May 23, 2020 6 min read

It's week 10 of isolated home-schooling following the covid-19 lockdown in the UK and over 4 weeks since coronavirus entered our home.

So this is the first thing I've been able to write or even do for the best part of a month and I really wasn't going to write about this at all, but if it helps just one person, or one family, then it'll be worth it - because our story and our symptoms were unexpected.

We still don't know exactly where it came from.

I hadn't left the house for weeks with the children, only for very isolated countryside walks.  Not even one shop.  I'd painted a keyworker rainbow on our window, baked, homeschooled and worked.  Totally isolated and totally socially distanced.

But 2 weeks previously, over Easter, my youngest had gone into anaphylactic shock.  The paramedics and hospital staff were beyond amazing - but we were in contact with a lot of people who had themselves, been in contact with Covid positive patients.

Or we could have caught it from my husband.  As a key-worker, it was always a risk.  His employer had taken every precaution - removing seats in communal areas, staggered breaks, strict social distancing and loads more.  It made no difference. 

On Monday he came home saying that he thought he had a cold.  I felt snuffly too. It was only a cold, not a Covid symptom, but we didn't feel right and it got worse as the week went on.  Still, no temperature and no significant cough. Nothing you're supposed to look out for.

By Friday, I took the children for their walk over the village meadow.  They played whilst I sat and watched them, taking photographs as they ran around and climbed the trees, but by the time we set off home, a headache was brewing.  And by the time we got home, the headache had become so unbearable, that I tucked the children into bed and went straight to bed myself.

The headache continued over the weekend and into the next week, as did a funny taste in my mouth that made anything containing vinegar smell and taste quite awful.  All of a sudden I couldn't stand the smell of ketchup or salad dressing - but no loss of taste or smell.

I started to feel a pressure on my chest, almost like one of the children was sitting on me - but no cough.

Then came Monday night.  We'd home-schooled as usual during the day, kissed everyone good night and settled them down.  Everything was perfectly normal.

But at close to midnight, we woke to a scream.  I flew into the children's bedroom to find child number 3.  Sat on top of his sisters' bed shaking like nothing you've ever seen in your entire life, gabbling incomprehensibly.

He was cold and he was shaking.  Shaking like you'd sat him on top of a washing machine during the spin cycle.  And he was saying that he couldn't breathe.

We phoned 111.  He wasn't cold like he said.  He was boiling with a temperature of over 40 degrees.

It took hours and hours; phone call after phone call, but eventually, his temperature came down to 39, his breathing slowed and his fear began to subside.  I tucked him into bed with me for a restless night sleep. 

Tuesday went in a blur.  The temperature was hard to control and I was beginning to feel fiercely nauseous myself.  By Wednesday all the children were sneezing and they all had headaches.

Then on Thursday, child number 4 went down.  The same high temperature.  The same panic.  The same struggling to breathe.  I could no longer stand and I couldn't keep anything down at all, not even water.

It went on all weekend.  Holding the sickest children close and laying very still.  Until finally, on Sunday afternoon, our doctor called for an ambulance.

They arrived by 9.30pm and in I went.  There is honestly nothing quite like kissing your family goodbye, not knowing what will happen next.

I was lucky.  Beyond lucky. 2 bags of I.V fluids and I was discharged with anti-sickness medication.

No one could have known, but the tablets didn't work.  24 hours later, rapidly deteriorating again, my own doctor prescribed different tablets and I turned a corner.  It took another week before I could get out of bed and stand without falling.  My husband went to back to work, symptom-free after his 14-day isolation and our new-normal resumed.

And so to today.

4 weeks on we're getting there. The children still have upset stomachs and rashes and headaches ao we can't yet leave the house, but we've slowly re-introduced homeschooling and they're back to chatting to their friends via WhatsApp.

I'm on my 3rd prescription of anti-sickness medication as the sickness won't quit, I now have a nice case of shingles (because my immune system apparently hates me) and the virus seems to randomly come back some days to kick me for no reason, but this is progress.

I'm beyond relieved that we made it and beyond thankful to every single member of the NHS who helped us.  At the moment, they're doing the most impossible job in the world.  

A few final thoughts ..... 

  • 34 days on, we are recovering, but we are not well.  Maybe we just got unlucky, but as a family of 7, only one of us was well and symptom-free within the 14 days most people expect.

  • I'm back to looking after the children and looking after the house, but like many people, I haven't been able to get back to work and my beloved bench - I'm definitely looking forward to it though.

  • I'm so, so, so, so tired.  I'm hoping that particular viral quirk will disappear soon.

  • Thankfully, none of my children were ill enough to be taken into hospital, but nothing about their experience with Covid could be described as 'minor'.  2 out of 5 were terrifyingly ill, 2 moderately and one obviously had a virus - but he's too little to tell us exactly what was wrong.

  • Whilst queuing for our Covid-19 tests in our small Suffolk town, we worked out that 25 cars of people were being tested every 90 minutes.  We know because we sat there and counted them.

    The test centre was being operated by the local armed forces and they were brilliant.  They were friendly and organised, but it still took a very long time. 

    It was open from 10.30am until 3.30pm, so 6 hours a day and there was an average of 2 people in each car, all of whom had to think they were experiencing symptoms to qualify for the test (this was late April - I know things have now changed).
    Believe me, if you think you have Covid-19 symptoms, then you probably do.  It doesn't feel like anything else you've ever experienced.

    The day we were there, that test centre was fully booked, meaning they tested approximately 200 people (as long as everyone turned up).
    It was open Monday to Friday, meaning over the course of one single week, they tested approximately 1000 people.

    1000 people, not including children. 
    Our sick children sat in the back of our car while we were tested because they weren't testing children at that point.  Children couldn't be tested for Covid in the community until the 18th of May.

    That pop-up Covid test centre was there for weeks.........  

  • On the 20th of May 2020 Superdrug (UK) started selling Coronavirus antibody tests for £69 per person.  They sold out of every single antibody test within hours.
    But in a statement on the 24th of April 2020, the World Health Organisation announced that just because you've had coronavirus and recovered, that doesn't mean you can't catch it again.

    To use their words: "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection," (WHO).

  • The whole thing is that nobody knows exactly what happens with this virus.  It's too new and there's not enough global data yet. 
    And whilst I'm pinning all my hopes on a vaccine, sensibly speaking, after the month we've had, I'm just going to remain as socially isolated as possible. 

    I'm lucky that I have that choice - so many keyworkers, their children and their loved ones don't.

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