Hello, my name is Vaneeta Mahtani. I am from the UK, living in Toronto with my partner, Amit. We arrived here just before the pandemic started.
I would like to share my story with you about catching Covid 19.
It has taken me 4 months and I am still not yet fully recovered from the ordeal and from catching the virus.
The purpose of writing this blog started with wanting to share with those of you, who are also recovering, the research and knowledge I have picked up along the way in the hope that I might be able to help you too.
Sadly, the story doesn’t just start with me catching the virus. The last 4 months, the lead up to the virus, during and after have been madness for myself and those around me. I couldn’t just write about the virus and how to heal from it without the context of everything else that was going on around me.
We all have our stories to share of the past year or so since this pandemic started. Those who have been really unfortunate will have tales of tragedy; others isolation, fear, loneliness; some of joy, opportunity, self improvement, grace… the list goes on. This is mine.
There have been times during my recovery when I have been unable to cook myself a simple meal, let alone leave the house. At times I have needed 12 hours sleep a night, and spend the days lying on the couch. I have been unable to do any exercise the entire time and can get injured from the slightest movement. I remember, one day, when I was at my worst, I pulled a muscle in my jaw just from yawning. These are just a few of the symptoms I have been experiencing.
On those days when I do have some energy, I spend them trying to figure out how to get my health back on track. As a yogi, wellbeing coach and healthcare practitioner I am generally quite obsessed with both my own and everyone else’s health around me, so this was just fodder for my inquisitive mind.
In my research, I discovered what happens to the body when we get a viral infection, why we experience viral fatigue, right down to the cellular level, and what we can do to fix it.
I also found out that a massive proportion of people who contract Covid struggle with what has been termed ‘Long Covid’, experiencing symptoms long after the initial period of infection. I discovered in an article on the only Long Covid research and treatment centre in the world, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, that Long Covid affects more women than men. I also found out that it is usually people who have had milder symptoms of the virus that suffer worse and the average age of these long haulers is 44. (I had just turned 45 before I caught Covid).
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine has seen tens of thousands of people suffering from Long Covid.
As I find out more about how the virus affects the system, and about what I can do to get better, I feel the need to share this information with all the other long haulers out there, which is how these blog posts have come about.
I hope that you, or anyone you know who is suffering from continued symptoms post covid, can find some benefit from what I am about to share with you.
In the first blog, I share intimate stories of tragedy in our family, which lead up to the time we caught the virus. I could have decided to skip all that and just give you a lesson in covid recovery, but there are two valid reasons for sharing this experience.
The first is that I feel it is very important to highlight the impact stress has on our physical and mental health. I’ve always known this, but what I have experienced in the way of stress in the last few months and what I have learnt through my research has really brought this point home for me.
The impact of stress and mind set has had a very big role to play in my experience and recovery from Covid.
Secondly, I cannot talk about the last few months without talking about the very tragic loss of my cousin’s 5 year old son, Krish, to brain cancer….
In December 2020, I had to decide whether or not to travel back to the UK. Not as straightforward a decision as I needed it to be owing to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The reason for even considering hopping on a transatlantic flight at such a crazy time was due to the extremely tragic fact that my cousin Rakhi’s five year old son Krish had, 2 months earlier, been diagnosed with a stage 3-4 aggressive brain tumour. The prognosis from the start was not good.
Despite the timing and everything that was going on in the world, I was of the mind-set that ‘Covid wouldn’t happen to me, and if it did, being of pretty good health and young, I would be fine anyway’. My need to be home with my family seemed way more important to me than worrying about catching the virus, or what would happen if I did.
When word came from Krish’s medical team that there was not much time left, I took the first flight back home. Krish wasn’t quite ready, however, and remained with his parents for a further two weeks before finally passing on December 9th 2020. One does not need to try very hard to imagine the devastation…
The Sunday before the day of our beloved Krish’s funeral became the Sunday when all hell broke loose in the world of travel and Covid, and in my mind will always be remembered as ‘the Sunday of the British variant’ where, first European countries, followed by non-European ones started to close their airspace to UK flights and passengers.
My gut told me it wouldn’t be long before Canada followed suit. I frantically tried to get an earlier flight, and booked myself on one for the next day. Within minutes of booking, the email came through, my flight had been cancelled. I spent that whole night on the line to Air Canada, Lufthansa & Expedia.com trying to find a way out of the UK, as my fear was being stuck there indefinitely.
It took hours to sort it out, for reasons too boring to mention here. By 5am, I had finally managed to book myself on a flight from London to Toronto, via Lisbon. I was going to have to miss the funeral.
That night was one of the most stressful I have been through in a very long time. Not only was I so disappointed not to be able to be there for my cousin Rakhi when she needed me most, but I was also dealing with the uncertainty of the situation, not knowing how long I would be stuck in the UK for, away from my new home, and Amit. And, the very process of trying to change the flights was so incredibly difficult and exhausting, by the time I had it all sorted, I was well and truly pooped. I lay down for a couple of hours before I would need to get up and pack to leave.
7.30am. Another email arrives to say this flight had been cancelled too. That made it the third flight in twice as many hours. The stress continued, and no doubt, that stressful, sleepless night added to the stress of the past couple of months, was in my opinion, the straw that broke the camel’s back!
All I could do at this point was surrender to the workings of a much greater intelligence than me, and be grateful that I could at least be with my family for Krishs’ funeral. I was satisfied with this and tried to convince myself everything would work out in the next few days.
And so, I pulled myself together and did what I could to offer my support to Rakhi and Rajiv, Krishs’ parents, on this very difficult day.
Afterwards, without much time to spend time with my loved ones, I got back on mission ‘return to Toronto’. It seemed urgent to try to get out of the UK, not least because of the looming threat of a new, highly infectious variant of Covid 19, but also because I had no idea when the flights would resume again. And Amit would be left completely alone in a new country for Christmas and New Year. These seemed like very good reasons to try my best to get home, and because with every obstacle, my stress levels were mounting.
I finally managed to get on the same flight, via Portugal, two days later which was great, but by now I needed to be able to present a negative PCR test. Things were changing quickly. I set about getting several PCR tests done that evening in different locations in London, praying one of them would come back in time before my flight.
The following day after the funeral, my mum and brother, (who had both been through so much in the previous two months) and myself, took a rapid COVID test each, the Lateral Flow tests. We were desperate to spend time with each other, without masks and give each other a hug. We had all been through so much. The tests came back negative.
We pulled our masks off for the first time in weeks & sat down to share some very much needed brandy and cake. We’d been through the wringer and simply needed a moment to decompress.
Months of Krishy’s illness, his death and funeral had taken every last bit of juice any of us had.
We raised our glasses to our beloved boy and allowed ourselves to breathe, deeper than we had for months.
But only for a moment…
We dared to laugh, and tried to lighten the mood as we indulged in cake and spirits and shared a few final moments together before it was time for me to fly back.
At one point, I pulled out my phone to check my emails. I realised then that passengers who were only transiting through Portugal were exempt from needing a PCR. That was a huge relief as it meant I didn’t need to stress about waiting for the results of the multiple tests I had taken, and could guarantee my departure the following day!
My relief lasted about 10 seconds before I read the next email that said “COVID PCR Test result….in bright red letters DETECTED!
Krish’s parents set up a Brighter Future Fund in his memory and on behalf of Great Ormond Street Hospital. This fund will raise funds for future research of this very rare brain tumour and will also contribute toward Koala ward (neurosurgery) where Krish spent his last few weeks. If you would like to donate to this extremely worthwhile cause, you can do so using the following link. Thank you. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/krish-kent