to it, I felt a lot of guilt. Guilt for being ‘selfish’, and thinking about my own needs when Rakhi had lost her baby and my mother and friend had both been in hospital. And here I was, complaining about having to stay at my family home for a few more days, or weeks.
I quickly realised something about myself. I put myself aside in a crisis and become unrelentingly dependable and capable. We didn’t have a huge amount of choice given the circumstances, however, and I seemed to lose all sense of my own needs. I pushed until I couldn’t anymore.
I felt displaced, tired, unprepared for the cold weather, away from my partner, my home, my life… and the thing that got hugely overlooked, I was unwell.
But I had no choice. I had to pull out some juice from somewhere to try to stay human for a while longer.
The next week was one of waiting and more testing. Finally, finally I got my negative PCR and was able to return home.
As I prepared myself to return, again I felt guilty. Guilty for leaving my mother and worried if she’d be ok. My brothers assured me it would be ok. But I couldn’t shake off the guilt leaving my convalescing mother behind. But I needed to get back home and start to take care of my own health.
It turned out that my mother’s condition improved dramatically after I left! Within just a few days I felt comforted she would be ok. The relief set in, and I finally felt as though I was able to breathe.
But not for long….