Pros of Lockdown

We have basically been in some form of lockdown for about four months this year.

Lockdown Two has now morphed into a new (and arguably improved) Tier 3. We are in month two and this time I was ready for it – I had even bought my jigsaw puzzle to help me enjoy my time.

There are some nice differences this time around – you can enjoy little luxuries like a haircut, beauty treatment or shopping. And to think, we used to take those forgranted and moan about having to go.

After two months of lockdown my hair had become a shiny orange fluff ball, so I was relieved to get that sorted. So were my parents, who were fed up of being dazzled by my brassy tones. It wasn’t cheap to sort out my faded purple hair from the summer either. What was I thinking? Why did no one warn me it would fade to a Prince Harry shade of ginger?

After paying extra on top of an already pricey chop I resolved never to dye my hair any unnatural colour again. Except maybe red…

Anyway, I was thinking of calling this article Pros and Cons of Lockdown, like my Pros and Cons of Being Unemployed, which I wrote to help me manage the negative feelings associated with being unemployed.

But lets look on the bright side shall we?

But how do I get through this? you ask. Where the hell is the silver lining? Prepare to reframe…

  • You don’t have to go to that horrendously tedious wedding rehearsal/christening etc
  • You don’t have to be subjected to any unpleasant odours from others.

You don’t have to take the bus and spend your morning commute with Eau de Methane or B.O Parfum. Which brings me on to my next point…

  • No packed/hot/smelly/noisy/dirty/annoying/long/traffic jam commute

If you’re not an essential worker then gone (at least temporarily) are the days of shouting at the car in front, honking and wiping sweat off your forehead, as time ticks closer to you calling in late. Or alternatively dicing with death on your flimsy bike, squashed against frenzied rush-hour car commuters. You have been told by the government to work from home wherever possible, so you can work with music, with a cat on your lap and enjoy your home comforts, with the added bonus of keeping your germs there as well.

  • You can wear anything and you can retire your makeup collection

No one cares what you’re wearing. So why not stay in your onesie? Why not have a duvet day? Even when you go out, no one would notice what you’re wearing. They’d just be walking on the road to avoid your potential viral breath. And who cares if you woke up like this?? No one’s going to know!

  • You might save money.

Looking at my bank balance for the first time after lockdown I couldn’t believe how much I had been spending on buses, work lunches, meals out and drinks out. But of course I still try and support my local restaurants by doing takeaways now and again and I look forward to dining out again.

  • You can’t miss out on much

That party you weren’t invited to? No longer happening so no need to be jealous and think of all the reasons why you might not have been on the list. Everyone’s missing out now, you’re all in the same boat.

  • We appreciate the little things

That chat with your regular guy/girl behind the till? Bet you never even thought about it before, yet over March/April/May when you couldn’t do much at all, somehow that short exchange made your day. Or you had some restrictions relaxed and suddenly, going shopping was a novelty when you had previously loathed every second of it. You noticed things you didn’t have time for when you were busy, like the light on the trees, the local birds. It makes you appreciate what you have instead of grasping for the next thing.

  • We can slow down and smell the coffee

We have the time to slow down and are free from the busy schedules, the dashing from activity to activity, the relentless go go go of daily life. We can reflect and work on self development.

  • We value essential workers even more

It is funny to think that this time last year, we did not even really use the term. That Thursday clap reminded us how lucky we are to have our NHS, care staff, retailers, bin men – everyone who we (sometimes literally) cannot live without and who work so hard to keep our services running smoothly. Suddenly the unsung heroes of society were getting the attention and credit they deserved.

  • We value our family/friends more

When times got hard, it was our family and friends who lifted our spirits and reminded us that this was only temporary. They gave us so much kindness and support and we felt so lucky to have them in our lives.

  • We help each other more

The response to the NHS Volunteers scheme was so inspiring – 700 applicants in a few days.

  • We learnt more about hygiene and infectious disease

Now the general public have some awareness about how germs spread and how to minimise that, we may perhaps see a reduction in infectious diseases like flu that threaten to overwhelm our NHS some winters.

  • We prioritise our health

With the threat of increased risk from Covid from additional weight, we heaved ourselves off the sofa and went for a walk, started jogging, joined the gym and in my case, got into indoor climbing. I bought all the gear and I am ready for any “problem”, armed with my knowledge of various hand and footholds, confident that any “problem” can be “solved” if you just look at bits of hard plastic stuck to a wall for long enough.

The effects of an increase in public health led to sportswear selling out. On one website specialising in leggings the stock completely sold out. Most sports headphones had sold out.

We ate better food – fruit and vegetables sold out for the first time in living memory.

We have also ensured we look after our mental health and self-care days became popular – taking a day of annual leave purely to do things which are beneficial to your mental health. Lavender products sold out. The New Zealand government even gives its citizens a day of annual leave specifically for improving mental health. We know now how important it is to be emotionally resilient and aware of our needs.

  • We might make more time for our loved ones

Suddenly I was making more time for my friends at the weekend, rather than mostly just seeing my boyfriend. Because…

  • It sped up our love lives

New couples moved in together and had a crash test of their relationship. Some didn’t make it, but many did, including (so far) mine.

  • It encourages creativity

We have time for that painting, drawing or sketch and some people do painting competitions.

We got absorbed in new projects and hobbies

For me it was a jigsaw puzzle and climbing, for others it was knitting, house decorating, home improvements, reading, crosswords, painting, drawing, gardening, maybe even origami.

My lockdown project – 1000 pieces! It was perfect as it occupied me for the whole month and was finished in time for Tier 3. Now I need one for Tier 3…
  • It encouraged us to be flexible and adaptable

We had to think outside the box. We can’t meet indoors but we can…go walking and get a takeaway drink/bring a thermos as a replacement for going to the cafe. The fact that we could only see friends outdoors got people into walking.

We had to change most things – our routine, lifestyle, hobbies and activities. But we found new ones. We found out what worked for us and we surprised ourselves by thriving. No bread? We’d just bake it. No flour? We’d just have something else for lunch. No toilet roll? ……..there’s not really a replacement for that.

  • We have a greater sense of community

It may have been short-lived, but clapping with our neighbours and helping others felt so wholesome.

  • We have the British sense of humour

If you go anywhere else in the world it might not be understood, but our quirky poking fun at anything attitude helps. From advocating the exercise benefits of opening a bottle of wine, to wearing a box to keep people at the right distance.

Comedians give us free performances from their living rooms as we laugh about how surreal this is.

Now I can colour in mindfully or mindlessly depending on my mood!

Of course, times are hard for so many now. I won’t even go into that as I’ll pop your happy balloon. But today I read an inspiring article which changed my perspective. It was an interview with Michael J. Fox.

The actor has lived with Parkinsons for more than half his life. Parkinsons is a nasty degenerative disease. Determined to stay positive, he learnt to walk again and was able to convince others that he could live independently. Unsteady on his feet, he fell over one day and broke his leg. He was just recovering from that after coming out of hospital, when he tripped and shattered his arm.

Lying on the floor with a broken arm and unable to reach his phone for help, it was the lowest point in his life. He nearly gave up on his optimism, but he soon realised that he had come to rely on it. Whilst he accepts that looking on the bright side does not solve every issue, accepting his situation and not letting sorrow engulf him had enabled him to make the best of things.

I tested this theory out and challenged myself to only say cheerful things. I lasted about a day but I felt so much better for it. My mind was tuned to recognise happy moments and the small things that enriched life, like my morning cup of tea, rather than things I could not change that I did not like. I still try to keep to this and my friend said I have become more positive as a result.

Buddhist philosophy gets this spot on – if you don’t like something, change it, and if you can’t change it, why worry!

So whatever is happening right now, try to focus on these points:

  • what you can do, not what you can’t
  • what you have, not what you don’t have
  • what lifts you up, not what brings you down,

because my grandmother was right when she told me: “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

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A Sardinian September

Booking a holiday during a pandemic is fraught. Will I have to cancel? Will I get my money back?

We had booked Rome for March. Obviously we couldn’t go. We booked France for June and that also wasn’t an option, as my boyfriend can’t isolate with his work. Then we booked Sardinia for September. Third time lucky?

The company, Much Better Adventures, kept us updated with the Covid rules at our destination and we were able to go.

I was so excited. How had we managed to escape England in the middle of a pandemic?

We didn’t even need to get a Covid test as there was an outstanding appeal on the rule. Surprisingly there were no controls at the Italian airport at all. We appeared to be the only passengers around and the arrivals hall was empty.

Sardinians were very relaxed. They didn’t really bother to social distance, they could still spend time in large family groups, laughing at chatting. Although they were supposed to wear a mask outdoors, most of them didn’t bother. We only saw two policemen, one was on his phone and the other was more interested in us crazy tourists than any crime.

It was a refreshing change from the panicky Brits, dashing about and glaring at anyone who coughed.

We arrived a day or two before our scheduled activity in Alghero and went swimming at a lovely local beach. Unfortunately it was so popular that the only spot to stop at was a bit of rock in the sea. The snorkelling was pathetic after The Philippines (which is said to have some of the best snorkelling in the world). I only saw a few brown and grey coloured fish. Then a massive dark cloud raced towards us and soon enough it emptied its contents, leaving the sunbathers sprinting for the car. Of course as Yorkshire folk we saw it coming and were nearly home and dry before any of the Italians even moved.

We went on a delightful boat tour round the islands. The snorkelling was rubbish again, it was hardly worth bothering. I really want to return to The Philippines to see the kaleidoscope of rainbow coral, fish and the giant clams. One day.

We were going for a sea kayaking holiday with Much Better Adventures. We had a lovely American guide who had made the island his home. We stayed in a lovely hotel that did dinner, on a farm. The kayaking mostly got rained off, but we got one day of good weather where we could try it.

Unfortunately I had just been diagnosed with Graves disease so I was pretty tired, but I could sleep for an hour or so before dinner. The doctor had said I could go if I took it easy, as I was still on medication to keep my heart rate low. The guides were great about it and told me to let them know if I was struggling. I managed to kayak out and then had to kayak and rest, kayak and rest to get into the nearest bay to be picked up. Luckily we had a double kayak so my boyfriend did most of the work with his ex-rower biceps.

The scenery was beautiful – sun sparkling on bright blue waves, cliffs with scrubby bushes and trees everywhere, the odd beach or 16th century watch tower. The island to the left of Italy was covered in mountains and trees. There were no queues for anything and the “main tourist street” was empty.

Bosa castle

We explored the town of Bosa, where all the houses were painted bright colours and they had a small red brick castle on the hill, built in the 1100s. It had some fantastic wall paintings from around that era that they had found in the chapel. The colours shone depicting angels, saints and apostles.

We also explored some of the towns and had ice cream almost every day, as they make such great flavours with their Mediterranean fruit. Our guide said it was sad how the main tourist street in the town was now empty, and that many people were going to lose their livelihoods.

We marvelled at museums full of ancient artefacts, dating from 4000BC, from before the Iron Age. They had the Nuragic people, unique to Sardinia, who built spectacular sacrifice monuments out of dark big stone blocks. They also knew how to cast in bronze, fashioning lots of warrior, shaman and mother and child figures and statues. The island had then been conquered by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Vandals.

We visited some vast ruins near the sea. One, Nora, was established by the Phoenicians as a trading post and still had towering white Greek-style pillars and mosaics and the ruins of Roman temples and baths. The Romans had abandoned it when they were attacked from the sea, during the period where the empire was crumbling.

Another was originally a Nuragic settlement (tribes who lived on Sardinia for 600 years around 4000BC). You could tell where the Romans had built on top with their paler stone and bricks, and it still had a Roman road. Both sites were still being dug up by archaeologists.

A Nuragic animal sacrifice monument from 4000BC, complete with an obelisk (out of shot on the left).

We returned refreshed and victorious that against all odds, we had made it abroad, with no quarantine being imposed in our absence.

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Climbing Through Covid

Indoor climbing is keeping me going through this Covid madness.

We are in lockdown, but we can still do this and see our friends outdoors in public spaces. This meant that the local farm was really busy at the weekend.

We have been told not to leave our region. It reminds me of stories from the Plague, or “Black Death” of the 1600s, when a local Derbyshire village, Eyam, heroically quarantined themselves. This saved the village next to it from certain death and disease.

There is something therapeutic about focussing on how to solve a problem on the wall. Your life suddenly seems less rocky and all you have is the knobbly footholds and handholds in front of you.

Does anyone know how to climb volumes? Those big triangular blocks with smooth edges baffle me.

Despite the fact that I am scared of heights, I am fine if I’m roped up with someone I trust.

We all need something to get us through these trying times. What is your hobby?

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A Grave Illness

Not everyone gets the above symptoms but these are some of the only visible signs of the illness.

Most people have no idea what Graves Disease is. Neither did I until I was diagnosed.

I was hoping it was thyroiditis – a temporary inflammation of the thyroid.

Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland, causing too much thyroid hormone to be produced. You can find out all about it in this video.

What you probably don’t know is that this little butterfly-shaped tissue in your neck controls almost every organ in your body and its processes.

At first, I wondered whether I had lung damage from my Covid-19 experience in April.

I rang the GP and she asked me to come down to the surgery that day. I had to use a walking stick as I was so tired going there that I thought I would faint. I was breathless and tired, sleepy and my heart was pounding.

The GP came out to meet me at the staff entrance in full Covid kit, but she soon relaxed.

“I’m pretty sure you don’t have Covid” she said. “You don’t even have a cough and your sats are fine.”

“I’m so sorry” I said, “I didn’t want to waste your time”.

I had had an ambulance called for me in June when I thought Covid was coming back and was breathless and coughing. I didn’t end up going to hospital to get it checked, but I know now that it was Graves rearing its ugly head.

“Lets just check your pulse. Stand up….sit down. She frowned.

Stand up again. Ok, you can sit down. Sorry can you stand up for me one more time?”

The doctor was still frowning.

“No, there’s definitely something going on. Your heart is racing. When you just stood up, your heart rate jumped to 130, then 105 the next time and 90 the third time.”

“90 is pretty normal isn’t it?”.

“90 isn’t bad but it shot up to 130 when you first stood up, even though you’ve been waiting, what, 15 minutes?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to have a blood test.”

I was put on a beta blocker, propanolol, which slows your heart rate down. If your heart rate is high over a long period of time it can cause an arrhythmia, which can eventually lead to heart failure.

Then I got the call. “It’s highly likely you have Graves Disease“. This is known in Europe as Basedow’s Disease. About 1% of the population have an overactive thyroid, of which about 80-95% of them have this caused by Graves Disease.

I felt exhausted and had dizzy spells. After just a walk I would sleep for an hour or two and yet I would be wide awake at night, sometimes taking until 6am to finally fall asleep. I read that it’s because the disorder overstimulates the nervous system. There was plenty of research about an underactive thyroid, but not much about an overactive thyroid, despite the fact that in rare cases it can kill you. This is known as a thyroid storm.

It took two weeks to get the medication I really needed – Carbimazole. This decreases the elevated thyroid hormones in your blood.

I had to ring the hospital or the GP regularly to chase it. I was told to double my dose of Propanolol. I then started getting even more tired and was mostly in bed, apart from short local walks when I had a brief respite from the jetlag tiredness. Kalms One a Night helped me sleep, and valerian tea.

I got my neck and eyes checked, as Graves causes eye problems in 30% of patients. That was fine as expected.

The other conditions that may lead to hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) are nodules – lumps that affect thyroid function which is mostly seen in older patients.

According to internet research it will take 3-8 weeks for the Carbimazole to work.

I bought a “pre-payment” prescription certificate. This means that instead of paying £115-200 a year I instead pay £108. Those with an underactive thyroid gland get their medication for free, so there is a petition asking for equal treatment rights.

You have two treatment options after your course of Carbimazole is complete, but if you choose one, block and replace, your treatment is free. This is because the additional medication for this, Levothyroxine, is a synthetic hormone replacement for those who have had their thyroid gland removed – it has to be taken or the patient will get ill.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/553013

On the 19th February I will have another blood test and then the level of thyroid hormone in my blood should be down to normal levels. Once I stop taking the Carbimazole I need to wait two years to give blood. I am not sure why it takes so long to be able to donate again.

An aunt has Graves Disease and the endocrinologist (a specialist doctor) told me that it is more likely if you have family history. She developed symptoms after she had her first baby. High levels of thyroid hormone in the blood can pass to the foetus and lead to low birth weight, prematurity and miscarriage.

The gene can apparently be activated by severe stress or trauma, pregnancy or bad illness according to Dr Google.

I am convinced that having Covid in April triggered a gene for Graves Disease. Months later I started getting tired and breathless doing my normal exercise again and I even had mania – abnormally high energy levels. One day I went for a two hour hilly bike ride. I was then awake most of the night as I wasn’t tired. This happens because energy levels initially rise at the onset of hyperthyroidism.

There is a small study of about 200 patients that has linked thyroiditis to Covid, as an infection in the upper respiratory tract (the throat) is close to the thyroid in the neck. You can feel the gland move if you put one hand either side of your neck and swallow.

You don’t have to have the gene to get Graves Disease, it can happen to anyone. It is more common in women and usually develops between the age of 20-40.

If you have a tremor (shaking hands) and you get breathless with activity, or you have any of the other symptoms on this list, ask your GP for a blood test.

If you have an overactive thyroid, you can join the BTF Hyperthyroidism Facebook group for support.

Updated 03.02.2021

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Lockdown: Take Two

So here we go again – lockdown, but this time by region – otherwise known as “whack-a-mole”.

The aim of the game is to stop Covid-19 spreading down the country from the north.

To this end, our Prime Minster has tonight announced a new tiered system for managing national outbreaks:

Tier 1 (Medium) – Meeting in groups of no more than six.

Tier 2 (High, formerly known as restrictions/partial lockdown) – No meeting between different households indoors, outdoor meetings of up to six still allowed, hospitality venues remain open.

Tier 3 (Very high, formerly known as lockdown) – No meeting between different households either indoors or outdoors, hospitality venues to be open only if they serve food.

Most areas of the UK will now be under Tier 2.

Liverpool, with the second highest rate in the country, will be at Tier 3. Nottingham, leading the Covid surge, is on Tier 2 because their hospitals are not as overwhelmed as in Liverpool. Liverpool hospitals have declared that they have nearly as many admissions as they did back in April. Nightingale hospitals in the North are poised to open again as the second wave is crashes down upon us.

Some could see this coming from the summer, while the media was complaining about people who dared to enjoy UK beaches. Infections were minimal and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Others even started to question whether there really would be a second wave.

But I remember the ominous warning from Professor Tim Spector, of the national “Zoe” Covid-19 assessment app: “it is highly likely that we will see an increase in infection rates if schools go back in September”.

As predicted, the mass return of young people to educational institutions has been a source of many local outbreaks scattered around the country since September, until recently concentrated in the North of England but now, across the whole of Yorkshire, its talons reaching further and further south. Herd immunity is too dangerous because it involves too many deaths, as transmission increases, so does the hospital admission rate for over 65s.

Birley Halls student accommodation, Manchester Metropolitan University on September 28, 2020. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Students paying over £9000 a year tuition fees are finding themselves sequestered to their flats, with universities literally struggling to cater to their needs as they are forced to survive on a spluttering stream of junk food. Sheffield and Newcastle universities have each had around 700 cases. This has contributed to cases doubling this week in Sheffield, for example, from 200 to 400 cases per 100 000.

Everyone is just hoping that the chaos will be over by Christmas, so we can still see our loved ones. But it all depends on us pulling together and tolerating restrictions to bring transmission down.

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Tagbilaran to Bohol – A dance with danger

Bohol is connected to Panglao by a bridge so I needed a lift over. This part of my trip did not go well.

The only issue with visiting The Philippines is that whilst it feels quite safe, as a tourist you might as well be a walking wallet. A minority of locals take great pleasure in trying to con you or fleece you. It’s a lucrative business and tired travellers are easy prey.

I was collected from Mithi Resort and Spa by their free transfer van. I had pre-booked a connecting taxi from the port of Tagbilaran, over on Bohol, once we got there. You do this on social media, it’s cheaper as you can haggle and ask a few companies to get the best price.

When we got to the port, none of the taxis were marked. I asked the van man to tell me where the Valleroso and Ralle taxi was (a reputable taxi company based on Panglao). He started having a chat with a driver that I presumed was from that company and told me that this was my guy.

Wrong.

As soon as I got in the taxi and he showed me a price list and tried to charge me three times what I had already agreed. We had arranged a price in advance I told him, you’re not from Valleroso and Ralle are you?

But I was tired and it was so hot, I couldn’t be bothered to look for the driver I’d booked. He should’ve been standing there waiting.

So I took a chance.

Bad decision.

The man was in his thirties with a greasy face and a leering grin. He started flirting with me and seemed to enjoy it, despite my obvious discomfort.

Come swimming with me, he said. I’ll have to wear just my boxers but I can show you all the best coral. And after I can give you a massage.

No thanks.

But it’ll be fun! Come on. It’s ok, it’s ok, don’t worry!

He kept saying that but it didn’t help.

After what seemed like forever, we were finally at my waterfront hotel, two hours later.

I wait for you and we go swimming yes?

Maybe, I said, I’ll think about it.

I was hot and tired. It would be so nice to go for a swim. But was it safe? Probably not. As much as I wanted to see the coral, I wasn’t an idiot.

The hotel staff scrunched their nose up at this rogue and did not seem impressed. Another sign.

I came out again. Sorry I’m not interested I said. He deserved stronger words than that. He then aggressively demanded twice the price I had agreed with Valleroso and Ralle and I reluctantly parted with more cash.

I was distressed and went back to my room fuming. Anything could have happened. I had been so stupid, I had to be careful, I had to remember that as a lone female I was an attractive target. Too attractive clearly. I wondered whether he had tried that before.

At least the hotel, Dive Star, was nice. It was right next to the sea and you could hear it singing you to sleep at night. In the evening you could see all the traditional fishing boats motoring by, a pleasant hum.

I had arrived just in time for the sunset through the palm trees. I sat on a bamboo chair on the balcony and drank iced water. It was perfect.

The room was made in the local style with bamboo and rattan. There was even a small lizard scurrying about, but he kept out of the way. He’d left me a poo present on the bed. Charming.

The next day, I wondered whether I could trust the local tour guides.

I would go with the hotel’s list. Hopefully they would be reliable.

A tall, smiling local turned up and said he would take me wherever I wanted to go. I said I would trust his suggestions.

He was friendly and good company and we eventually started to have a good chat. I told him my taxi experience and he frowned and said there were not many people like that on the island but it did happen around the port of Tagbilaran because it was a hub for tourists.

He reassured me that I could trust him and anyway, he was happily married with a wife and two year old son. His second marriage he laughed, the first one didn’t work out.

I breathed a sigh of relief. His name was Peter and he was new to the business, having spent several years shipping scrap metal around the world. He was gregarious and lively, chatting to everyone we met and making them as happy as he was.

We were going to have fun!

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Panglao’s Princess Retreat: Mithi Hotel and Spa

I don’t normally do reviews but this slice of heaven had to have a special mention.

Imagine individual cabins sprinkled next to the sea like stardust. You can hear the waves lapping from your balcony and feel the sea breeze cool your face.

Out to sea there is a small man-made island for picturesque weddings. To one side is the wooden platform where you enjoy meals with a sea view.

It was a world away from the hectic streets of Cebu. Here life was slower and more beautiful.

Sparrows chirped in the palm trees and in the day you were dazzled by the aquamarine ocean.

From their private beach you could have a tour of the local sardine sanctuary and swim in the middle of their vortex. You could stroke a giant clam as they closed gently, poke brightly coloured anemones and admire a rainbow kaleidoscope of coral waving their little fingers at you.

The staff were kind, helpful and attentive. The room was spacious with a luxuriously comfortable bed and there was a rain shower in the walk-in bathroom.

You could book yourself into the traditional wooden spa for rejuvenating massages.

If you’re staying in Panglao and you’re looking for rest and relaxation, look no further than Mithi Hotel and Spa.

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June 30, 2020 · 8:51 pm

My Long-Covid Nightmare

It is Week 7.

In my last post about my Covid-19 rollercoaster, I thought I was fully recovered.

Little did I know what a wild ride my immune system would embark on.

Before Covid I could go for a 20 mile bike ride one day and the next I would go for a run.

Now I struggle to walk a mile. ONE MILE.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have weeks and weeks and weeks where you feel like you’ve flown from New Zealand to the UK every single day.

You are beyond tired and yet no amount of sleep allows you feel rested.

It is like some kind of purgatory. You managed to survive from Covid, despite gasping out of your window for extra oxygen. But you are now condemned to fatigue with no end in sight.

It took five weeks to be able to work out and I am still unable to do any vigorous exercise. I am limited to gentle walks with frequent rest stops and a slow cycle on the exercise bike.

Half an hour of vigorous exercise will wipe me out all the next day. A weekend on my bike will write off the next week.

The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I am improving by being able to sit up for one more hour a week. ONE HOUR.

In the last few weeks I used alcohol to keep me going in the form of one or two cocktails or a spirit and mixer in the evening. But alas, alcohol is a depressant, so it’s going to make you feel worse, and I am already feeling pretty sorry for myself. It’s had to go (mostly).

Looking on the internet in desperation, I found that it was actually quite common to suffer from “long-tail” Covid-19. It comes at you like a sledgehammer and causes a similar amount of damage. And it happens over and over again until you feel like you’re going mad.

I have had a smorgasbord of symptoms.

A week post (possible) Covid (I was not eligible for testing at the time), I woke up in the middle of the night, my head throbbing. The kind of pain that sears into your skull with such force that you run to the toilet to throw up.

Two weeks later, I woke up again in the middle of the night struggling to breathe. Panicking, I ran to the mirror to investigate, and discovered that my neck was as thick as a bodybuilder’s and my tonsils were mostly blocking my airway.

Terrified, I sent some photographic evidence to my (retired) doctor dad and went back to sleep on my side. Fortunately I woke up and with my neck a normal size. If it wasn’t for the photos I would have thought it was a lurid nightmare.

This virus may not be mild, it can be a pain for anyone.

I am not saying this to scare you, I am saying this because I am begging you not to act like I did and think that this will not affect you, or if it does it will not be bad.

You do not know that.

We know agonisingly little about this virus, or how it will mutate.

Wash your hands, keep your distance and keep contact to a minimum.

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Panglao Paradise

Panglao was the best island I visited in the Philippines.

Why?

Fewer tourists and the local lifestyle did not appear to have changed as a result of them. A lot of rainforest was intact, though it was rapidly being sold off and cut down and stone houses were springing up. There were still some traditional ones made of bamboo, flax and rattan.

The hotel I stayed in there was the best – Mithi Resort and Spa, a peaceful secluded spot right next to the sea, with a small private beach, incredible snorkelling and luxury accommodation. It was so popular that the standard room had sold out when I paid for it, but the upgrade was worth it. Although I had not paid for a sea view I could see it from my balcony. The staff were so attentive and friendly.

I got there from Cebu by taking an Ocean Jet ferry to Tagbilaran and then the hotel picked me up and drove me over the bridge. It took a few hours.

I made the most of my time there. I found a great private driver hire company, Valleroso and Ralle. You gave them your itinerary and the driver would take you wherever you wanted for a reasonable price, just £30 a day. I asked different companies on Facebook (their companies are all run from social media) until I got the best price, as I was on a budget and kept going over it.

At 10am (I am not a fan of early starts) I went first to the Hinagdanan cave. It was not worth the visit, being small and already busy with tourists.You literally just stand on a ledge once you descended, there is nowhere to go.

The water looked a bit dirty too, I could see grease on it. The tide was out, so we could not enjoy the water. I saw a much better cave in Bohol where you can swim. I will write a post on that soon.

We went to the Blood Compact monument near the port. This commemorated the moment when the local tribe signed a peace deal with the Spanish, drinking drops of each other’s blood in wine in the traditional Cebuano style.

Next up was the pentagonal Spanish watch tower, built so the new settlers could be alert to local attack on all sides, and a church with a pretty painted ceiling.

I was able to get cash out at an ATM without being charged. They had a guard for safety, although the driver told me that they rarely had crime. Everyone knew each other.

I had read about a restaurant with panoramic views on social media, appropriately called Le Panorama, over on Bohol. I went there for lunch and had the best fresh prawns I had ever tasted, in a very tasty tomato sauce, with rice. It was midday but being on holiday, I had to wash it down with a pina colada!

After lunch I had asked the company where a good beach was that locals used, I avoided Alona beach as I had heard that it was packed with tourists and had litter. I won’t name the beach as it is secret, so it doesn’t deteriorate too.

There were palm trees all the way along the shore, only two other tourists and lots of locals fishing in one corner, swimming and snorkelling. One of them came up to me and said I should stay at his brother’s apartments and like everyone around there, said I should live on the island.

On the way back I wanted to try some traditional food so I stopped at a street stall selling fried chicken. I hadn’t seen any cafes or restaurants. The islanders seemed to eat at home. I asked for two pieces. The man went to the back of the stall and started hacking up chicken. People around gawped, even looking back from their scooters. I asked my guide what was happening and he said “you wanted two chickens didn’t you?”.

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May 19, 2020 · 9:54 pm

My First (Possible) Coronavirus

Me as a (possible) Covid-19 patient, day 2.

Before I got it, I was curious about what it involved, what I could expect.

One Friday I got a sore throat. I took a Strepsil and forgot about it.

That evening I still had it, so I popped another Strepsil.

On Saturday after breakfast my boyfriend and I were sitting, looking at the rain and wondering what to do. My boyfriend went on the laptop and I was on my phone.

I started coughing and had a drink, maybe that would help.

It didn’t.

The coughs were continuous and dry…

After a while I started to feel tired and went to sit on the sofa, hoping that would help.

It didn’t.

I started to feel exhausted. My boyfriend insisted that I was “putting it on”.

“I’m going to bed” I announced suddenly, and he looked up anxiously. It was an effort even to sit up.

It had hit me out of nowhere, what was going on? I felt like I’d just got off a plane from the Philippines again, heavily jet-lagged.

I lay down and that was it, I was in bed for the next five days, apart from some sunbathes in the garden. I was able to do this because I had several hours each day where the coughs eerily disappeared, so I felt less tired. I hoped that my body hadn’t stopped fighting it, whatever it was.

I begged my boyfriend not to go to work but he did and I was alone.

I had to drag myself out of bed and rest regularly as I hauled myself downstairs, leaning heavily on the banisters as if I had rapidly aged overnight. By the time I got back up I was wheezing so much I felt like I was breathing through a straw. Sometimes I had to cough to breathe, I was so constricted, and that was quite alarming. But the advice I saw online was that you only needed to go to hospital if you felt tingling in your fingers or toes or had blue lips, and it wasn’t that bad. My extremities were still being adequately oxygenated and I reminded myself that I didn’t have a temperature, so it was only “mild”.

Pull yourself together, I told my inner child. No need to be a drama llama.

My chest hurt as I coughed roughly every ten minutes for three days. On the second day, my friends dropped off a care package and it gave me such a boost. I was able to talk to them from the upstairs window. I fortunately had a welcome break from the symptoms at that point, another weird window where it felt like I wasn’t ill.

On the fourth and fifth day the fatigue worsened and I was quite weak. Once I couldn’t even turn over in bed. I got tired having more than one chat on the phone each day. I am usually someone that is lively and energetic but this had really floored me. The last time I had been that ill was when I was seven and laid up for two weeks with pneumonia.

On the sixth day I was feeling better until I had a shower and had a dizzy spell. But I was no longer coughing all the time so I had more energy. I was able to stay up and out of bed until 3pm, when fatigue bowled me over, literally.

So I spent a total of three days coughing, five days in bed and 11 days later I am finally feeling more human, and have put my first clothes wash on in two weeks.

I don’t qualify for a test, so I do not know if that was the dreaded coronavirus.

What helps?

Vicks vapour rub is all you need if you have it mildly, the essential oil vapours are helpful. Lying on two pillows allows you to breathe easier too. Paracetamol helped my boyfriend lower his temperature, it brings it down by half a degree. Please note that I did not use any extra toilet roll.

Keep your immune system supported with exercise, sleep, fruit and vegetables and you might only get “mild” symptoms too, if you get it.

Even though I can go out again soon, I will take more time to rest first, as I do not want to get another infection while my immune system is recovering. It will take me another week to get better whilst I replenish energy levels.

How did I get it?

I had gone shopping 12 days before in a busy supermarket, but that seemed unlikely to be the transmission event as it was so long before.

I may have been infected over the Easter weekend when we went out every day on the bikes. Some cyclists had passed right by me, breathing heavily. But that was an unlikely source too. It was a mystery.

I had been so careful – wiping and spraying everything from the supermarket, washing hands on entry to the house, staying away from people, but it had been useless.

I am just relieved to be through the worst and to have got off lightly. I know someone that has sadly passed away from it, so I am well aware that not everyone is so lucky.

In memory of those who didn’t make it.

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